Historic Wood Columns

Columns are highly distinctive characteristics of historic houses.

Here's how to maintain and repair columns.

Large Columns

Porch with large two-story columns

Columns are the foremost defining feature of this house.

Small Columns

Entryway with small columns

These small columns add dignity and sophistication.


More Examples of Large Columns

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More Examples of Small Columns

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Architectural Integrity

The columns are missing on these houses. Their architectural integrity is severely diminished

Porch with missing columns Porch with missing columns

Preventive Maintenance

Using Contractors

The how-to-do-it information here also is useful for homeowners who use a contractor for column repair.

Dealing with contractors is much more successful when you know what needs to be done and how it should be done, even if you cannot do it.

One problem: a contractor may tell you repair is impossible, because he does not know how to do it!

Another problem: a contractor may tell you he knows how to fix columns, when in fact he does not. The danger is that he will do something incorrect.

Knowledge is Power.

Moisture is the main concern. Columns deteriorate when moisture gets trapped inside and cannot evaporate away.

Bases often are the first element to begin to rot. Be sure that water drains away from column bases and does not pool around them.

Keeping columns dry is the principal goal of preventive maintenance.

Caulk at all joints and seams to keep water out. But don't plug vent holes!

Paint. A solid paint film also keeps water out. However, two issues arise about paint.

  1. Heavy build up of paint inhibits moisture from passing through the paint film and escaping from the column.
  2. Some kinds of paint are more permeable to escaping water vapor. Marine paints even blocks moisture escape entirely.

Water vapor is amazing. It can pass through walls, plaster, paint, and wood.

Vent. Hollow columns usually vent out the top into the building framing. If necessary, air vents can be added to columns to let air circulate and evaporate away any moisture inside.

The articles below on column repair also deal with maintenance in greater detail.

Repair and Restoration

John Leeke is an expert on column repair and many other matters in historic preservation. His website is worth visiting.

Deteriorated columns can be repaired and restored. If it's a big column, it could be a big repair! But it's always possible.

For more on column repair, here are a series of articles covering all aspects: