Cracked or Shifted Pool Coping: Causes and What To Do

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Published: August 7, 2014 Last Updated: March 30, 2015

Coping at the pools edge serves several purposes and may crack or move at times. Coping serves as a top cap for the pools concrete bond beam and provides an architectural edge for the pool or spa. It may also serve as a small barrier to help keep water on the pools concrete deck from running back into the pool.

Common causes of cracking and movement:

  • Expansion and contraction of the concrete pool deck – hot and cool seasons
  • Settling of the soil or pool
  • Expansive soil, may be typical of the area or neighborhood
  • Improper drainage

Maintenance or repair

Damaged coping pieces can often be repaired or replaced with limited cost and time. If the pool or soil has shifted then additional work may be necessary. Under some circumstances the condition is left as is, but if it appears that drainage issues are contributing to the problem, then the drainage may need to be improved.

Seal all of the open concrete joints

Water that is allowed to puddle on the pool deck or coping area may need to be diverted and all joints should be sealed so that water cannot penetrate into the soil around or near the pool. Although this does not appear that important, if left un-maintained it can lead to problems.

This is especially true in areas that have expansive soils, which a large part of the nation has. When expansive soils get wet, they expand, which generates a lot of pressure on the pools’ coping and deck area, causing cracks and damage. Therefore it is a good maintenance practice to keep the coping maintained and sealed.

Another concern is that the area around or even under the pool may have some loose fill dirt. When this dirt get wet it may settle some, which in-turn may cause the pool to move or shift do to the fill dirt getting wet. This movement may occasionally cause under ground pipes to crack or separate, resulting in more damage.

Caution –  Don’t make this mistake; you may damage your pool

You may actually damage your pools’ coping or even crack the pool body (shell of the pool) of an in-ground concrete gunite or shotcrete pool if you fill the joint between the copping and a concrete deck next to it with a rigid, non-flexible product like concrete or grout.

The reason for this is that if a pool’s concrete deck pushes against the copping (or bond beam), and there is not a flexible material between the two, the pressure may cause damage. The two basic causes for this pressure to occur is that the concrete deck expands, due to heat from the sun; concrete expands when heated and shrinks when cooled. Soil movement is the second main reason. Settlement, slope creep and expansive soils can cause a concrete deck to shift or move and exert tremendous pressure on a pool’s body or coping.

In most cases having the joint between a pool’s coping and concrete deck sealed with a flexible, not rigid material, will allow for expansion, contraction and movement without damage.

Remember, Special attention should be given to the joint between the coping and concrete pool deck. This joint should be sealed with an elastomeric type of sealant that will allow the expansion and contraction of the deck. There are two reasons for the elastomeric sealant:

  1. The sealant helps restrict moisture from entering through the crack, which may result in settlement or the heaving of expansive soils due to the water intrusion.
  2. The sealant allows for the concrete to expand and contract without damaging the coping or deck.

Deck o Seal is a popular brand of sealant, or view more coping and deck crack repair products.

Who to consult? Pool contractors and pool maintenance people.

The majority of these issues are maintained or fixed by pool contractors, pool maintenance people and sometimes homeowners or handymen will do these repairs and maintenance.

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I am having trouble with the pebblecrete on the coping of my new pool. It cracked and and started coming off after 3 weeks of installation. It was replaced but once again started cracking and becoming very drummy, what is causing this, improper installation?

I need repairs on coping for in ground pool. Cracking and corner busting is happening. Thanks for the information.

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