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1. Brick

  • Attachment Method: Bricks are set in a bed of mortar or a layer of structural adhesive (epoxy) which bonds them to the top of the wall.

  • Joint Closure Method: Joints between individual bricks are filled with mortar or epoxy.

  • Standard Profiles: Bullnose (rounded at one end), Double Bullnose (rounded at both ends, Standard (flat ends). All the bricks are flat across the top, but a slanted coping can be formed during the installation. 

  • Typical Section Length: Bricks used as coping material are typically about 3½ inches wide and either 9 inches or 12 inches long. A standard US brick is 3 ⅝ inches wide and 8 inches long.

  • Notes:

    1. Not a good parapet wall coping material, too many joints, too big a risk that shoddy workmanship or poor maintenance will lead to falling bricks!

    2. When found on a roof, brick coping is usually only found on non-parapet walls, such as on privacy walls for rooftop terraces.

    3. Frequent maintenance inspections required.

Brick coping on the top of a parapet wall at a commercial parking garage.

2. Clay or Terra Cotta

  • Attachment Method: Coping pieces are set in a bed of mortar which bonds them to the top of the wall.

  • Joint Closure Method: The individual coping pieces either overlap each other or each piece is made with a socket at one end which the next piece fits into, and the laps/sockets are filled with mortar.

  • Standard Profiles: Camelback (low curve with a higher “hump” in the middle), Double-Slant (slopes in both directions from the center), Single-Slant (slopes in one direction from one side to the other), Streamline (low curve)

  • Typical Section Length: 2 feet

  • Notes:

    1. Commonly found on brick masonry walls, considered to be particularly visually compatible with brick.

    2. Very long-lasting.

    3. Separation from the mortar bed can be an issue if improperly installed. Maintenance inspections should be performed to check for loose coping pieces.

Camelback terra-cotta coping on a brick wall separating two roof areas on an old warehouse.

3. Concrete (Pre-Cast) or “Cast Stone”

  • Attachment Method: Corresponding holes are drilled into the bottom of the coping pieces and the top of the wall, the holes are filled with non-shrink grout or epoxy, and metal dowels/pins inserted into the holes in the top of the wall. The coping pieces are then set down onto the protruding dowels. The dowels typically extend 2 inches into both the wall and the coping. Alternatively, a masonry strap anchor may be installed at the coping joints, fastened into the top of the wall, with a horizontal dowel through the strap connecting the adjacent coping sections.

  • Joint Closure Method: Joints are typically completely filled with mortar. More properly, the joints will be mostly filled with mortar, but with building sealant in the top part of the joint.

  • Standard Profiles: Bullnose (flat), Double Bullnose (flat), Double-Slant, Single-Slant, (custom profiles available)

  • Typical Section Length: 2 - 4 feet, (custom lengths available)

  • Notes:

    1. Much cheaper than natural stone.

    2. Typically one of the heaviest and thickest coping materials. Can be too heavy for many types of wall construction.

    3. Can be produced in many colors by adding pigment to the mix.

Single-slant pre-cast concrete parapet wall coping.

4. Concrete (Cast-in-Place)

  • Attachment Method: Masonry anchors are installed in the top of the wall, extending above the wall; the tops of the anchors become embedded in the coping as the concrete is cast.

  • Joint Closure Method: This coping is commonly made without actual joints separating individual coping sections. Instead, control joints are tooled into the tops and sides of the concrete every couple of feet (as with poured concrete sidewalks) to ensure that when the concrete cracks due to material shrinkage, thermal expansion and contraction, or building movement, the cracks occur within the control joints. The concrete can also be poured in formed sections with full joints; the joints are then mostly filled with mortar, with building sealant in the top part of the joint.

  • Standard Profiles: Forms are available for many different profiles.

  • Typical Section Length: Varies according to the thickness of the coping. 2 to 10 feet.

  • Notes:

    1. Not typically used on parapet walls.

    2. Usually only found on non-parapet walls, such as on privacy walls for rooftop terraces or rooftop garden planters.

    3. Convenient for creating coping for curved or unusually-shaped walls.

Cast-in-place concrete wall coping. Note the crack at the control joint, just where it's supposed to be.

5. Metal (Aluminum)

  • Attachment Method: A primary consideration in the attachment of metal coping of any kind is the thermal expansion/contraction of the metal relative to the wall. The metal must be allowed to move. Simply fastening it to the wall can lead to fastener failure or deformation of the coping.

