Pool Bellecrete Coping Moisture Problems

Rocker4444

Member
Jan 19, 2021
12
Los Angeles, CA
Hi,

I have a recently built inground gunite swimming pool with attached spa. Gunite installed in July 2020. A couple weeks later, Bellecrete cast concrete coping was installed on top of the bond beam. Construction stopped at that point and the gunite shell with coping sat dry for almost a year. During this year, the coping looked brand new, just as good as it was the day it was installed. Stonescapes mini pebble was installed May 2021 (almost a year later). Coping still looked good. Pool was filled immediately after, also May 2021. Soon after filling the pool, we noticed a few perpetually wet spots on the coping. Soon the spots got worse and all the coping was discoloring. Moisture discoloration and efflorescence got worse and worse. A couple of months later (Aug 2021) Pool builder called out the coping manufacturer, Bellecrete, and they suggested acid wash. That was performed but no difference. Pool builder is now proposing to rip out and replace all coping.

Some facts:
My home and yard is on a hill with a downward grade behind the pool.
We are in Southern California desert where it has been 100+ degrees for many days and we still see the same moisture stains.
There are no sprinklers anywhere (we have hardscape and artificial turf). Drip system for planters was installed after this problem appeared.
The Angelus pavers that are placed right next to the coping doesn't seem to be showing any moisture issues.
Coping was installed on top of bond beam with some sort of mortar... didn't look like anything special.
Our waterline tile is 6" square with grout. The grout seems like normal grout (not necessarily pool-specific?)
The waterline tile-to-coping transition is caulk inside the spa and grout in the pool.
The 2 spillways from spa to pool are openings covered on top by coping and the very middle of each of those pieces of coping appears to be dry.
The corner of the spa has coping with moisture staining and it isn't adjacent to any ground for ground moisture to affect it.
The steps are made from the same coping. The steps show a TINY bit of moisture marking, but nowhere near like the rest of the pool.
I understand the pool coping closest to the spa could get moisture from the spillways dribbling along the stone face. This explains some moisture immediately near the edge of the spa/pool transition, but not the entire pool.
The pool has not been overfilled (2/3 up the skimmer, right in the middle of the waterline tile)
The pool has an auto-fill that keeps the water level at the same proper level
If ground moisture was the issue, wouldn't I see issues with my pavers too? The sanded joints don't seem wet, there's no discoloration or efflorescence even on the adjacent pavers.

1) Is this normal for cast concrete coping? My PB thinks it is not.
2) Where is the moisture coming from?
3) Should I be concerned that moisture will return in any new installation?
4) Should I replace with different coping/material to hide the issue?

My theories:
a) The gunite / bond beam is saturated. Is that a thing? Should the top of the bond beam be waterproofed before setting coping?
b) The waterline tile grout lines are wicking water up to the coping. This seems possible because the very first small moisture spots we saw were at the top of grout lines. This might explain the pool waterline with straight 6" tiles, but the spa tile is glass tile hexagons with caulk at the top. Does it matter? Is this a thing? How is it resolved?
c) There's a leak somewhere (maybe the autofill? somewhere else?). My water bill has been slightly higher, I assume because of evaporation but it doesn't seem like I'm losing a TON of water with the autofill turned off or paying a LOT more for water.

Please help! I'd hate to have PB replace coping and end up in the same spot.

Attached pics:
1) first sign of moisture after filling pool
2) close up of moisture staining on coping
3) overhead view today
4) overhead view today
 

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JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
21,357
Tucson, AZ
Pool Size
16000
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Chlorine
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Was a waterproofing barrier material applied to the gunite shell over the bond beam before tile and/or coping installation. Laticrete products like HydroBan™️ are generally used to ensure good waterproofing. It is typically applied 6” to 12” beyond the bottom of the tile and then all the way up and over the bond beam.

 

Rocker4444

Member
Jan 19, 2021
12
Los Angeles, CA
Was a waterproofing barrier material applied to the gunite shell over the bond beam before tile and/or coping installation. Laticrete products like HydroBan™️ are generally used to ensure good waterproofing. It is typically applied 6” to 12” beyond the bottom of the tile and then all the way up and over the bond beam.

Thanks for the quick reply!
I'm pretty sure no waterproofing was applied. In the pics, you can see coping installed before the waterline tile. There is no color difference of the gunite in the waterline area. Then the other pic has waterline tile installed, but no color difference coming below it.

1) Is waterproofing the waterline and bond beam something that is ALWAYS done for gunite pools?
2) Now that coping & tile & pebble is installed - any good approach to fix it? I don't mind ripping coping and tile, but ruining the pebble would be extremely destructive.
 

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JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
21,357
Tucson, AZ
Pool Size
16000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
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Good pool build practices always use a waterproofing membrane behind the tile and coping to keep moisture out. If the grout is simply standard tile grout then water can permeate through the grout and get to the gunite behind it. See this article -


Unfortunately there’s no simple remediation to this issue. If you remove the tile now, the plaster will be damaged. You can try to redo the coping and have it sealed prior to reinstallation using a waterproof penetrating sealer but there’s no way to know how effective that will be. You can also have the tile regrouted using epoxy grout to keep water out. Your builder’s tile subcontractor screwed up and did not properly address waterproofing. Your builder screwed up by not checking his subs work. None of this is your fault and so it’s on the builder to make it right.
 

