Editorial By: Dr. Christopher Cooper | Photography By: Jamie Stowe & Dr. Christopher Cooper
More and more terribly executed repairs are being perpetrated on original verandah, portico, or porch posts and columns in Canada each day. Please note: one should never implement repair or restoration to a verandah post if their skills are not well-honed for the task. The nastiest thing happening to historic millwork is the replacement of posts with square and unadorned pressure treated lumber. A verandah, portico or porch can be literally ruined when unsympathetic repairs or replacements are done.
Moreover, if a verandah, portico or porch is constructed on a century house and not designed with symmetry and scale in mind, it can throw off the entire curb-appeal that one is trying to accomplish.
The failure of posts and columns is due to a lack of maintenance and allowing water to penetrate the post, through the lack of caulking, or the post or column being placed directly on the deck or in direct contact with concrete or masonry (see Image 1). Capillary action will allow water and moisture from the naturally damp masonry to wick-up into the timber post or column and begin the rot cycle.
Small decorative metal risers are available to lift the post or column off the deck and to allow any water to run under and off the deck surface (see Image 2). Column risers should always be used, even if the deck is made of wood. Risers are available at building supply stores across Canada, and the more decorative original cast iron versions may be found at your local architectural salvage company.
As columns and posts are a structural element, and most likely supporting a roof load, any work should be done in-situ, or if the post or column is so far rotted (see Image 1) you must contract an expert. I have had great success with restoration grade wood epoxies on most rotted wooden elements (see Image 5). Epoxies are great, however, they do have their limitations. They must be painted and maintained, and any areas where water could find its way into the post or column must be caulked with paintable latex caulking and top-coated with high quality exterior grade paint.
The above images show a porch restoration wonderfully executed by my lead intern Jamie Stowe. Image 3: The posts were heavily damaged by wet rot and were in need of stabilization. Image 4: Jamie removed many layers of paint with an infrared paint stripper and began the repair process. Image 5: The posts are repaired with a liquid and paste epoxy and sanded, ready for primer. Image 6: The finished product, this is the same post noted in image 3.
Jamie Stowe is now taking on exterior millwork restoration projects. His information is available online at http://www.edificeguild.com or he can be contacted at 905-929-1676.
The demise and rot of most exterior millwork, including windows, is neglect! If you love character and do not believe there is such a thing as “maintenance free,” then you must keep an eye on your exterior wooden elements and tend to them as they require attention. Wooden elements will last indefinitely if you cheat rot with a good paint job, good caulking (see below) and good water management.
What Is In A Name?
Architectural Sketch Book
Above: A Verandah is a roofed deck replete with columns which extends from one edge of a façade to the other or wraps around two or more sides of a house.
Above: A Porch is a roofed deck replete with columns which extends less than the width of a façade, however is larger than half the said width.
Above: A Portico is a roofed deck replete with columns which extends less than one half the width of the house and is usually located at the main entrance.