How to maintain and repair outdoor columns
Last modified: 2019/04/03 | Approximate reading time 4 mins
Outdoor columns on the facade of your home add an element of originality and allure. Whether used for your landscaping, porch or walkways, incorporating columns into your design can have a lasting appeal. However, since these columns are outdoors, they are exposed to various forms of weather damage. Therefore, it’s important to know how to care for your outdoor columns.
If your outdoor columns are made of wood, chances are they’ll be a victim of rain as well as runoff from the roof, causing the material to deteriorate. Porch column rot can be a frequent problem, as well as insect infestations. If you are finding signs of rot or deterioration, read on to find our advice as well as solutions to repair or replace your columns.
Here's how to care for your outdoor columns!
Structural problems and repairs
Your outdoor columns are likely supporting part of your home, indicating that this is a structural post. It is common to find signs of rot and deterioration towards the base of the post, and since they’re in support of your home, they will need to be repaired or replaced as soon as possible. Depending on how extensive the damage is, you may be able to complete the repairs with the column in place. However, if you find that the damage is extensive, it is recommended that repairs be done on a workbench. To do this, you will need to remove the column from the porch.
First, you must create temporary support by way of lumber from your local hardware store. Fasten a 2” x 6” board to the end of a 4” x 4” piece of wood. Position a jack directly underneath the porch beam, next to the column. Following this, measure the area between the jack and the porch beam, as you’ll want to cut the 4” x 4” to under this length.
Now, use the jack to raise the porch beam slightly so that the old column can be removed from its place. Make sure that the porch beam is level, and you can test this by raising and lowering the jack. To take weight off of the jack, it is recommended that you add a second temporary supporting beam, depending on the weight of the structure overhead. Now, get a reciprocating blade to cut away fasteners and remove the damaged column from its place.
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Repairing outdoor columns
Once the column has been moved from its place, you will be able to inspect it further. Often, it is less expensive and easier to replace the entire post rather than repair it. However, if you’ve inspected the column and feel it can be repaired, then follow these next steps. First, you’ll have to cut the rotted section of the column off. Then, you will need to create a “stepped-key” effect, which will work to make sure that there is no weakened hinge point created by the repair.
Use a reciprocating saw to cut away the nails that were fastened throughout the post. The next step is to remove the part of the column that has rotted, and this can be done using a circular saw and completed with a multi-tool. You can make long cuts using the circular saw, and finish cross-cuts with the multi-tool. Further, you may find that there are ants living within the rot.
Don’t be frightened! This is very common when damage appears on wood columns. As we mentioned, it would be recommended that you complete this step on a workbench, as this will result in better-looking cuts. You can choose whichever material you’d like as the replacement piece, though a sturdy wood would be best, such as mahogany or cedar. The replacement piece can be attached using epoxy glue and clamps. Make sure to dry fit the repair before applying any glue and further, check that the epoxy you use is water-resistant. Apply epoxy with a bristle brush, using enough so that a small amount seeps out when the pieces are joined together.
Allow this to dry overnight, attaching clamps as necessary. Avoid over-clamping, as this will squeeze the epoxy mixture right out of the joint. The next day, use a belt sander to sand down any visible glue spots. Cut the post to the correct size, and finish-sand the entire post with an orbital sander, followed by priming column edges so that they are weather-protected.
Replacing an outdoor column
If you find that the rot at the bottom of the column is much too bad to repair, then it is recommended that you replace it all together. First, you will need to find a replacement column, ideally one that matches the rest of the columns. Next, determine how you will be installing the new column, whether that means directly on the deck or using a plinth block at the base of the column.
If you are using a plinth, place it in the same location as the old column. Next, measure from the top of the plinth block to the bottom of the porch beam. If the column is going right on the floor, measure from the floor to the beam. If the bottom end of your new column hasn’t already been sealed, then apply a sealant or a waterproof paint.
Again, if you are using a plinth block, secure it to the bottom. Now, the column can be set in place, using a level or plumb pop to make sure the column is level in all directions. Now, you can slowly release the jack that’s been in place since the beginning of this project. Following its installation, prime and paint the entire column with weather-proof paint.
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