       Typically, wood blocking is anchored to the top of the wall.  Cleats are attached along the sides of the wood blocking and the bottom of the vertical legs of the coping is hooked back up onto the cleats. This allows the coping to slide as it expands and contracts. Another method is to use gasketed fasteners in specially-made slots in the coping metal. The slots allow the metal to move relative to the fasteners. A combination is also seen: cleats on the exterior of the wall, and fasteners on the interior.

  • Joint Closure Method: Joints are centered over a splice plate that acts as an internal gutter to drain water out of the coping system. The cleat system may also function as a secondary water barrier when it covers the top of the wall. Often there will be a metal cover plate/strip over the joint which may or may not be sealed with tape or building sealant.   

  • Standard Profiles: Flat or Tapered (slopes in one direction)

  • Typical Section Length: 8, 10, or 12 feet

  • Notes:

    1. Prefabricated aluminum coping often functions as edge securement as well, and, as such, is subject to ANSI/SPRI ES-1, “Wind Design Standard for Edge Systems Used with Low-Slope Roofing Systems”.

    2. Aluminum coping is highly corrosion-resistant and comes uncoated or coated in a wide variety of colors to match any building color scheme.

    3. Will typically outlast the roof and can often be re-used during a re-roof.

    4. More expensive than steel, but relatively inexpensive.

Coated aluminum coping with pre-fabricated corners.

Coated aluminum coping with pre-fabricated corners.

6. Metal (Copper)

  • Attachment Method: A primary consideration in the attachment of metal coping of any kind is the thermal expansion/contraction of the metal relative to the wall. The metal must be allowed to move. Simply fastening it to the wall can lead to fastener failure or deformation of the coping.

       Typically, wood blocking is anchored to the top of the wall.  Cleats are attached along the sides of the wood blocking and the bottom of the vertical legs of the coping is hooked back up onto the cleats. This allows the coping to slide as it expands and contracts.

  • Joint Closure Method: Standing seams or soldered flat seams

  • Standard Profiles: Flat, Tapered (slopes in one direction), Double-Slant (slopes in both directions from the center)

  • Typical Section Length: 8 or 10 feet

  • Notes:

    1. Copper is the most expensive of the metals used for wall coping.

    2. Frequently stolen by copper thieves, this is something to consider.

    3. Copper coping is highly corrosion-resistant and will always be uncoated, the way copper looks is part of its appeal.

    4. Rarely seen, typically only used when aesthetic considerations require it.

7. Metal (Stainless Steel)

  • Attachment Method: A primary consideration in the attachment of metal coping of any kind is the thermal expansion/contraction of the metal relative to the wall. The metal must be allowed to move. Simply fastening it to the wall can lead to fastener failure or deformation of the coping.

       Typically, wood blocking is anchored to the top of the wall.  Cleats are attached along the sides of the wood blocking and the bottom of the vertical legs of the coping is hooked back up onto the cleats. This allows the coping to slide as it expands and contracts. Another method is to use gasketed fasteners in specially-made slots in the coping metal. The slots allow the metal to move relative to the fasteners. A combination is also seen: cleats on the exterior of the wall, and fasteners on the interior.

  • Joint Closure Method: Joints are centered over a splice plate that acts as an internal gutter to drain water out of the coping system. The cleat system may also function as a secondary water barrier when it covers the top of the wall. Often there will be a metal cover plate/strip over the joint which may or may not be sealed with tape or building sealant. Occasionally, you will see coping sections that simply lap each other with sealant applied within the laps.   

  • Standard Profiles: Flat or Tapered (slopes in one direction)

  • Typical Section Length: 8, 10, or 12 feet

  • Notes:

    1. Relatively expensive, typically only used when aesthetic considerations require it.

    2. Highly corrosion resistant, comes uncoated.

    3. Where used as edge securement, the coping is subject to ANSI/SPRI ES-1, “Wind Design Standard for Edge Systems Used with Low-Slope Roofing Systems”.

    4. Will typically last longer than the roof, so not normally used so not normally used with short-lived roofs where roof replacement will require removing/damaging the coping.

20-year-old stainless steel parapet wall coping. (Note the reflection of the gravel in the side of the coping.)

8. Metal (Steel)

  • Attachment Method: A primary consideration in the attachment of metal coping of any kind is the thermal expansion/contraction of the metal relative to the wall. The metal must be allowed to move. Simply fastening it to the wall can lead to fastener failure or deformation of the coping.

