Painting Pool Coping: How To Guide

Pool Care Chapters

All swimming pools need sprucing up from time to time. When your pool coping looks a bit rough, it might be time to repaint it. If you’re curious about painting pool coping, read on and learn all you need to know about this topic.

Pool Coping 101

Pool coping sits at the top edge of its wall, laying across the edge of the pool like a capstone. The coping sits flush with the upper edge of the wall. 

On an inground pool, it provides a finishing touch as a transition between the surrounding deck and the pool itself. On a vinyl pool, it serves as a rail, capping the wall that runs around the perimeter and sandwiching the inner liner of the pool to the outer wall. 

Types of Pool Coping

Pool coping comes in a few forms. You can usually figure out what kind it is pretty easy. Some materials are easier to paint than others. 

  • Vinyl resin coping
  • Concrete or natural stone coping 
  • Pre-cast plaster coping
  • Steel coping
  • Aluminum coping
  • PVC plastic coping

Painting Steel Pool Coping: Step-By-Step

Steel coping is most common on inground vinyl pools. It may be in the form of a heavy band of steel or a thinner band that sits between the pool and the surrounding concrete deck. 

Step 1: Treat the Rust 

Steel contains iron, and iron will eventually oxidize, resulting in rust. When your coping paint loses the battle against the elements and you develop rust stains, rainwater may start to carry the stains down into the pool. This can damage the liner, and add metal to your water, two things you don’t want. 

So, use a rust remover, like naval jelly or another chemical solvent to dissolve the rust from the steel. When removing rust, always take the necessary precautions to ensure you stay safe.

Step 2: Protect the Liner

If you’re replacing the liner, you can skip this step. Otherwise, you’ll need to take precautions to protect the liner from the rest of the process. The easiest way to go is to use plastic sheets or a tarp. 

Tape the edge of the sheet to the liner, right up under the coping, and let the sheet float on the water. Or, if the pool is empty, let it just hang down like a drape. Cover as much of the pool as possible. 

Step 3: Grind the Rust Away

Now that the pool liner has protection, you can use an orbital machine to grind off the rust deposits loosened by the treatment in step one. Alternatively, a wire wheel on a drill or even gritty sandpaper may do the trick. 

Step 4: Apply Your Rust Preventative

It’s vital that you use a rust-inhibiting primer. Make sure the coping is completely dry. Use some light gauge sandpaper to scuff the surface a bit, to promote adhesion. Then, apply two coats of a reputable rust-inhibiting primer according to the manufacturer’s directions. There are many kinds, so you can pick between a spray or roller application. 

Step 5: Final Coat and Cleanup

Some primers don’t require a top coat. If yours does, you still have to apply one more layer of colorful protection to your coping. Then, after everything dries for at least 24 hours, peel off all your tape. If you find any overspray on the liner or deck, you can probably remove it with a bit of elbow grease and a ‘Scotch-Brite’ pad. 

Painting Pre-Cast Plaster Pool Coping

Before you decide to paint your concrete, brick, or pre-cast plaster coping, consider giving it a thorough cleaning. Start with a light power washing, using a fan nozzle. This can do wonders to remove years of baked-on grime and sediment, helping to bring uniformity and freshness back to your coping. 

If you think there is still some discoloration, mix up a very light acid bath using muriatic acid. This is a common pool chemical often used to balance the water. It’s easy to find in stores, and it can refresh even the most worn-down stone, concrete, or plaster. 

Use a watering can to create a mixture of muriatic acid and water. Then pour it over the stone, letting it run into the pool. It will fizz and steam a bit in contact with the water, so use appropriate safety gear. Rinse everything thoroughly with a garden hose after a minute or two. 

Another light rinse with the power washer should resolve 99% of your staining problems, including mold, mildew, and heavy grime. But, if it ends up you need to repaint the plaster or stones, you’ve also just started the prep.

The acid wash will etch the natural stone, helping the paint stick. If there is a lot of sliminess remaining, you want to use a degreaser to remove it. Try to find one designed for pool use, as it won’t create soapy suds. Rinse everything thoroughly, and if needed, you can perform another acid wash to remove any residual grease. 

Now, your surface is ready for paint. Always use appropriate paint intended for use on swimming pool decks. It should have the ability to seal the stone, not just color it. Look for products with labels like ‘pool deck paint’ for the best results. 

If you don’t want to paint the stone, but you want to keep it looking fresh, consider using an untinted pool deck sealer to help protect the stone. 

Painting Aluminum Pool Coping: Step-by-Step

Aluminum pool coping requires a four-step process for a long-lasting paint job. 

Step 1: Thoroughly Clean the Coping

Take a good look at your coping. If it’s relatively clean and the existing paint is intact, a thorough power-washing might do the trick. It’s a good idea to have a helper standing by to use a leaf rake or skimmer to catch any flaking paint that flies off, so it doesn’t end up going into your filter. 

If you have baked-on stains, greasy build-up, or your old paint needs removal, you will have to get more aggressive. Using a tough grout sponge or a scouring pad and a degreasing cleanser will help remove old paint and stains, but you want to make sure to use a cleaning product that’s safe for your pool’s water and filter system.

The cleaner and smoother you get the aluminum, the better results you’ll achieve. 

Step 2: Prepare the Surface

If your coping already has paint on its surface, and you’re simply applying a new, fresh coat, you want to scuff the existing paint to promote the adhesion of the new paint. A light sanding with a tough scouring pad is more than enough to do the trick. Just be careful not to go too deep. 

If there is no paint on your coping, and it’s down to the bare aluminum, you’ll want to etch the surface after light scuffing. So, after a thorough cleaning, use an aggressive scouring pad to scuff the entire coping rail. Then, apply an etching primer or a primer designed for use on bare aluminum. There are various products available, so you can choose from primers that roll on or ones that come in a spray can. 

Before using your primer, consider taping off the liner and surrounding deck to protect them from overspray or errant paint rolls. 

Step 3: Paint the Coping

Now, you’re ready for your top coat. Some aluminum primers might just require a second coat of the same product. Others allow you to choose a top coat in varying colors. White or gray is usually best, as they show the least wear over time. Bright colors might look great for a season or two, but any chips or stains will be very apparent quickly. 

DIY Painting Pool Coping: Dos and Don’ts

Every pool is different. So, while this guide is great for planning your DIY pool coping paint job, you should also stick to some cardinal rules. 


  • Routinely use a power washer to keep your coping looking its best. Use a fan nozzle, not a zero-tip. 
  • Previously painted coping does not need a primer. 
  • Protect your liner from settling debris, especially rust flakes and metal. 
  • Always check the weather forecast and ensure your paint has plenty of time to dry. 
  • Remove oils, scale, and rust with appropriate chemicals. 
  • Be careful about what gets in your pool water. Take steps to mitigate it. 
  • Use painter’s tape, plastic sheets, or tarps to protect surfaces.
  • Be careful when working around empty pools. A fall can be very dangerous. 


  • Don’t allow harsh chemicals to contact the pool liner, tiles, or water. 
  • Don’t use harsh chemicals on the liner bead under the coping. 
  • Don’t use muriatic acid without appropriate safety gear. 
  • Don’t allow steel shavings, rust flakes, or paint chips to settle into your pool.

The Pool Care Handbook & Video Course

by Swim University
This is an illustrated e-book with detailed videos and step-by-step instructions on how to best care for your swimming pool. 
© 2023 Pool Care Guide. All rights reserved.