What Is Pool Coping?

pool coping close up on an inground pool in luxury backyard with landscaping

If you’re in the process of renovating, designing, or building a pool you’ve probably heard some terms you don’t quite understand.  Like many business sectors, the pool industry has a language all its own.  One term you’ll hear quite often is pool coping.  In this article we will discuss what is pool coping and its purpose in pools. Afterward, we’ll cover some common problems with coping, and worthwhile alternatives to pool coping.

What Is Pool Coping?

To answer what is pool coping, first we need to understand where to look for it on a pool.  Pool coping is the stone, brick, or band of concrete at the immediate edge of the pool deck where it meets the water of the pool. Immediately below the pool coping is the structure of the pool.  Under the coping the pool is usually covered with tile, then the plaster pool interior underwater. When pool professionals say “coping”, they are referring to that band of stone, brick, or concrete running around the perimeter of the pool itself.

What Is Pool Coping Made Of?

Historically, pool coping was made of brick or precast concrete.  In the luxury market the use of granite and bluestone was also common.  The reason for using a separate band of material at the pool structure, is simply to prevent materials from cracking.  If you put a piece of stone partially on the concrete pool shell, and partially on compacted gravel, the difference in compaction between the two areas will cause a crack to appear in the stone over time.  By installing a separate band of material on the pool shell structure you can allow the deck and pool to ‘move’ independently of one another and prevent cracking materials.  

What Is Pool Coping Common Problems?

You may have heard a horror story or two about pool coping. Why does coping come loose and crack, even when separated from the deck?  According to the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) expansion joints should be used in all installations.  Unfortunately, even today there are many builders who ignore these requirements and instead butt the deck material against the coping.  When the deck moves, the coping comes loose. 

Often the first indication of loose pool coping is a piece of tile coming off the interior of the pool.  This happens as a chain reaction to the deck movement not being isolated from the coping with an expansion joint.  Even on a new pool installation this can happen in the first year. This is common in an area with expansive soil or where freeze thaw cycles occur. Loosening of your pool coping can occur within months of installation.

Pool Coping Alternatives

What can you do instead of pool coping? There are ways to avoid pool coping and the expansion joint between the coping and the deck. You can always install a reinforced concrete cantilever edge deck.  This is a poured deck which ‘floats’ freely at the pool edge, reinforced to prevent cracking.  Expansion joints still must be taken into consideration when pouring a cantilever edge deck, especially around the skimmers, the water leveler, and any other items in the deck. 

what is pool coping displayed in backyard pool with patio furniture nearby

There also must be a bond breaker between the pool structure and the bottom of the deck. Therefore, when the deck moves, it doesn’t grind the pool structure or push off the tile.  Usually there will be a silicone bead of caulking installed between the top of the tile and the bottom of the cantilever deck which needs service over time.  Poured cantilever concrete is a great way to protect your pool tile. In fact, some builders even give you a longer warranty if you choose to install a cantilever edge deck.

However, some projects just aren’t going to work with a poured concrete deck.  Aesthetically, sometimes it just isn’t the right choice.  And in these cases you will have pool coping installed.  What is pool coping is a question you can answer for your specific project.  There are many options available to today’s pool designers. If you’re not completely happy with what you have designed into your new pool or renovation, keep asking for more options and more material choices.


Even if you didn’t know what pool coping was before this article, you’d probably seen it. Pool coping is the band of material that separates the deck with the pool itself. Pool coping can be various materials, including precast concrete, granite and bluestone. If you already have a pool, you may need a coping renovation if a piece of tile is popping off the pool. Pool coping is an essential part of an inground pool. It prevents other materials from cracking prematurely when installed correctly. While pool structures can last a century, pool coping needs to be replaced every 15 – 20 years.