Not Really Pool People | pavers + coping

coping stones

Before laying any pavers, we had to get the coping around the pool edge set. We were looking for a more modern look than typical bullnose 6” coping stones that you often see around pools. We selected Nicolock Thermal Treads in Bluestone which are 48” x 12” x 2”. They are meant to be stair treads, but we thought they would be perfect for our pool coping.

laying the coping

First we had to lay a bed of mortar to give the coping something to adhere to since the edge of the pool was not that thick. We have to credit this forum thread for influencing us on this process as finding any installation similar to ours was quite difficult. We mixed the mortar pretty thick so we could shape it and it would stay in place as we set the coping. We used a sand and bedding mix from the local Lowes. Leaving it slightly high allowed for us to pound it down to level. This part was tricky, because we needed to keep the coping level, but the coping needed to adhere to both the top edge of the pool and to the mortar bed to ensure they wouldn’t move at all. We used a bonding adhesive on the coping to help it adhere to the wet mortar and a landscape adhesive to adhere it to the pool edge leaving about a 2″ overhang. Not falling in the pool as we lifted and perfectly placed these 50 lb pieces of concrete was also a challenge. We leveled the coping stones with a rubber mallet, ensuring the coping was pressed against the fiberglass edge. Since the pool is 30 years old and the edge is not perfectly straight, the overhang varies, but nonetheless the fiberglass edge is not showing so mission accomplished. The most important part was to keep the entire border square.

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We started with the center pieces of the long sides and worked our way to the corners using 3/8 inch spacers so we could keep everything nice and square by measuring across the pool as we worked outward. Laying the mortar and coping one by one, we made our way to the corners and cut the excess from the corner pieces with an angle grinder. Then we completed the short sides, again working from the middle and cutting the pieces that met the corner. We learned the hard way that the coping pieces varied in thickness by up to 1/8 inch. Once we got down to a few pieces left, we had to measure each one before selecting it to try and match the thickness to the adjacent piece.

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We have yet to fill in the inside corners with a triangular piece to cover the rounded pool edge. We also need to seal between the coping stones with caulk. This will have to wait until next summer.

paver time

After months of preparation and planning, come July 4th weekend we were finally ready to lay the pavers. Kyle’s step dad had about 3 extra cubic yards of concrete sand from a previous project which he gave to us and it just happened to be the perfect amount. In case you missed it in our intro, we selected Nicolock Plank Pavers which came in 6” width, 2 ¾” thickness and 3 different lengths; 9”, 13”, and 17” length. We ordered 7 pallets totaling 735 square feet. We selected 3 different shades of grey; 3 pallets of Marble Blend which is the lightest color, 3 pallets of Granite City which is the medium color, and 1 pallet Charcoal which is the darkest color.

moving the pavers

I should preface this by first talking about moving the pavers. The pallets were placed in the driveway. The pool is about 300 feet from the driveway. We had 7 pallets to move across the grass. After a failed attempt using a pallet jack and some plywood, we had to move them by hand. There are certain tasks we can do together, and certain tasks we’re better off if Kyle does them alone. Laying pavers is one of those Kyle tasks. I probably set about 8 pavers in the entire patio. It’s one of those tasks that takes patience and perfection; I leave those to Kyle. Which made the moving the pavers task mine. Let’s do the math; we have a trailer for our lawn mower that holds about 36 pavers, each pallet had about 120 pavers, multiplied by 7 pallets…that’s 28 trips back and forth, loading and unloading pavers. That kept me busy while Kyle did the real work.

sand paver base

First we had to add the sand and level it off . Since our stone sub base had the slope, our sand base could just be a continuous 1″ layer. We did this in sections. To achieve the correct thickness and make sure it was as close to perfect as possible, we used PVC pipe with an outside diameter of about 1″. The PVC pipes were used to set the height of the sand. We would recommend using steel pipes instead since they are not flexible, we just took the cheap route. We set a few pipes down on the stone, filled sand around the pipes and then screed the excess sand off away from the pool by carefully sliding a 2×4 across the top of the PVC pipes. After removing the PVC pipes, we filled in the voids from the pipes with sand. There was some finesse involved, and I was skeptical on the PVC trick, but it worked pretty well.

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setting pavers

We couldn’t lay all the sand at once because there was no way to prevent walking over top of it, so we stuck to sections of about 8-10 feet wide. Kyle laid the pavers from the pool edge working outwards towards the fence posts, tapping them with a rubber mallet to level if necessary. We wanted the pattern to be random, so I’d hand Kyle pavers in a random order of size and color but making sure the short side seams did not line up.

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We wanted the length of the pavers to be parallel to the long side of the pool. Since the width of the pool was not divisible by the width of the pavers, we would have an odd gap somewhere that a paver couldn’t fill. To combat this, we decided to place the odd gap in the center and actually make it an accent so it looked intentional. We did a row of dark pavers perpendicular to the rest of the field. We worked from the long edges of the pool inward. The numbers are just chalk marks; we measured and cut one at a time since it was inevitable the gap wasn’t the exact same width, but it was pretty darn close. We also had to cut pavers along the two short ends of the patio so the outside edge of the patio was a straight line. There was some cutting to do around the pool skimmer as well. We rented a paver saw for this task and saved a Saturday for all the cut pieces so we only had to rent it for one day. The intricate cuts around the skimmer were done with an angle grinder.

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paver edging

Once all the pavers were in place, we installed plastic landscape edging along the outside to keep the pavers in place. We staked the edging into the ground and covered it with sand to keep the edging secure. This helps keep the pavers from shifting.

setting the pavers in the sand

When you first lay the pavers, they should be a bit higher than their final height. This allows you to “set” them in the sand base with a tamper. We opted to use a metal hand tamper, and to help cushion the tamper against the pavers we used a scrap piece of carpet. We did this twice. This process worked quite well, but was extremely tiring (Kyle did most of it). Now that the pavers were set, and the sand base had worked its way up into the joints and interlocked the pavers together, they did not shift under our feet and could be freely walked on. As a final step, Kyle went around with the rubber mallet and tried to even out any high or low corners and made sure the pavers near the coping were level with the coping.

polymeric sand

Lastly, we had to place the polymeric sand. After 2 weeks of laying pavers, we were ready to get everything sealed up before any movement could take place. During heavy rains prior to placing the sand, we covered the pavers with tarps to prevent the sand underneath from getting wet. We didn’t want any residual moisture in the sand base underneath when we did the polymeric sand.

On a dry day, I poured sand over the pavers and pushed it into the cracks with a push broom. I pushed it around, back and forth, until the cracks were completely filled. Kyle then went around with the hand tamper once more to work the polymeric sand down in the cracks. After this, I went around with the sand again. Then it was time to get the excess sand off of the pavers. When polymeric sand gets wet, it forms together and dries hard. Any excess on the pavers can cause staining and may not even come off. We did this by using a cheap leaf blower we picked up. Once all the excess was off, we wet the entire patio lightly with the hose for about 30 seconds to saturate the sand. We did this twice with a few minutes rest in between to ensure the sand was saturated through to the bottom of the pavers. This wet all of the sand in the joints, which will harden when dry.

coping joint

Because the coping is glued down but the pavers are not, we wanted a flexible joint between the coping and pavers. We chose a self-leveling sealant. The caulk would provide a flexible joint between the pavers and coping, allowing them to move independently during freeze-thaw cycles. To make it match the rest of the joints, we sprinkled some extra polymeric sand into the wet sealant, blending it with the other joints.

Finally, we have a patio! Everything is finally coming together and we are ready to get the fence up and stop dealing with the pesky orange construction fence.

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