Urgent!Travertine coping cracking/coming apart

mwredeJanuary 11, 2010

I am really freaking out right now! I was outside and realized that about 1/3 of our travertine coping seem to be cracking/ separating from the rest of the patio and in one area sinking as much as 1/4" on the side where the coping connects to the rest of the patio. Many pieces seem to be cracked or have chuncks flacking of. There is also one area where the grout under the travertine coping is cracked.

The travertine is 1.25" thick pavers set in concrete. This is only happening with the 12x24 pieces also the rest of the travertine patio seems ok as of now.

Please does anyone know why this is happening? Or what to do? The pool is only 4.5 months old. As we only used the pool for a month and a half this year we did not seal the travertine but planned to seal it in the spring. I was told that travertine was ok for freeze thaw conditions and that it's used as far north as Massachusetts. The last week has been the coldest we've had in a while here in NC and the temperatures dropped to the mid/high teens at night.

Here is a link that might be useful: Coping pictures

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Part of the problem is that your deck is heaving. It also looks like the stone is holding too much moisture and delaminating from the freeze. If your pool builder won't stand behind it, you might want to contact your insurance company.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2010 at 3:52PM
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renovxpt can you please explain what deck heaving means? Does that mean the rest of the patio is raising up or that the area under the coping is sinking? Does the fact that we have clay soil and the patio was constructed at the hottest time of the year - have anything to do with this? I am just trying to understand what went wrong/what wasn't done right that caused this to happen? Is this typical in this area?

The patio was constructed with drainage in mind. We have a 30+ ft deck drain on one side of the pool and the patio was built to slope away from the pool. We did however have record rainfall this year so we did have days were the beds and grass around the pool were over-saturated with water. There were also expansion gaps put throughout the concrete base before the travertine went down to allow for movement.

Our pool builder didn't install the coping. He only does concrete patios/coping. I had to hire a mason to lay the stone that I ordered from a travertine dealer in FL. The pool builder did do everything else including leveling the area, compacting the soil and pouring the concrete for the travertine patio and of course the bond beam the coping is sitting on.

Do you think the pool builder or the stone mason is responsible for this or are they both responsible?

I am obviously in a panic state right now.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2010 at 4:42PM
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Multiple conditions are coming into play,including how it was contracted. It will be very difficult for you to establish clear fault with one responsible party and get reimbersed for this problem. Therefore, it wouldn't be in your best interest to determine fault at this time. You need to blame the freeze.

I think you should call your insurance company first and start a claim process. I know they are processing a similar claim in Winston-Salem and have indicated the removal and repair of the entire patio will be covered.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2010 at 5:29PM
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mwrede, Heaving is when moisture in subsoil freezes and lifts whatever is on top of it. This is the main reason footings are dug below the frost line. A lightly loaded structure like a concrete patio is very prone to movement when it is poured directly on clay or other high moisture bearing soils. When the soils thaw the patio goes back down. During this vertical movement the patio doesn't neccessarily stay on the same plane so tension develops and different forms of cracking occur. The concrete substructure actually will flex better than your travertine pavers which puts them more at risk.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2010 at 6:02PM
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renovxpt Thanks so much for your reply and the detailed explanation. So you don't think there is any way to salvage the situation and prevent it from getting worse? I really hope we don't have to redo the whole patio - even if the insurance company covers it - I can only imagine what it will do to our rates.

The patio part still seems ok, only some of the coping seems to be affected - about 15 pieces. If winter passes and the patio is still ok is there any way we could just replace the coping pieces that are cracking/delaminating, regrout with a waterproof grout, seal the stone and work on improving drainage in the rest of the yard? Or is this just wishfull thinking?

    Bookmark   January 11, 2010 at 9:31PM
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We are so happy that we went with Pavers. Our PB stressed to us that there are 2 types of concrete. There is concrete and there is concrete that is going to crack:) Besides the pavers were actually cheaper that concrete so I think we made the right choice. We wish you good luck as we too were very stressed during our pool build.......

    Bookmark   January 12, 2010 at 5:39AM
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mwrede, It would be much easier for me to explain what is happening and how to weigh out your options on the telephone. I sent you an email with my phone number.

brentr, its not quite that simple.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2010 at 10:37AM
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brentr we only have concrete as a sub-base for the travertine patio. Everyone around here had told us that a concrete sub-base was the best way to install stone around a pool. Where they wrong?

I had also thought the concrete sub-base was done properly - over a bed of gravel and constructed with rebar reinforsement and expansion joints saw cut in predermined locations.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2010 at 10:38AM
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Was the concrete poured up to the pool wall?

It looks like the coping is set partially on the pool bond beam and partially on the slab. The slab heaved when the earth beneath it froze, but the pool didn't move because it goes down below frost, so the bond beam stayed put. The back portion of the coping was lifted while the front was adhered to the pool, causing it to break.

You need to remove a couple of pieces of damaged coping, and see if the slab has risen relative to the pool bond beam. This differential movement is probably what has caused your problem. If that is the case, then remove the coping and the sawcut and remove the small portion of the slab that the coping bears on. Replace that small portion of slab with 3/8 stone or some other porous aggregate so that it drains, and reset the coping.

