Repairing Coping StonesWhen the idea of adding a pool to your Florida home began to catch on in the late 40's, the hole was dug by hand, cement was mixed by hand and construction was generally a sloping slab poured 8 feet below ground with concrete block walls built up 2' above ground level to keep out mowed grass, insects and reptiles.
This style pool is known as the 'gator pit' named after what many roadside attractions built to display the official Florida reptile.
To get away from the ugly, industrial feel of the alligator pit, the high sides were lowered to ground level and, because the pool was located some distance from the home, a simple 2' sidewalk poured around the perimeter to thwart vegetation and critters.
With a pool and deck, you have two concrete structures that can be joined together in one of four ways.
One way is to build the pool wall up to the same elevation as the inside edge of the deck and leave a small gap between deck and the top of the pool wall. You then cover this gap and the top of the pool wall with a decorative, cement coping stone. You cemented the coping stone to only the top of the pool wall and let it float over the gap and deck edge. Built correctly, this is simple and effective and will last decades without problems.
But a small, visible gap under the outside edge of the coping bothered some homeowners who coerced the builder the fill this gap in with cement. Either through misunderstanding the importance of this gap or not wishing to alienate their customer at the final payment, many builders complied.
Now, any deck settlement or pool expansion pressure was transfered to the coping stones and, being decorative and not structural, they crack and splinter.
Replacing coping stones is a simple enough process (and is covered on the Pool School PRO CD) when the stones are still being manufactured and readily available. But what happens when you have a cracked coping stone and they aren't making that particular size or style anymore?
This is a much easierjob when the pool is drained, but do-able, with patience, in a filled pool.
The basic repair material is color matched sanded tile grout. Buy it in the 25 lb. bag and get it from a tile or hardware store or Lowes. Home Depot tile grout needs a white cement (unsanded tile grout) boost to adhere properly.
Remove any loose material and hose the area well. To prevent rust bleed-thru, any exposed steel reinforcement rods should be spray painted or removed. Sponge cement bonding agent over the area. Remember that the bonding agent dries clear, so be generous in your application without causing puddles.
Mix the grout to a peanut butter consistency. Using the profile of the adjoining stones, roughlytrowel the grout into shape and (depending on the length of the coping nose (what extends out into the pool) and you may have to form it by hand. Give the material twenty minutes to begin to set.
(photo above left) If you're having problems forming the nose (material falls into the pool), add a little dry cement to your mix and stir well and often. Keep the mixing bucket out of the sun and build out the nose as the material stiffens.
A dimpled surface can be duplicated by troweling salt (pool or ice cream salt) flat into the surface and allowing the surface to set. Come back the next day, rinse the salt crystals away and Voila! A salt texture.
This particular finish featured small flakes duplicated by using an over-sized salt shaker to distribute black and white flakes sold in paint stores to decorate garage floors. The surface was troweled smooth, swiped lightly with a damp sponge for a little non-skid texture and the flakes applied while the surface would still absorb them. Clean up came an hour later with a weak acid (1acid to10 water) sponge wipe.
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