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Architectural Columns

Some columns are structural; others are merely decorative. Structural types are made of materials that can bear substantial weight: wood, aluminum, or fiberglass composites. Non- structural columns are made of polymers (some are hollow and may receive weight-bearing wood or metal posts). They come in many classic shapes and are typically sold in increments of 4 feet. They may be coupled with any of a variety of decorative caps and bases.

Square wooden column and distinctive moldings add style to this elegant room.

Square wooden column and distinctive moldings add style to this elegant room.

Fypon makes a line of columns that are both beautiful and structural. These columns, which include classic styles as well as porch posts and lamp posts, are made from a steel pipe that has been wrapped in polymer. A special cap that prevents uplift in high-wind or seismic areas is also offered. The columns are made in 10- and 12-foot lengths. A typical 10-inch- diameter-by-8-foot-long column costs about $225 in either plain or fluted styles; capitals and bases, sold separately, are about $20 each.

Genuine wood columns are available in cylindrical, tapered, and squared profiles. The surfaces of some are decorative (fluted, for example). Typically, wood columns are sold as a complete kit, with a decorative wooden cap and base included. Although the wood has been preservative-treated, it still must be painted. Sizes range from 6 inches in diameter by 8 feet long to 20 inches in diameter by 20 feet long.

Stately wooden columns support the roof of this front porch.

Stately wooden columns support the roof of this front porch.

Some aluminum columns are structural; others are not. Although most are primed with a special bonding primer that may be painted, some have factory-applied finishes. These extruded columns are hollow, typically constructed from interlocking sections or staves. For example, Moultrie Manufacturing’s columns come in snap-lock staves; although they are load-bearing columns, they may be wrapped around an existing column or post. Lengths run up to 30 feet long; diameters are from 5 to 36 inches.

Composite columns-made from a mixture of ground marble, fiberglass, and polymer resin-are also load-bearing. These hollow columns offer the look of stone, but they are lightweight, tough, and highly durable. For a 10-inch-diameter-by-10-foot-long fluted column from NMC Focal Point, you’ll pay about $250. Capitals and bases are sold separately.

Some columns are made from a combination of materials. The A.F. Schwerd Company, for example, makes custom columns from tongue-and-groove wooden staves with aluminum bases. An average 10-inch-diameter-by-8-foot-long column sells for about $577 plus shipping; a fluted column costs about 25 percent more. Dixie-Pacific offers wooden columns with either wood or composition plaster capitals and wood or cast-marble base moldings.

About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort developed his expertise more than 30 years ago as Building Editor for both Sunset Books and Home Magazine. He has written more than 30 home improvement books and countless magazine articles. He appeared regularly on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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