This post is for a super small percentage of the population who have a really old pool with metal coping and are wondering if they can paint that metal pool coping.
Yes! You can!
(Editor’s Note: I wrote a blog post with an honest assessment about how the paint is holding up after 2 years. You can read that here. To find out how we painted the coping and the paint we used, continue reading this blog post.)
If you aren’t familiar with the term, pool coping is what caps the edge of a pool.
Modern pools are built with pool coping made out of concrete or stone, but some old school pools like ours have a band of metal (aluminum) coping that runs around the edge of the pool.
Replacing the metal coping is a big job. We’ve DIYed most things, but this is one we’d leave for the concrete experts because it needs to be done right the first time and without messing up the pool.
For pools with a vinyl liner, the coping is usually replaced when the vinyl liner is replaced. That means there could be a gap of years between when your metal coping needs attention and when you need to replace your vinyl liner. No one wants to spend thousands of dollars on a new vinyl pool liner if they don’t have to.
The finish on the aluminum of the metal coping can wear over time. The easiest way to improve the aesthetics and protect the structural integrity of the metal coping is to paint it.
Here are the steps to paint metal pool coping with marine paint.
Why marine paint? It’s formulated to get wet! I figure if it is durable enough to work on a boat, it should work on pool coping.
Paint Metal Pool Coping Step 1: Prep the pool coping.
First scrub the pool coping to clean the surface and remove any debris or loose paint. I just used a scrub brush and a hose to do this.
Perhaps there is a safe cleaning agent to use for this task, but I didn’t want to risk any non-pool chemicals ending up in the pool.
If there are still areas of the coping with loose paint or a compromised finish, you can sand the coping. I used 120-grit and 220-grit sandpaper and my orbital sander.
While I did get down to the metal in some areas, that wasn’t my goal. My goal was just to get a smooth, solid surface for the paint to adhere to.
Wash off the pool coping again to remove any sanding residue. Wait for the surface to completely dry before proceeding.
Paint Metal Pool Coping Step 2: Prime and paint using marine paint.
Rust-oleum makes a marine grade primer and paint for “above the water line” that is typically used on boats. I figured if it was good enough for boats with exposure to water, storms, and UV rays, it should work for pool coping.
However, I’ll update this post at some point on how the paint holds up longterm, but it is doing well after a month of heavy summer pool usage!
This means you need to keep a close eye on the weather forecast. Don’t be like me and see that your phone’s weather app says the temperatures are mild for summer and sunny for the next seven days and decide to start this project.
You need to obsessively stalk every weather app known to man because you know the weather can turn on you in a second. Or, in my case, rain on your primer 8 hours after you put it down. It’s fine. I think it’s fine.
I could have rolled the paint on parts of the coping, but the marine paint directions mentioned back brushing and there were areas the roller wouldn’t work on anyway. That meant it was easier for me to just use a brush on the entire thing.
In order to paint under the bullnose of the coping without getting paint in the pool or on the vinyl liner, I slid a plastic wrap-covered sheet of card stock in the gap between the coping and the liner. If you have a lot of bead lock holding your liner in place, you can still wedge the card stock in on top of the bead lock, but it might be a tighter fit.
The plastic wrap covering the card stock wasn’t necessary, but it did make the paper water resistant in case I accidentally touched it to the water.
Spoiler: I did…more than once.
Please note that you will need mineral spirits to clean up this type of marine paint.
Also, for the sake of your joints, wear kneepads if you are doing this project. They will become your best friend…and make quite the fashion statement.
Paint Metal Pool Coping Step 3: Wait then Celebrate!
Out of an abundance of caution, I did wait 48 hours after the last coat of paint went on before we dragged hoses over the coping or resumed our heavy level of summer pool usage.
I just wanted extra time for the paint to cure. Although, I read the specifications later and it said full cure time on the paint is 3 days. Oops.
Don’t worry. It’s been fine.
It took me 7 hours over the course of 3 days to prep and paint the metal pool coping with marine paint.
I had approximately 200 linear feet of pool coping to paint and each coat took me roughly two hours to apply because I was being so careful not to get paint in the pool.
Was it worth the actual backache this project caused? Yes.
Do we still have old metal pool coping around our pool? Yes, but it looks better!
Is the paint job holding up to our kids’ epic cannonball contests? So far, so good.
I’m just happy we have a pool that works and allows us to cool down and have fun in the summer. I didn’t grow up with a pool, so this is a complete luxury to me right now.
Someday we will replace the metal coping with concrete coping, but for now I’m happy that our pool area is looking less run down and a whole lot better!
I’ll keep you posted on how well the paint holds up, especially after it has sat under the pool cover all winter.
If you’ve used marine paint or have painted the metal coping around your pool, let me know all your tips and tricks in the comments. Your experience may very well help someone else. We’re all in this together!
Paint resources used in this project:
FYI – While I’m giving you links to the paint I used, I’ve noticed paint prices are wild during the pandemic, so shop around for the best price.
Also, this is a speciality paint and my home improvement store doesn’t keep it in stock. I had to order it online. If you live in an area where painting boats is common, your local Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Ace Hardware might carry it.
Rust-oleum Marine Coatings Metal Primer: Home Depot
This Topside paint comes in different colors and finishes if you want something other than white. I found that it levels nicely and was easy to work with as long as you don’t overwork the paint with your brush.
No Cry Kneepads: Amazon
I couldn’t find the link to my particular kneepads, but then I stumbled on the product video for these No Cry Kneepads. The guy falls on a bed of nails, broken glass, and sharp metal…it was the most effective product video I’ve ever seen! Aside from that, over 20,000 people love these kneepads.
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