For The Love OF Wooden Columns


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.

Image 1

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.

Image 2

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.

Image 5

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.

Image 3

Image 4

Image 6

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.


Side bar:

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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.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. chrischihrin says:

    Good morning
    Years ago I took a course with you and have enjoyed receiving your mailings ever sense.
    Do you believe this veranda is the original in your picture below.
    We are considering adding on a small porch in front of the main door. Mainly because we have chosen not to install Eavestroughs which in our area get ripped off regularly by ice storms.
    Our house looks identical to this picture except we have 2 stone terraces leading up to The house. We also have the same colourful granite stone above what the veranda roof line is in your picture. Below that line the stone is plain
    [cid:9CE4AE07-8B73-4961-9957-9C415B691178-L0-001]
    Our House
    [cid:CDB0EB08-07F8-448D-B36C-7F797F5B0A2F]
    Chris
    Sent from my iPhone

    1. edificemedia says:

      The images did not come through, please emails is via our website.

  2. Dr. Robert J Carley says:

    Good article, Christopher. Like you, I cringe when I see inappropriate repairs or renovations of original verandahs and porches. There is nothing worse than seeing 6×6 or 8×8 pressure treated lumber being used on an old porch that deserves so much better. Fortunately, when we decided to build a porch on the side of our 1856 stone house, we were able to locate four period porch posts, and built the porch around them, as they say.

    Always enjoy your articles, both for the technical expertise that you so obviously possess, and for the zeal for originality that you display.

    1. edificemedia says:

      Thank you Robert… Cooper

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