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Architectural Detail Experts | A Blog by Worthington Millwork

Five Step Guide to Testing the Structural Integrity of Existing Columns and The Repairs That They Often Need

Posted by Worthington Millwork on 3/3/20 5:00 AM

IMG_0572If you have structural elements like columns made of wood or other materials that can become damaged by water and rot, it is important to test their integrity if you think there is a problem. Sometimes, the problems with the beautiful columns may not be visible on the exterior. Therefore, there are certain techniques to use to test the structural integrity of these fixtures to determine what type of repairs may be needed. The following guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of testing the structural integrity of your columns to determine what type of repairs are going to be needed: 

Step 1: Identifying the Materials and Possible Problems with Damage and Wear 

The structural columns that hold up roofs and other architectural elements can be made of various materials. Some of the materials are more vulnerable to problems like rot that can compromise structural integrity. Therefore, one of the first things that you will want to do is identify the type of materials of columns to assess the problem, which includes: 

  • Untreated wood columns with hollow interiors—These are common in older or historic buildings and are vulnerable to problems with rot when they are not properly maintained.  
  • Particle-board with a timber center supports—These materials are often the most vulnerable to water damage and rot due to moisture that causes problems.  
  • Nonstructural synthetic products with a timber post support—These materials are often composites, plastics, and other materials that are used for non-structural architectural details.  
  • Structural fiberglass columns with or without center structural support—These materials are very versatile and the least likely to rot, and are great for repairs and replacement of other materials.  

These are some of the different types of materials that you will be dealing with when inspecting your columns for structural problems that could cause serious damage. 

Step 2: Looking for Signs of Problems Where There Is Damage to Finishes 

Now that you know the different types of materials that you may need to repair, it is time to start looking at the finishes for signs of damage. The finishes of materials like wood and particle-board materials often cover up the damage beneath. To get the root of the damage, use a screwdriver or other type of rod to poke around the area. If the materials are soft and you can easily punch a hole through them, then there is damage that needs to be repaired.  

Step 3: Expose Damaged Areas by Removing Finishes to Determine What Type of Repairs Will Be Needed 

Sometimes, the material beneath the finish can be severely damaged, or it may only need minor repairs. To get to the damaged area, you will want to remove the paint or other finish materials by sanding the damaged area. Remove the painted finish until you see the raw wood grain or particles of composites become visible. Once the damage is visible, you will be able to determine the type of repairs that may be needed.  

Step 4: Repairing Sections of Columns Without Completely Replacing Existing Materials  

Sometimes, the columns that are damaged may only have a section that needs repairs. Use a saw to remove the damaged section of the column and replace the materials with new wood or other filler materials. If the problem is due to water getting beneath the base of the column, a fiberglass collar at the base of the column and bead of caulk can help to prevent this type of problem. If there is also rot of timber posts in hollow columns, you will also need to remove the column and replace the structural post in the center when doing these repairs, which can also make repairing the column easier.  

Step 5: Replacing Severely Damaged Columns with Modern Fiberglass Replacements for Long-Lasting Repairs 

Often, the damage to the column is too much for repairs to be done to avoid structural catastrophes. When there is too much damage to the column, it will need to be replaced to ensure the structural integrity of the architecture. There are options for real wood columns, which can be fine for interior repairs, but for exterior columns, you may want to consider some alternatives. Today, there are structural metal and fiberglass columns that can be used for these types of repairs, which will be more resistant to wear, water damage and rot that can lead to structural problems.  

These steps should help you get started with determining problems that compromise the structural integrity of columns. If you need to repair or replace sections of structural columns, consider fiberglass architectural problems with solutions that will last and withstand the elements.  

Topics: Wood Columns, Porch Columns, Fiberglass Porch Columns, Fiberglass columns, exterior columns, home remodel

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