Columns are highly distinctive characteristics of historic houses.
Here's how to maintain and repair columns.
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.
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.
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.
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:
John Leeke is an expert on column repair and many other matters in historic preservation. His website is worth visiting.