Pool coping is added to complete the aesthetic of an inground pool and is an essential part of protecting it. Coping is also a safety measure for swimmers since the material has some grip. It comes in many styles and varieties, so if you’re new to coping, there’s a lot to cover. Below, I walk through what pool coping is, why you should have it, the different types of coping and designs, cost, and installation, and I answer some common questions about coping. Let’s get started.
What is Pool Coping?
Pool coping is the material that surrounds the edge of the pool, often with a small overhang. Most pool coping has a rough surface on the top to prevent slipping and provide grip for wet feet. It is also sturdy enough to protect the pool’s top edge from damage.
Why You Should Have It
Pool coping serves many purposes:
- It prevents damage – A small crack in the top of a pool could escalate into a much bigger crack that breaks apart your entire swimming pool. Protecting the top, one of the most vulnerable areas, significantly lowers the risk of this happening.
- It looks better – Pool coping offers an attractive, finished look to pools. We’ll get into some of the materials and designs you can choose from below.
- It’s safer – Coping is especially important for safety in areas where people may enter the pool. Wet surfaces are highly slippery, so the extra traction can be lifesaving.
The Types of Coping Materials You Can Choose From
Here are the most common types of coping materials currently on the market.
Bricks are easily one of the most common materials used for pool coping. They’re affordable, versatile, and aren’t easily damaged by chlorinated saltwater. Most bricks are very durable and can withstand anything likely to occur around a pool. If they are damaged, replacing them is relatively simple. In short, bricks are an excellent option for just about any pool.
The main drawback of bricks is their styling. They do not necessarily look bad, but they are lacking (in my opinion) compared to other options, such as natural stone. Above is a photo of my old neighbor’s swimming pool that I built with brick coping.
Concrete pavers are similar to bricks but are usually a bit tougher and tend to be square-shaped instead of rectangular. Concrete pavers require little to no maintenance, but you may occasionally need to replace damaged ones. Pavers could realistically last the entire lifespan of your pool.
While concrete pavers are reliable, they can be a little too rough or uncomfortable for people to walk on. The standard solid gray coloring is also less attractive than natural stone. However, most concrete pavers are available in different colors.
Natural stone provides a natural aesthetic to the pool. It is among the most durable options, so you may never need to replace them. I think they have the best look of all the options, but they come with a noticeably higher price tag. Natural stone coping is my go-to for most projects, like the one pictured above that I built a few years ago.
The main drawback of natural stone coping is that not all stones are created equal. Some, such as granite, are exceptionally durable and resistant to penetration by water. Other stone materials like travertine and flagstone are porous, which means they will require more maintenance as you’ll need to apply sealant. You can read my article on how to find the best sealant for pool coping for specific recommendations.
Composite materials are similar to concrete pavers but have a different chemical structure that makes them smoother and stronger. Suppliers often sell composite pavers as individual pieces with curves, straight lengths, and corners that you can put together to match the outside of your pool.
Composite materials sit around the middle of the price range, making them a reasonable option for most buyers.
Here are the most common cast options for coping. Each cast can come in various shapes and thicknesses, including different curves and overhangs for your pool.
Flat mount coping places coping along the track, which helps secure your swimming pool liner. This method is usually a solid installation platform to start with, so placing coping on top requires minimal added materials other than concrete or another appropriate adhesive.
Rough-cut coping works best with natural stone because it provides an organic, slightly unfinished look to pools. This option works exceptionally well with pools that have areas you aren’t planning to enter from, such as near plants or fences. Rough-cut coping isn’t quite as safe as traditional curves, so you may want to refrain from using this material anywhere that people may use to enter the pool.
Cantilever-edge coping is a process that involves pouring concrete into molds at the edge of the pool. Unlike flat-mount coping, this usually includes a small overhang over the pool to protect its edges. I prefer overhangs like this because they safeguard the pool’s edges and offer an additional grip when pulling yourself out of the water.
Cantilever-edge coping has good durability. The exposed overhang is not long enough for it to generally break. But even if it does crack, it is a reasonably easy fix.
Top-mount coping is a popular option for vinyl pools, but it’s also viable for other types of pools. Sometimes known as half-round or C-channel, top-mount coping involves placing a curved aluminum edge around the swimming pool. This aluminum comes with a weather-resistant finish and is exceptionally durable. You won’t need to replace your top mount coping any time soon.
Bullnose coping has a slightly sloped surface that drains spilled water back to the pool and a curved front that sits flush against the pool wall. Bullnose coping has an attractive look and makes getting in or out of the pool easier. Replacing a vinyl liner without removing bullnose coping is also possible, a distinct benefit.
Here’s an example of bullnose coping on a swimming pool I built a few years ago.
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What to Consider When Choosing the Right Coping?
- Safety: The main priority when choosing something for your pool should be safety. The right coping should provide grip for swimmers and prevent dangerous slips.
- Aesthetic: Obviously, you want your pool to look stunning. The pool’s coping plays a huge factor in making your pool look good. Make sure the material you choose matches the pool itself and blends well with your yard.
- Cost: Installing a new swimming pool is a costly project. Just take a look at our study on inground pool prices. But there are ways to cut down the expenses. Choosing a more budget-friendly coping would be one way to save some money.
- Longevity: You will need to ensure that the material you choose is sturdy and can handle exposure to the elements. Keep in mind that the material will be constantly exposed to chemicals and water. And if you have a saltwater pool, check whether the material is salt resistant.
The Average Cost of Pool Coping
The cost of pool coping can vary widely depending on the pool size and the material used. When purchasing coping for the pool, you will pay by the linear foot, so take measurements beforehand.
Poured concrete is the cheapest option averaging around $6-$12 per linear foot. Bricks are about $25-$30 per linear foot. Natural stone is generally the most expensive option at around $45-$55 per linear foot. Paver will set you back about $20-$45 per linear foot. And timber decking will cost around $5-$12 per linear foot or $15-$30 per linear foot for composite alternatives.
Popular Pool Coping Designs
Using the Natural Landscape
Suppose your backyard has many tropical plants or other landscaping you want to highlight. In that case, a natural look might be the right choice. Many pool owners will dedicate one edge of the pool against a retaining wall with all sorts of plants growing. Doing so will add an excellent natural appeal to your pool.
Concrete is one of the most popular choices for pool coping. This choice partly has to do with the fact that it is the cheapest option. Another reason pool owners opt for concrete designs is the versatility and relatively easy installment method.
Using hardwood timber to surround the pool can be very appealing. This design is comforting and adds luxuriousness that is hard to find in other materials. However, timber decking requires a lot of upkeep and maintenance. Instead, consider composite decking with a natural design. Composite decking can withstand the elements much better than standard timber.
Extending Your Pool Deck (In Case You Don’t Want Separate Coping)
Suppose you prefer not to add pool coping. In that case, you can expand your deck to surround your pool (or even partially cover your pool), supported by either concrete pillars or flotation devices. If you are looking into this option, there are two things to consider.
How far do you want to expand your deck? Some pool owners may extend their deck around the entirety of the pool with durable stone or wood edging. Others extend the deck over just part of the pool and use pool coping for the remaining areas. It is up to you to decide how far to extend your deck. I recommend getting an opinion from a professional designer.
Remember that the material of your deck will affect its weight and, in turn, the kind of support structure you’ll need.
Consider the maintenance needs. Most deck materials are not as durable as coping. This lack of durability is particularly true for wood and other organic materials. If you have a stone deck, this is less of a concern for you. However, having to shut down and drain your whole pool so you can replace your deck is a significant added expense. Regularly clean your pool coping and make sure to consider drainage too. You can read more of my thoughts on that subject in my pool deck drainage guide.
Surprises with pools tend to be expensive, so be sure to evaluate and budget for potential pool coping issues if you want to expand your pool deck.
Well, that’s about it for swimming pool coping. Still have questions? Let me know; I’m always happy to help.