Getting maximum satisfaction from your inground pool takes time and care. You have to worry not just about the overall aesthetics, but utility and durability too. These concerns overlap at the edge of your pool, where the coping has its chance to shine.

Think of pool coping as the finishing touch that gives you something to grab onto when you’re ready to get out—and helps protect your pool from water damage in style. Understanding how it works and your available options will help you make the right selection for your pool for a border that’s both beautiful and functional.

Pool Coping Basics

In the world of architecture, coping refers to the protective cap or lip at the top of a wall that gives a finished look and protects the wall from the elements. It’s used largely the same way in pool design.

When an inground pool is built, the upper surface of the pool wall—known as the bond beam—will likely have exposed steel, which probably isn’t going to win any safety or design awards unless you’re going for Thunderdome chic. You install coping to cover this wall, where it can direct water away from your pool and into the deck drain. It will also give your pool a polished look, and make it safer for swimmers.

Typically, pool coping is designed with a graceful outward slant. It’s most often made of stone, concrete, or composite materials. Metal and wood options exist, but they tend to suffer wear and tear in the moisture-rich pool environment. Consequently, they tend to need more care, investment, and maintenance.

Why Your Pool Needs Pool Coping

The primary purpose of adding coping is to direct splash out away from your pool and into the deck drains. But it also serves a few other important purposes, including:

  • Blocking water from penetrating the area behind the pool shell and potentially causing damage.
  • Keeping debris like grass, leaves, and dirt from entering the pool.
  • Providing an attractive but still accessible cover for mechanical components such as automatic pool covers.
  • Giving swimmers a safe and sturdy way to enter and exit poolside while reducing the risk of slipping.

It’s not exactly a sassy azalea bush or a tasteful windscreen of slender pines, but pool coping could also be considered a bit of (inorganic) pool landscaping. It’s an opportunity to inject a little personal flair. You can choose from a wide range of colors, materials, cuts, and finishes to complement your overall design scheme.

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