Porch Column Installation Overview:
The key to making your porch column replacement go smoothly is using a tool known as a post jackor a jack post. These adjustable tubular poles are capable of lifting extraordinary amounts of weight. Amazingly, up to 18,000 lbs in some cases!
You use the carefully positioned post jack to temporarily lift the weight of the roof. Then ehe old porch column can be safely pulled out and a new one installed. Again, be careful!
Post jacks come in a variety of sizes. You need one that extends at least the distance from the porch floor to the porch beam.
Choosing Your Column Material
This coincides with planning, but choosing a material for your front porch columns is the next most important thing. In my school of thought, if we are replacing something, I want to do it the right way so that someone else isnt replacing my pillars in 10 years. For this reason I went with PVC for its durability, and maintenance-free upkeep.
You can also wrap your columns in a composite material like Trex, or use primed pine. Keep in mind that both of these options will need to be caulked and painted every few years to prevent wood rot, primed pine being the less durable of the two.
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Previous Home Improvement Project
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Materials List To Replace A Porch Column
- Hack Saw or Reciprocating Saw : You will need to cut throughthe nails or screws which are holding the porch railing to the column if applicable.
- 4×4 Post: Use a 4×4 post cut to length to hold the porch roof in order to both removethe old column and install the new one.
- Jack: Use the jack to raise and lower the 4×4 and porch roof. Make sure your jackis rated sufficiently to support the roof.
- Circular Saw: Use to cut the new column to length.
- Hack Saw or Reciprocating Saw : To cut any nails or screws from the top or bottom of the column
- Tape Measure: Self-explanatory
- Screw/Nails: For securing the column and for reinstalling the railings
- Wood Blocks : Use some pieces of 2x4s to place under porch balustrades if applicable.
- Ladder : Self-explanatory.
Cut One Column At A Time And Install Base
Only cut one column at a time to make sure youre replacing the new column at the exact height as the old one. Using my sliding compound miter saw, I cut the column to length. You could use a regular circular saw, but with a 12 saw I only had to rotate the column once to cut it all the way through. If youre using a circular saw make sure you make your marks all the way around the column to help guide you as you rotate it for each cut.
Once you have the column cut to length, add a base to the bottom. I used a galvanized post base on each of my new columns. This allows water to move freely under the column without making contact with the column. This will help prevent rot in the future.
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Lift Roof Weight Off Column
Turn the post jack screw with a large adjustable wrench.
With the jack in place, I used a large adjustable wrench to turn the screw. The jaws of the wrench gripped the flat, narrow section on the threadless neck of the screw shaft.
Carefully, I rotated the screw in quarter- or half-turns, but not too quickly. Ideally, were only going to lift the roof 1/4 or less. I was barely taking the load off the porch column. Pro tip: Listen for creaks and pops that let you know that weight is being transferred.
Is there a cap and/or base on the column?
If the column has a decorative cap or collar, pull it down to get a clear view of the top of the column.
Pull down existing caps to see column top more clearly.
Sometimes, the cap will be sitting on the column. If so, its acting as a layer between the column and the beam. In that case, you can consider the cap to be the true top of the column itself.
Either way, you want to begin looking for separation between the column and the underside of the beam. Jiggle the column with your hand in between half-turns of the jack screw. As the roof weight is lifted, the top of the column will begin to move easily.
When you can see about an 1/8 gap between the column and beam, full separation has most likely occurred. You should be able to walk the column out by rotating it back and forth.
The column has been temporarily replaced by the post jack.
Is the column fastened to the beam?
Using The Support Post And Jack
Now that you have the new column ready to be installed, you need to cut the support post to length. You also need a floor jack for this project to raise the porch a little. The support post and jack work together, which is why the support post needs to be a certain length to work properly.
First of all, depending on what floor jack youre using, figure out the height range the floor jack will go, then measure the total length of the existing column youre about to remove. Subtract the mid range measurement of the floor jack from the total length of the existing column and cut the support post to that measurement. For example, if your floor jack has a range of 5 to 13 inches and the total length of the existing column is 87 inches, you would subtract 9 from 87, which is 78 inches. 78 inches is the length you would want to cut the support post to. The goal here is to not have the support post too short.
