WHAT IS POOL COPING?
What is pool coping anyway? This is a great question and coping is the top or finish put on the top edge of the pool wall. This is the maker or breaker of a pool project. Coping can be wood, natural stone, precast concrete, or cantilevered concrete. We will break down the main differences between cantilevered concrete coping and precast/natural stone coping and hopefully, this will help you decide what is best for your project.
This is always the first question we get when talking about the pool coping options. How much do the different types of concrete coping cost? The short answer is it depends. It depends on the type of material used and the size of the pool. The larger the pool the more coping is needed. Over the last few years, pricing for everything has inflated drastically, and coping is no different. So while I am providing pricing today there is a chance that by the time you read this the cost may have changed. So don't take the numbers provided here as gospel.
CANTILEVERED CONCRETE COPING COST
This is the lowest cost option and while it looks good it can go bad very quickly and easily. Cantilevered concrete coping is made by forming of the coping with wood form stakes and then there are a few options for the forming that sit on the pool to give you the finished interior face. The cost for a 12" by 12" thick stamped Cantilevered Border around a fiberglass pool costs from $3,800.00 to $5,800.00.
Stegmeier Regular Forms have been the standard for years but now Z Pool Forms has invented a new forming system that will allow the finished product to have a stamped-looking edge. There are pros and cons to these forms which we go over in detail in another article here. The big drawback to either the Z Form or the Stegmeier is that the concrete is poured into these forms and if not done with great care can damage the form or leave a wavy look to the inside edge. With these style forms, you need to have a perfectly straight pool wall (on rectangular pools) to have a perfectly straight-finished outcome. There is no forgiveness in these forms. While we all like to think that fiberglass pools are perfect they are not. So even trying as hard as possible to get a pool wall straight there are times when a fiberglass pool with long straight walls is just not straight. Using cantilevered concrete coping will allow any wall imperfections to be mimicked by the final product. So if your wall is crooked so will the concrete. If you have a pool with curves this point is not really a concern because the forms will follow the curves with no problem. This tends to be a problem on larger straight-wall pools only. So for me the only time I would use cantilevered concrete coping would be on a freeform pool with no straight walls or on a pool with an automatic pool cover.
Concrete can last a long time, but with anything concrete, there are only 2 guarantees and that is 1: Concrete will get hard and 2: Concrete will crack. 12" thick concrete that is reinforced typically does not crack but to help control the cracking something called relief cuts or control joints are cut in the concrete to help the concrete crack in the cut you made and not elsewhere. Often though concrete has its own mind and may crack just about anywhere. Repairs to 12" thick concrete are very difficult and time-consuming. Not to mention if a section or piece is removed the new piece will likely not match the old concrete in color. While Cantilevered Concrete Coping offers the lowest upfront cost there are limitations.
NATURAL & PRECAST POOL COPING COST
This would be the 2nd and 3rd tier in the pricing structure. Pre-Cast Pool Coping is generally from $4,200 to $6,200 per pool and Natural Stone Coping is typical $4,800-$6,800 per pool.
Natural Stone and Pre-Cast Coping require a 12" thick by 12" wide concrete collar to be installed on top of to reduce the chance of the coping moving or breaking free from the top of the pool once installed. The installation process of Natural Stone or Precast Stone on a straight-walled pool allows for the stone to be set perfectly straight even if there are imperfections in the pool wall. This coping option gives the most flexibility to allow for a top-quality finished product. The stones are laid on a bed of mortar and a special adhesive n top of the fiberglass portion of the pool. The stones are then squared and leveled to a string line giving you a nice flush finished product. Installation on a curved or free-form pool is quite time-consuming as each stone will need to be cut and measured to fit. This can add 1-2 days to the timeframe to complete the installation. A rectangular pool is ideal for this type of coping as it reduces the number of cuts and any cuts needed will be straight and square cuts. Installation of coping on a small rectangular pool can take 1 full day whereas a curved pool is 2-3 days.
Precast or Natural Stone Coping can last as long as cantilevered concrete coping or longer. If a piece is damaged it is fairly easy to replace and the colors tend to match much better in the long run. For me, Natural Stone Coping is the best option for Straight Walled Fiberglass Pools. It really adds another level of character to a pool and for not much more than concrete.
POOL COPING GALERY
Cantilevered Concrete Pool Forms: STEGMEIER VS Z POOLFORM- Which is best?
Stamped Concrete Pros and Cons?