Top 5 Considerations When Selecting Pool Coping Materials

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Sitting poolside with a tall glass of lemonade and dipping your toes in the water can turn an average summer day into a resort-style experience. The materials and design you choose for your pool can dramatically affect that experience.

In addition to choosing the right pool deck material to ensure long-term durability and safety, and achieve a desired look, the material you select for the coping is equally important. The coping, or edging, that surrounds a pool serves not only as a functional border; it can create a dramatic, decorative element that adds significant visual appeal.

You have several options—poured concrete, brick, natural stone such as limestone or granite, and more—and each has its own unique characteristics. Deciding which will be best for your pool can be confusing, so we’ll cover several factors you’ll want to consider when making a final selection for your pool coping material.

1. Appearance

Creating an inviting backyard retreat is all about style. Poured concrete or brick are okay options, but if appearance is of utmost importance to you, you’ll want natural limestone pool coping as it provides the most natural and sophisticated look. The wide array of available colors, textures and finishes are classic choices for pools, both for its beauty and its functionality. Pool coping must be able to be cut into consistent sizes and shapes to create clean lines and ensure a non-skid surface, and natural limestone accommodates these requirements.

The coping that borders a pool can have a rolled, bullnose, square or textured edge. The bullnose edge is a popular choice because it has a softer look. Limestone can be crafted into any design choice. The material that’s chosen is a matter of personal preference, but it should also coordinate with other features of the home such as its exterior, an outdoor fireplace, pavers and other landscape features.

2. Maintenance and Durability

When dreaming of a pool, most homeowners envision themselves relaxing on a floating lounge chair or watching their children swim…and they forget the maintenance that goes along with it. Some materials require less maintenance than others, and proper installation and preparation can make your job easier.

Most all coping materials need a sealant to provide traction, resist staining and reduce the likelihood of damage from the environment and chemicals commonly used in pools. Because poured concrete typically has no joints, it’s prone to cracking, especially in northern climates where freeze thaw cycles are the norm. Patch jobs and maintenance can be laborious and appear unsightly because it’s difficult to match up colors that have faded in the sun. Brick typically requires an extensive amount of grout which is also prone to cracking and chipping, can collect debris and needs to be sealed more often.

Natural limestone also requires some maintenance, which can be as simple as sweeping frequently to keep debris and leaf mold off the stones—fallen leaves that are left on any surface can cause permanent stains. Occasional washing with a recommended pH neutral cleaner and the use of a pressure washer to attack any deeper grime is usually enough to protect and preserve the beauty of limestone coping. Because of how natural stone is cut and installed, repairs are typically easier and undetectable.

Limestone is one of the most durable options available for coping, holding up extremely well to constant use, seasonal weather and freeze/thaw cycles. Remember, however, that not all limestone is created equal. A Type I or Type II limestone will not hold up to extreme fluctuations in temperatures as will Type III, so be sure to ask what rating the limestone you’re considering receives from the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM).

3. Price

If price is your only concern, precast concrete coping is typically the least expensive option. What’s gained in up-front savings is lost in appearance and the ability to customize a design, however, as well as maintenance costs down the road. Consider the long-term investment potential rather than short-term gains; natural stone will likely have lower maintenance costs over time and will add to a homeowner’s resale value.

4. Safety

The coping is the most likely surface to get wet as swimmers enter and exit the pool, so avoid highly polished finishes that are inherently slippery and, instead, choose a matte or etched finish that provides some traction. Avoid using materials that are prone to cracking, chipping or have rough edges as these can be hazardous to swimmers.

5. Solar Reflectance

The solar reflectance index (SRI) refers to a material’s ability to reflect solar heat. In other words, it answers the question, “How hot does it get in the sun?” SRI is measured on a scale of zero to 100, with a higher score being more desirable. Unlike concrete and other materials that absorb heat, natural limestone materials reflect solar heat and stay cool to the touch. The lighter the color, the cooler the surface, so limestone is naturally reflective even in direct sunlight. As an example, Eden-Valders Stone’s average SRI is 62, with some lighter colors rating even higher. The average SRI of aged concrete, on the other hand, is much lower between 20–30.

After weighing all your pool coping choices, natural limestone will likely win out for appearance, durability, comfort, safety and its long-term investment value. Make sure your pool feels like an extension of your home’s design rather than an afterthought by choosing the best materials possible. To see how the expert craftsmen at Eden-Valders Stone can provide you with some of the most beautiful limestone products available on the planet to help create your backyard retreat, contact us today.

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