After cutting the support post to length, you can place it on the floor jack next to the column youre about to replace. Leave a gap big enough to install a bigger column back in the same location . Using the jack handle, slowly jack the support post up until it reaches the header. Before you go any further, make sure the support post is centered and secure on the floor jack and level. Continue to jack the support post up until you can slightly move the existing column.
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Venting Suggestions For Hollow Lock Stave Wood Columns
While repairing the salvageable and replacing the worst wood columns on a Poughkeepsie New York home built in 1900 it made sense to pay special attention to flashing at post tops to prevent water entry from above, venting the hollow column interior to reduce rot and carpenter ant attacks, and to provide a sound and properly set column base or plinth block, adapted to the slope of the porch.
To vent the column I built a custom plinth block of solid treated lumber and cut arches at the sides of the block parallel to the wood grain so as to avoid splitting.
I set the columns with base vent openings to the left and right sides of the column so that they’d not be obvious from the street, and I bore my column top vent hole near the column top but on the porch interior side, again for cosmetic reasons. My original sketch below shows where these vent openings were placed.
At above in my original sketch and below photographed in 2015, 30 years after this renovation, you can see the vent opening at the top of the round hollow wood column.
Back in 1985, after I got sick of repairing the porch roof and gutters it was time to either fix or replace the porch columns whose absence was disturbing everyone else.
We removed the scary angled temporary supports and installed temporary wood posts near the porch corners but leaving enough room to install the replacement round wood columns when they arrived.
Above is the front porch at 57 S. Grand Avenue in Poughkeepsie in August 2015.
Repair Or Replacement Procedures For Rotted Split Or Damaged Porch Columns
Anyhow, a hollow stave column, when exposed to uneven loads by the weight of the roof pressing down on a column that rests on a rotting or improperly shaped plinth block wants to split. So column repairs will include both gluing back the split column staves and cutting/replacing rotted sections. For a wood column that is smashed beyond repair, don’t despair.
The split shown in the hollow wood column at above right can be repaired but I do not recommend just injecting epoxy into the open joints: you’re making the column diameter ever wider and asking for more damage in the future.
A proper repair involves removing the column, opening the joints a bit further and blowing them clean and dry. Then glue is inserted and strap clamps are used to re-clamp the column to its original dimensions.
At above left you can see that damage to porch columns and often the porch floor usually begins at the porch roof or soffit and box beam that bears on the column tops. Leaky porch roof built-in gutters send water into the box beam and porch soffit where it rots those components as well as leaking into the columns below.See EAVES TROUGH, INTEGRAL GUTTERS for details of how this porch and its eaves trough gutters were repaired.
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Cost Of Porch Post Replacements
The total costs of your replacement will depend on several different factors. Part of those factors is whether you hire a professional. The material your replacement posts are made of, how large, and decorative, also play a part. The total number of posts being replace will also affect costs. Additionally to the cost of the replacement posts is key.
You can expect to pay between $400 $600 per post when hiring a professional to replace an ornamental porch column. But your total costs can vary tremendously depending on the material and other factors.
Measure One Column At A Time
As I mentioned in the first step, decide which column to start with. I didnt choose the corner or middle columns to start with. I begin with the column that closest to the wall. I knew the wall was carrying most of the porch load at this post location. At this point I havent cut any new column to length yet. It is important to cut them as you install them due to settling and whatever adjustments that was made to the existing columns when they were installed. So, I measured the existing column I was about to replace and transferred that measurement to the new column. Cutting these columns werent the easiest task, but with a couple of sawhorses and a mobile shop cart it wasnt too bad.
Multipurpose Shop Cart
So, I used my Mobile Shop Cart with my miter saw attached to cut the columns. Since the columns were heavy and hard to manage, I laid it across the sawhorses and positioned my cart under the cutting end of the column to cut it to length. The cart came in handy for this, but you could also use a circular saw to achieve the same results. If youre interested in the Mobile Shop Cart, here are the plans for it.
