Swimming Pool Blog
by Sean Griffin, December 13, 2011
Swimming Pool Tile and Coping Repair
Before you open up your swimming pool in the spring you may want to address any structural damage and needed repairs before your pool is running and in full use. The off season is a good time for a DIY pool owner to fix up any cosmetic or underlying damage around the swimming pool. Resetting coping stones, setting tile, grouting, and caulking the expansion joint that runs the perimeter of the pool can be easily achieved with the right products and a little know how. When structural damage is repaired in a timely fashion it will prevent the issue from evolving into a major pool renovation.
Structural damage to your swimming pool can be caused several different ways. If you are subject to freezing temperatures during the winter months or have issues with the soil the pool was built into you can be at a greater risk. When a swimming pool is constructed with a surrounding decking it will “settle”” over the next several years.
Heaving and expansion can cause the decking to shift. The ground surrounding the pool can also experience erosion which can lead to water entering the void, freezing and expanding, and damaging the bond beam of the swimming pool. The beam is defined as the top 6 or 8 inches of the pool wall which holds the tile & coping. When the bond beam becomes compromised you will begin to experience issues with the coping becoming loose and the tile falling off. Until the bond beam is repaired it can continue to crumble and damage will follow.
Caulking the Pool Expansion Joint
Swimming pools and the surrounding decking, if any, can interface and be constructed in a variety of ways. Cantilever decking construction has the decking run all the way to the edge of the pool overlapping the bond beam. Other designs will incorporate coping commonly red bull nose bricking, a soft bull nose stone, or flagstone. The coping will be mortared to the pool bond beam and there will be a gap between the coping and the pool deck. This gap is the expansion joint. As the two separate structures settle and move over time they should remain separate while keeping water and debris from entering the gap.
Caulking this joint and properly sealing the gap is the first line of defense in preventing damage to the pools bond beam. Normally you will wait a year after original pool construction before caulking the expansion joint. This is to allow for the slabs to cure and possibly settle somewhat. Pool builders often do not include this vital step in ensuring the swimming pool structure remains sound for years to come in their contract.
A good caulk job starts with good surface prep. The sides of the joint must be clean, dry, rough and solid. Backer rod foam should be placed in the joint to give the caulk something to sit on top of. The joint is taped off to keep things neat, and caulk is shot or troweled into the joint to a depth of 3/8 - 1/2". The caulk should be an elastomeric sealant, suitable for outdoor use.
Over time caulking can break down or you may have additional slab shifting which may call for the expansion joint to be resealed. Annually inspect the caulking joint to prevent problems down the line.
Replace or Reset Pool Coping
Coping around the pool perimeter in any form is subject to damage. It can become unsecured from a damaged bond beam, crack, or become unlevel through ground movement. In some cases damage to coping is apparent and in other cases it can be elusive. If you suspect damage to part of the pools bond beam or there is a visible crack at the tile line you can use a chain or a hammer to drag across the coping while listening for hollow spots.
Resetting coping will entail removing the stone or brick by first cutting away any grout that is between joints. You may even need to gain leverage by removing grout beneath the coping between the tile and the coping itself. A crow bar may even be necessary but remember the goal is not to damage any coping stone so they may be reused. Once you have removed the necessary section of coping you may have to rebuild and level the bond beam using hydraulic cement and then reset the brick or stone. For minor damage you can use pool coping repair products to touch up any nicks or chips. You will want to finish by grouting and then caulking where the material was absent or removed.
Pool Tile Repair
Tile can begin to fall off of the pool structure for many reasons. Freeze damage, a compromised bond beam, and even time can lead to deterioration. After ensuring the coping stone and bond beam are properly set and are structurally sound you can replace and re-adhere the tile to the pool’s tile line. Older tiles may be hard to match if you’re in need of replacements. It’s always a good idea to hold on to an extra sheet or two from the original construction. You can also touch up and repair tile before cementing to the structure and grouting.
Weather you just need to pop on a couple of tiles or you need to replace several feet of coping, tile, grout, and caulk, the products needed are easy to use to achieve your goal. EZ patch products are available for any repair and even have video tutorials to help you train to become a pro at fixing and maintaining the pool structure. Avoid paying a pool company for what you can accomplish on your own!