       Typically, wood blocking is anchored to the top of the wall.  Cleats are attached along the sides of the wood blocking and the bottom of the vertical legs of the coping is hooked back up onto the cleats. This allows the coping to slide as it expands and contracts. Another method is to use gasketed fasteners in specially-made slots in the coping metal. The slots allow the metal to move relative to the fasteners. A combination is also seen: cleats on the exterior of the wall, and fasteners on the interior.

  • Joint Closure Method: Joints are centered over a splice plate that acts as an internal gutter to drain water out of the coping system. The cleat system may also function as a secondary water barrier when it covers the top of the wall. Often there will be a metal cover plate/strip over the joint which may or may not be sealed with tape or building sealant. Occasionally, you will see coping sections that simply lap each other with sealant applied within the laps. Very rarely, the coping joints are formed with standing seams.   

  • Standard Profiles: Flat or Tapered (slopes in one direction)

  • Typical Section Length: 8, 10, or 12 feet

  • Notes:

    1. Prefabricated steel coping often functions as membrane edge securement as well, and, as such, is subject to ANSI/SPRI ES-1, “Wind Design Standard for Edge Systems Used with Low-Slope Roofing Systems”.

    2. Steel is the cheapest and most common coping material found on commercial roofs.

    3. Steel coping should be coated with a long-lasting, warranted coating.

    4. Comes in a wide variety of colors to match any building color scheme.

    5. It is common to encounter unpainted galvanized steel coping that was fabricated in an independent metal shop by a roofing/sheet metal contractor. Frequently (not always!), this sort of coping is accompanied by workmanship issues, non-standard sizes, improper attachment, joints open to water infiltration, etc. Extra care should be taken when inspecting this type of coping.

Galvanized steel coping with standing seam joints.

9. Metal (Zinc)

  • Attachment Method: A primary consideration in the attachment of metal coping of any kind is the thermal expansion/contraction of the metal relative to the wall. The metal must be allowed to move. Simply fastening it to the wall can lead to fastener failure or deformation of the coping.

       Typically, wood blocking is anchored to the top of the wall.  Cleats are attached along the sides of the wood blocking and the bottom of the vertical legs of the coping is hooked back up onto the cleats. This allows the coping to slide as it expands and contracts. Another method is to use gasketed fasteners in specially-made slots in the coping metal. The slots allow the metal to move relative to the fasteners. A combination is also seen: cleats on the exterior of the wall, and fasteners on the interior.

  • Joint Closure Method: Joints are centered over a splice plate that acts as an internal gutter to drain water out of the coping system. The cleat system may also function as a secondary water barrier when it covers the top of the wall. Often there will be a metal cover plate/strip over the joint which may or may not be sealed with tape or building sealant. Occasionally, the coping joints are formed with standing seams.

  • Standard Profiles: Flat or Tapered (slopes in one direction), custom profiles available

  • Typical Section Length: 10 feet, custom lengths available

  • Notes:

    1. Relatively expensive, typically only used when aesthetic considerations require it. Zinc is considered to be particularly visually compatible with slate roofing.

    2. Highly corrosion resistant, comes uncoated.

    3. Will typically last far longer than most roofing types, so not normally used with short-lived roofs where roof replacement will require removing/damaging the coping.

    4. Fairly uncommon.

10. Stone (Natural)

  • Attachment Method: Corresponding holes are drilled into the bottom of the coping pieces and the top of the wall, the holes are filled with non-shrink grout or epoxy, and metal dowels/pins inserted into the holes in the top of the wall. The coping pieces are then set down onto the protruding dowels. The dowels typically extend 2 inches into both the wall and the coping. Alternatively, a masonry strap anchor may be installed at the coping joints, fastened into the top of the wall, with a horizontal dowel through the strap connecting the adjacent coping sections.

  • Joint Closure Method: Joints are typically completely filled with mortar or epoxy. More properly, the joints will be mostly filled with mortar or epoxy, but with building sealant in the part of the joint where it is exposed to the weather.

  • Standard Profiles: Bullnose (flat), Double-Bullnose (flat), Double-Slant, Single-Slant, Flat

  • Typical Section Length: 2 feet, custom lengths available

  • Notes:

    1. Commonly found on buildings clad in natural stone to match the cladding.

    2. Far more expensive than concrete or clay, so usually only used when required by aesthetic considerations.  

Natural stone coping with lightning protection system on a skyscraper roof parapet wall.