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View The Building Plans
Look at the building plans for the home. You should find this on the original blueprint for the home, which should be located in your closing documents. You may also be able to find this on the local building planning size for your township. Typically if the column is a structural component, it would be labeled “S.”
Exterior Columns After They Have Been Replaced
No time to visit our showroom? We offer free detailed in-home estimates that include absolutely everything you need, right down to the disposal of the existing columns. Our workers are insured and we back up our work with a written warranty, ask your estimator for full details.
With one phone call we take care of everything. Our experienced, insured installers: peel back and reinstall the facia trim, carefully prop up and brace the existing structure, remove the old support, cut and secure the new columns in place to replace them all in one day. Here are some BEFORE and AFTER pictures.
We also offer Premium Composite Railings and Balustrades. Available in many colours and sizes to suite any taste. If you are having your columns replaced, you may want to consider new railings especially if you have to pay for labour to reinstall your old railings to the new columns.
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Porch Post Or Column Materials
If youre replacing the ornamental columns or load-bearing posts on your porch, its important that you are aware of all the materials available. While wood is the most common, vinyl and fiberglass are also popular choices.
The cost of porch posts or ornamental columns varies considerably. On the low end, you could pay between $100 and $150 per column. On the high end, youre looking at around $1,000, if not more. Ultimately, the cost depends on the material, style, size, and manufacturer.
Two Reasons Original Porches Survive:
A porch is covered, yet exposed to the elements. High-quality materials and construction details that encourage the structure and all of its many components to shed water will help give this outdoor room a long life.
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Case Study: Historic Gingerbread Porch Restoration
Restoring the ornate porch on the Judge William D. Fenton House, a Queen Anne on the National Register of Historic Places, in Portland, Oregon, posed a series of construction challenges for the team from Full Circa Inc. The floorboards were rotted, supporting joists had separated from the decking, and many of the intricate fretwork panels were damaged beyond repair.
While the team restored and reused as many of the fretwork 1 x 16 panels they could, simply removing the old paint was tremendously labor intensive. In some places, the paint was more than 18 thick, says Andrew Curtis, owner and president of Full Circa. We actually had to cut paint out of the crevices with a scroll saw.
On a project spanning more than a year, the team erected a temporary shelter in the yard to stage the work: all components were transferred to the shelter, where they were labeled and numbered for later reassembly. Much of the paint removal was done by a lead abatement firm. That way, the work was in full compliance with local and national codes for the removal of lead paint. Where replacement structural elements were needed, the team used clear vertical grain cedar or Douglas fir, opting for salvaged wood when available.
One of the most challenging construction puzzles was what to do about the fretwork panels. The originals were cut from old-growth wood. Comparable wood was not available, and Curtis knew from experience that new wood wouldnt hold up for more than five years.
Which Material Is Best For Replacement Columns
Wood columns will rot, crack, get infested, and/or warp, which is why the warranty is usually 1 year. Aluminum columns will corrode and concrete will erode. The best material to use for replacement columns that have rotted, corroded, or eroded is any of the materials that we manufacture. All of our composite columns, whether fiberglass, FRP, synthetic stone, or PVC, come with a lifetime warranty so you really cant go wrong.
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Replacing A Wood Column With A Fiberglass Column
These 8 round, wood, porch columns are approximately 15 years old and severely rotted. The lack of a gutter above didnt help matters either. this article will explain the steps necessary for a porch column replacement.
Both porch column bases are completely rotted and a colony of bees lives inside this one.
I convinced my client to allow me to replace the 8 round porch columns with HB& G brand PermaCast® columns with ornamental capitals and base / plinth.
How Many Porch Columns Do I Need
The number of porch columns that you will need will depend on the size of your porch. Typically, it’s recommended that the columns are at least one foot away from each other to avoid blocking the outline landscape–not to mention placing them too closely can make your front porch look a bit like a prison.
However, you don’t want to place them too wide, or the beams may bow from the weight. It helps to have a contractor offer guidance if you are setting up columns for the first time instead of replacing them.
Replacing porch columns can be a very involved process, and it’s best to ensure that you have the carpentry and structural knowledge to perform this task yourself.
Before you go, be sure to check out our other posts:
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