Also, I would expect you might see reflective cracking in the travertine directly above the joints in the slab. If not now, it will happen after a few freeze thaw cycles or as the concrete ages. You could sawcut the travertine directly above the concrete joints if you want to avoid this.

Did you ask your mason to install the travertine this way? Anytime you use a porous stone like travertine in a freeze-thaw condition, you should dry set them on sand, like pavers. Otherwise the water can pass through them, collect underneath, and when it freezes they will pop or break. They do use them in the northeast, I'm an engineer in NY, and I'm putting them around my pool. But dry-setting them is a must.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2010 at 1:41PM
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renovxpt thank you so much for all your help! I truly appreciate it!

nypoolnovice thanks for sharing your insights. Yes the concrete sub-base does go all the way to the bond beam and that lack of separation between them might be a big part of the problem. I had asked about dry setting but every mason I talked to around here told me stone around a pool was best set over concrete.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2010 at 3:05PM
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RE: nypoolnovice's follow-up

"Anytime you use a porous stone like travertine in a freeze-thaw condition, you should dry set them on sand, like pavers."

We're getting ready to start our build in Atlanta and really want to use travertine pavers and coping. PB says he prefers a concrete set base, but we really want them set in sand. What's the official opinion on setting travertine coping and pavers in our neck of the woods? We're worried about the heaving problems too. Sorry this happened to you mwrede.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2010 at 4:49PM
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In NJ typical

Coping - Set in Mortar

Travertine 1" thick - Dry laid on a very compacted bed of earth, then crushed concrete or black paver, typically six to 12" inches thick, then two inches of sand then the travertine. Areas with heavy clay need to be dug deeper and filled as above to prevent frost heaves.

Regular pavers are often set similarly but some pour a bed and then sand to prevent heaves. Poured beds should never make direct contact with a gunite pool wall. I like to see a 4" wide X 6"(preferably more) deep gap filled with either black paver sand or 1/8" stone (needs landscape cloth). Locations with heavy clay need deeper beds to prevent frost heaving.

On Long Island, its unusual to not find the pavers set on a slab.

Having dug this stuff up to repair/replace lines, it's what I have found.



    Bookmark   January 13, 2010 at 8:37PM
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Thanks for helping clear that up for us, Scott. Good info!

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 2:29PM
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We are located in VA and have been using travertine on countless projects in the Northeast. From our experience, we always recommend that our clients dry set the materials, and only around the borders use a flex-bond to hold everything in place.

The reason for the cracking is most likely that the concrete does not allow the travertine (which is a very porous stone) to expand and contract with the freeze-thaw cycle. A substance like flex-bond would give flexibility to the stone while still holding the coping in place, which you would definitely want around the edges of the pool.

Good luck! I hope this information was helpful.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 12:57PM
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Travertine pavers used here in NJ, 4 years in, no issues other than resetting a tile here and there. Installed as Scott suggested above. Something like 8-12" of small stone compacted , and then compacted "stone dust" (instead of sand). Here's the timeline, before, during and 4 years in....

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 2:06PM
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Oh.. and about 5 minutes ago. 75 days until opening......c'mon Spring!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 2:59PM
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Well after more than 4 years we are finally replacing the cracked coping today. Can you please weigh in on the best thing to use as grout in the expansion joint between the coping and the rest of the patio (that should accomodate some movement but prevent water from getting under the stone) as well as the gap between the candilevered coping and the pool tile (that should be waterproof as it will be in constant contact with water)?

Options: regular grout (as in the rest of the patio), type s portland cement, epoxy grout, elastomeric caulking. Others?

Thanks in advance! I really need to make a decision by tomorrow.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 12:16PM
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I used laticrete grout for my expansion joint between the coping and pavers. I live in Michigan with tons of freeze and thaw. You can choose from many colors to match your pavers. I would never lay pavers over concrete in freeze thaw region. Mine are all layed on 3/8" washed limestone. The most important thing is the sub grade and it not holding water.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 1:48PM
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Thank you Calhoun9001. Your pool looks amazing by the way! I wish we could tear everything out and start new but unfortunately we are just replacing the cracked coping pieces and a couple other patio pieces that cracked so we can't really change the sub-structure. I am hoping and praying the fact that not much has happened after that first winter 4 yrs ago means we won't have as many issues again. I was really thinking I might have to use something flexible but waterproof for the expansion joint in case there is any movement though.

What did you use under the coping? Our coping is set on a thick bed of mortar (the height of which we can't change unless we tear out the rest of the patio) so we need something to cover that joint between coping and tile.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 11:04PM
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My coping is also set in a bed of mortar. For the joint between the water line tile and the coping you can use laticrete grout caulk, it is used all the time in stone showers and outdoor stone work, pretty much anywhere you need to fill an expansion joint. Stuff works really good, check out their website for more info, just google the name. They also have a video of how to install it.I also used it between the coping and the paver.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 9:46AM
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Calhoun9001 you are on the right track. The product is called Latasil from Laticrete . It's a silicone that is rated for submersion. It's the only brand that is. The proper way to do pool tile is to install silicone between the coping and tile and around the tile in key spots. I would use a flexible sealant like deck o seal between the coping and the deck.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 10:14AM
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