(1) Are the fiberglass columns you are looking to purchase really made of fiberglass?
If you conduct a search online for fiberglass columns a hand full of companies pop up in the search results on both Yahoo and Google. There are many different brands, materials, pictures, descriptions, sales pitches and offers. With all this information it is sometimes hard to tell what you are actually purchasing and that should be SCARY as it could be a costly mistake if you don’t purchase the right product! Some E-commerce companies offer a picture, a part, and a price and call it a "fiberglass column" which is why you need to research what you are looking to purchase!
(2) What is an "all fiberglass" column?
This means that all components (Capital, Shaft and Base) of the column have some minimal level of fiberglass, in each component, in order to be called an “all fiberglass" column. That’s right…some manufactures actually call their column a “fiberglass column“ when the capital and base are made of something other than fiberglass. These materials come with names such as “plastic,” “synthetic” and worst of all “polyurethane foam”.
Fun Experiement: Try a using a shovel, a weed whacker, or give a small kid a hammer and see what damage occurs when hitting a polyurethane foam base! Let us know what happens in the comments below.
(3) Is the fiberglass material a “Class A fire rated” fiberglass? Or, is it an “off spec” fiberglass?
This may not seem like a big deal or even something to be concerned with. In the event of a fire anyone that is in a home or building makes their way to the exits as fast as possible. However, what about the firemen that rush into the home/ building to put out the fire and/or to save someone from a third floor? The purpose of having a class A fire rated product is that the product will burn slower and also has a lower smoke density. This give the greatest opportunity to get out (or get in and out) of a building on fire!
(4) In most situations, the total column height has to be adjusted once on site, what happens if I order fluted columns?
If your columns are fluted, it is important to go over (with your sales expert) the total height the column will be once installed. The flutes and column height can be adjusted in the factory before it ships to your jobsite. There are a lot of variables such as the capital height, base height, and how far above the base you want the flutes to stop. It is not uncommon to order columns prior to having flooring installed so an estimated guess is all you have! This makes dealing with a company that has experts that much more important and makes sure your flutes stop above the base in order to maintain the architecturally correct proportions. A tolerance can be built in to allow for adjustability onsite to where the columns can be trimmed after delivery.
(5) Is customer service important to you?
Buying fiberglass columns online can be overwhelming and time consuming. Especially when you have certain adjustments and particulars that need to be addressed by a real person. Having an expert from a credible company overseeing your estimate, order, and delivery from start to finish is important. Once an order is placed with a company that is when most of the work begins from production, to packaging/crating, to scheduling the delivery. Always check company reviews online and with the BBB.org to ensure that you are about to do business with a credible source with great customer service.
(6) Is quality important to you?
Let’s face it, in the digital world and viewing products online any company can use programs like Photoshop or some type of enhancement software to make a good product look bad or vice-versa. So how do you know what you are receiving is of high quality? There is so much information coming from any company that you are looking to purchase from. When buying almost anything in any market there is always the low cost provider that guarantees they will beat any competitor’s price, have the quickest lead time, and they also have the best quality. In any case everyone knows it is not possible to get all 3 with one product and company. Ask for references and also see if there is a nearby jobsite that you could go and see the quality. Asking to receive a sample of the material is another excellent way to ensure that you are receiving high quality products.
Note: After requesting samples from different companies, compare each one side by side.
(7) What happens if your columns are damaged during shipping?
Fiberglass columns are strong but they are no match against a forklift. Smaller shipments typically ship via LTL (Less Than Truckload) which could mean that they are handled many times once they pick-up, get placed on the carrier’s truck, go back to the shipping hub and then from truck to dock, back and forth across the country. This is why it is important to ship your fiberglass columns insured with shipping insurance. It is also important that once the columns arrive onsite to inspect them all and note on the BOL at the time of delivery any damages. The truck driver will give you appropriate time to inspect your shipment. It could save you hundreds, and possibly thousands, when properly noted. Having the shipment insured makes the process go a lot smoother (and quicker) to receive your replacement columns.
(8) Who is accountable for your purchase online?
When purchasing online the buyer has sole responsibility and is the one accountable for what is purchased. It is important to review the company’s return policy if there was ever a need to return them and also see what restocking fees occur. Typically, a big item like fiberglass columns is not something that is ordered to have shipped and returned but it is comforting to know what the company’s policy is vs. guessing later. Furthermore, working with a sales expert is the only way to ensure that what you are ordering is correct. When your order is custom always ask for a shop drawing so that you can double check any constraints on your jobsite.
(9) Will I need help installing my fiberglass columns?
Installing fiberglass columns is not your everyday chore and why it is best to use a skilled carpenter for help. If you are excellent with your hands and can do most handy work around the house, installing porch columns may not be as big of deal. When needed, go to sources like Angie’s List or possibly even doing a Google search to find a skilled carpenter in your area. Make sure they are licensed and insured!
(10) Do the capital and base add height to the total height of the column?
Believe it or not, what capital and base is selected can either add height, subtract height, and keep the column height the same height. When ordering a Tuscan style capital and base the capital and base actually go around the column shaft and therefore are cosmetic. For example, if you order an 8” column shaft the total height of the column is going to arrive at 8’. The Tuscan capital and base would surround the column and are placed on the column before you install. When ordering the column with a decorative capital like a Roman Corinthian or Temple of Winds capital they actually sit on top of the column shaft and could make the total height 8’-6”. This is why ordering with a sales expert is important so that the order will be right the first time!
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