23 November 2021

A short guide to secure copings

This month, we’re turning the outdoor tables to talk about a common problem faced by builders and homeowners alike – unsecure steps and copings.

You’ve likely heard of steps, but what are copings? Coping stones are used to cap, or sit on top of, free-standing walls and pillars, like the kind you’d find either side of a walled garden entrance, or on top of the wall surrounding or dividing parts of your garden.

They protect the structure from the elements, and give it a more pleasing “finished” aesthetic.

Sadly, if proper care and attention isn’t given to coping stones and steps, they can be prone to lifting or moving. Not only will this ruin the look of your brand-new garden, but it can be dangerous for anyone walking or leaning on the steps and walls.

In fact, a common complaint of customers who come to us for a new garden design and build, is that the previous landscaper’s or builder’s steps/coping stones quickly came loose. And if you’re a builder or landscaper yourself, you likely want the job to be completed to the customer’s satisfaction when you initially finish it, without having to go back and fix the work you’ve just completed.

Thankfully, this is a very straightforward problem to solve. If you apply the following techniques to future builds, you won’t need to worry about loose copings or steps again!

How to keep copings and steps secure

Because different types of stone can be so porous, you may find that even when laid with a good bed of mortar, the stones can come loose, because they absorb water and moisture rapidly. The mortar typically used by most in the building and landscaping trade becomes dry quickly, leaving the copings loose and dangerous.

At FirstLight Landscaping, we ensure our copings and steps stay fully secure by applying what’s known as a (tanking) slurry to the bottom of the flags/stone. The additional adhesive power of the slurry ensures that the coping stone or step will properly stick to the mortar.

Once the bed of mortar is ready on the wall, we “butter” the ends of the stone with mortar, and place it on the wall, paying close attention to its position in relation to the rest of the coping stones and wall. The slurry adheres to the mortar in a way that keeps it secure no matter the weather or general wear and tear.

Does it matter what kind of slurry is used?

Not really. Whether you prefer a pre-mixed brand of slurry, or you prefer to mix your own using SBR and cement, this method should ensure your fixtures stay firmly in place. Incorporating this one small detail into your build could be the difference between a potential hazard, and a very happy customer with a beautiful garden they can enjoy for years to come.

And there you have it, a simple but very effective guide to ensuring your coping and steps stay secure. Would you like more landscaping tips? Head over to our Instagram page, say hello, and let us know!