Sometimes the porch columns can become loose, damaged, or unsightly. If you have never replaced your front porch columns before, you may be wondering what the best method is to perform this project well. You're in luck. We've researched a safe and effective way to replace your porch columns in no time.
Here are the steps to replace porch columns:
- Clear the porch
- Inspect the column
- Position a jack post
- Mark new post locations
- Prepare new porch column
- Remove the post jack
If you plan on removing structural columns from your front porch, it's best to have at least one person assist you with the task of positioning the new column. These columns can be fairly heavy, and it may be hazardous to embark on this type of project solo. Continue reading to learn the steps how to do it.
Steps To Replace Front Porch Columns
Before starting the project, it's always good to make a checklist of all the tools you will need for the work. This will prevent you from making multiple runs to the local hardware store, which can cost delays if you need customized materials.
Things you'll need:
- Work gloves
- Safety glasses
- Roof jack
- Electric saw
- Wood planks
- Jack posts
- Wood glue or a contact cement
- Nails and wood screws
- Pry bar
1. Clear the porch
Start by removing any furniture or personal items from the porch. This includes any chairs, tables, outdoor plants, or floor mats. This is also the perfect time to throw on your gloves and safety goggles. Next, bring all of your tools out and place them on the porch.
2. Inspect the column
Next, take a close look at the post that you plan to remove. Inspect the installation fixtures on the post (nails, brackets, screws, etc.) to determine what you'll need to remove. Also, take a look at the top of the post to see if there are any areas where fasteners have become loose or damaged. Before you jack up the post, you'll need to make sure that it can withstand the force beforehand.
3. Position a jack post
Next, take your jack post, position it securely beneath the column, and turn your wrench to jack it up inch by inch slowly. Be sure to keep your eye on the bottom of the column to note its separation from the base. After you have jacked up the column about an eighth of an inch, take a wooden block and place it directly beneath the column.
4. Remove the jack post
At this point, the weight of the column will be on the wood and jack post, and you should be able to manually walk the column by simply turning it left to right. If the column has nails at the base, you may need to use your pry bar to gently remove them—the same thing for any layers of caulk that may be applied to the bottom. Take your utility knife or a chisel to loosen it up beforehand.
Once you are confident that the column is secured, release the pressure from the jack post so that the weight of the porch is now placed on the new column. Be sure to lower the post jack slowly and pay special attention to any strange sounds, as this could indicate signs of stress on the column or the porch. Once the jack post feels wobbly, you can remove it altogether.
5. Mark new post locations
More likely than not, you'll be installing a column that is the same size and made of the same material as the previously removed column. However, if this isn't the case, or if it has a different base, you'll need to mark the new post location secured. To do this, you could take a piece of chalk or a pencil and mark these areas on the porch floor.
6. Prepare and install the new porch column
Next, prepare your new porch column for installation. More often than not, you'll need to apply caulk to the bottom of the new column before you install it on the porch. If the column is made of wood, even if it's pre-treated wood, it's best to ensure that the bottom is sealed to prevent wood rot. You can use silicone caulk to do this.
After applying the caulk, let it set for a couple of minutes and then nail the column into the porch floor. If you have brackets, use your wood screws to drill the column down securely. Next, step back to inspect the column and ensure that it is standing upright and is aligned to the other porch columns.
You'll want to double-check this before removing the jack post, or you may run into potentially hazardous issues later on.
Are porch columns weight-bearing?
It depends on the column. Some columns are built solely for decorative purposes, While others are built to contribute to the structure of a porch and help balance the roof's load. Without these types of columns, the front section of the home will collapse if they are removed.
If you just purchased a new home, it may be challenging to determine whether the columns are weight-bearing or not initially. So, here are a few ways that you can determine the difference.
Inspect the capital
Try to pull back the capital located on the top of the column. The capitals are typically located on the header and might be fastened using screws or nails. Then inspect the capital (the top attachment of the post) to see how it's attached and whether or not it is attached to the bottom of the porch.
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."
Search for brackets
If you notice any L-brackets located on the top or bottom of the column, this typically implies weight-bearing. These brackets are installed on columns to help them stay positioned in place, and you may see anywhere from two to four brackets at the end of the column.
Check for seams
Another thing to look for is any visible seams running along the column's shaft. These seams will typically run parallel to the column and may appear on opposite sides of the structure. Typically, a column built for decorative purposes only will have these seams located on both sides, and it may almost look like the column has been split in half, which is where the two pieces of it were fastened together.
What can I use for porch columns?
Most four columns are made of hardwood, metal, or fiberglass. The most common types of hardwood to use for this type of building are cedar, Douglas fir, maple, oak, and pine. Typically it's a recommended to use wood that has been pressure treated, as it will be more resistant to moisture and temperature fluctuations.
You may find some columns made of PVC. However, these columns are typically made for decorative purposes only and do not have the fortitude for weight-bearing.
How much do porch columns cost?
The amount you pay for a porch column will depend on the material used to make the column and its size. Generally, you'll find that porch columns can run you anywhere from $150 to well over $300 per column. Keep in mind that you also need to pay for installation costs, ranging from $75 to $150 per column.
That is, if you don't plan to install the columns yourself. The installation cost may fluctuate depending on the number of columns you have, your front porch conditions, and finish options.
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.
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