Rocker4444

Member
Jan 19, 2021
12
Los Angeles, CA
Thanks a ton for your insight. Not the answer I wanted to hear, but the one I suspected. I did a pretty good job caching other mistakes but didn't know to look for this one :(

If we effectively "fix" the coping visual issue with some sort of sealant, the bond beam will still be perpetually saturated with pool water, right?
How bad is this over time?
Should I be pushing for contractor to essentially redo coping, tile, and plaster to get waterproofing right? Yikes.
 
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JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
21,357
Tucson, AZ
Pool Size
16000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
Thanks a ton for your insight. Not the answer I wanted to hear, but the one I suspected. I did a pretty good job caching other mistakes but didn't know to look for this one :(

If we effectively "fix" the coping visual issue with some sort of sealant, the bond beam will still be perpetually saturated with pool water, right?
How bad is this over time?
Should I be pushing for contractor to essentially redo coping, tile, and plaster to get waterproofing right? Yikes.

Hard to gauge how much water saturation will occur but it will cause less than optimal lifetime out of the bond beam. Will you get 35 years out of the shell? 25 years? Will it disintegrate next year? No way to really know.

You might try having the coping sealed and asking if the tile sub can come back, remove all the cementitious grout and redo it with epoxy grout. Porcelain tile is waterproof but the grout is not if it’s regular cement grout. Redoing it with epoxy grout will make the tile more water tight.
 
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Rocker4444

Member
Jan 19, 2021
12
Los Angeles, CA
Hard to gauge how much water saturation will occur but it will cause less than optimal lifetime out of the bond beam. Will you get 35 years out of the shell? 25 years? Will it disintegrate next year? No way to really know.

You might try having the coping sealed and asking if the tile sub can come back, remove all the cementitious grout and redo it with epoxy grout. Porcelain tile is waterproof but the grout is not if it’s regular cement grout. Redoing it with epoxy grout will make the tile more water tight.
Good suggestion. Thanks again for the help!
 
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EBH1

New member
Mar 24, 2022
2
Los Angeles
We have had exactly the same issue with the Bellecrete coping installed July last year. we are still trying to resolve the problem with the contractor and Bellecrete. It been super frustrating and the issue has gotten worse. The coping looks awful and needs to be replaced. We were not going to reinstall Bellecrete product, but according to this thread, it doesn't seem to be an issue with the materials but possibly the installation.
 

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EBH1

New member
Mar 24, 2022
2
Los Angeles
Hard to gauge how much water saturation will occur but it will cause less than optimal lifetime out of the bond beam. Will you get 35 years out of the shell? 25 years? Will it disintegrate next year? No way to really know.

You might try having the coping sealed and asking if the tile sub can come back, remove all the cementitious grout and redo it with epoxy grout. Porcelain tile is waterproof but the grout is not if it’s regular cement grout. Redoing it with epoxy grout will make the tile more water tight.
Hi - have you seen success with this approach versus replacing all the coping? Thanks in advance for any insight you may have.
 

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CAgirl8

Well-known member
Jan 22, 2022
181
California
Pool Size
17000
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Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
What happened with your coping? Mine is brand new and looks exactly like this. The PB told me the moisture from the pool makes the coping look wet all the time on around the grout lines?! Is this true ?
 

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Rocker4444

Member
Jan 19, 2021
12
Los Angeles, CA
Sorry for the late reply; I didn’t realize there was more interest. Here’s an update in case it helps future TFP searches:

We finally got the PB to agree to:
1) Rip out all coping and replace with the same Bellecrete cast coping (Bellecrete paid for identical material under warranty even though I maintain the product was not at fault)

Before re-installation:
2) Apply cementitious waterproofing to the top of the bond beam
3) Seal all new coping on all 6 sides with non-gloss penetrating sealer

They did NOT replace the grout with epoxy grout. I did lower the water level in the pool and sealed the grout with a penetrating sealer myself.

This work was done in April 2022. For a month or two the coping looked perfect. Now that it’s been 4 months we’re starting to see small signs of the moisture problem returning. It’s not nearly as bad as the initial problem (we had initial signs of moisture within days of filling the pool), but it may end up as bad over time.

I still maintain that JoyfulNoise diagnosed correctly: the PB did not waterproof the water tile line, the cement grout absorbs pool water and passes it to the gunite shell, the cast coping wicks water up from the wet grout and wet gunite shell. I think the gunite shell is likely constantly moist. My hunch is that I’ll have failing tile and stone in 5 years or so. When it eventually gets really bad I’ll have to have the pool remodeled (coping, tile, pebble) but with appropriate waterproofing this time. Of course, this will be at my cost all due to the PB skipping a seemingly simple waterproofing step. It seems this is quite commonplace in SoCal since I’ve seen a lot of pools with this skipped waterline waterproofing step.

I’ve attached some pics of the coping from today, 4ish months after replacement. It’s hot here and has had no water splashed on it for a few days. It shows signs of moisture but isn’t as bad as before (yet).
 

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Bperry

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Aug 20, 2020
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Mine was even worse! Check out this pic of it at the worst point. It’s much much better now but still not perfect. If only they had waterproofed the waterline…

View attachment 452453
Did they install an expansion joint between the coping and the rest of the decking? Don’t see one in this picture. Maybe paver decks aren’t as susceptible to expansion/contraction issues?
 
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CAgirl8

Well-known member
Jan 22, 2022
181
California
Pool Size
17000
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Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
Did they install an expansion joint between the coping and the rest of the decking? Don’t see one in this picture. Maybe paver decks aren’t as susceptible to expansion/contraction issues?
Wow, at least they replaced all yours! My PB won't even return my messages. So frusterating when you spend an obscene amount of money for shoddy work :(
 
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