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Tips Repair or Replace Rotted Wood Columns

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Carol in Rhode Island is on the line and needs some help with the exterior of her home. How can we help you?

    CAROL: I have a 115-year-old Queen Anne Victorian. Twelve years ago, I replaced all the columns on the porch and they’re rotting out again. And they’re finger-jointed columns and I was told they were installed incorrectly, so I’d like to know the correct way to install them.

    TOM: Why were you told that they were installed incorrectly?

    CAROL: I was told that because the top was not sealed with some kind of flashing, that there was snow and rain getting in the top of the column and it was rotting the column from the inside out.

    TOM: Well, that may or may not be the case. Certainly, you need to pay attention to water control when you do a project like that. It’s hard for me to imagine – usually, columns sit underneath an overhang. But if there was some aspect of it that was exposed, then maybe that could be the case.

    Another area to make sure you keep it off the ground is at the bottom of the column. We usually advise columns be put on something called a “post dock (ph),” which is like a plate that keeps it up a ½-inch or an inch off of the floor or the slab, depending on how this is built, so that you have some room for the column to dry out and not collect water. But generally, any time you have water that collects in any area, you are going to have rot.

    Now, replacing these columns is not a do-it-yourself project, so you need to proceed very carefully with this, because those columns hold a lot of weight and that weight has to be transferred while the repair is being made.

    CAROL: So let me ask you this. I’m thinking now of replacing them with the new fiberglass or composite columns, whatever they’re made out of. And I was told by a friend of mine that I should still have some kind of a steel pole inserted in the middle to hold the weight of the porch.

    TOM: Yeah, it depends on the column. There are those types of composite columns where there’s, essentially, a metal column, like a Lally column, that does all the work – the structural work. And then the decorative column kind of snaps around that.

    CAROL: Oh, I didn’t realize that.

    TOM: Because the composite itself may not be load-bearing. In fact, it will be unlikely for it to hold – to handle – almost any weight whatsoever.

    CAROL: Thank you for the information. It’s confirming what my friend told me. He’s not a carpenter, so I was questioning him.

    TOM: You tell him he’s very smart. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
    LESLIE: Carol in Rhode Island is on the line and needs some help with the exterior of her home. How can we help you?

    CAROL: I have a 115-year-old Queen Anne Victorian. Twelve years ago, I replaced all the columns on the porch and they’re rotting out again. And they’re finger-jointed columns and I was told they were installed incorrectly, so I’d like to know the correct way to install them.

    TOM: Why were you told that they were installed incorrectly?

    CAROL: I was told that because the top was not sealed with some kind of flashing, that there was snow and rain getting in the top of the column and it was rotting the column from the inside out.

    TOM: Well, that may or may not be the case. Certainly, you need to pay attention to water control when you do a project like that. It’s hard for me to imagine – usually, columns sit underneath an overhang. But if there was some aspect of it that was exposed, then maybe that could be the case.

    Another area to make sure you keep it off the ground is at the bottom of the column. We usually advise columns be put on something called a “post dock (ph),” which is like a plate that keeps it up a ½-inch or an inch off of the floor or the slab, depending on how this is built, so that you have some room for the column to dry out and not collect water. But generally, any time you have water that collects in any area, you are going to have rot.

    Now, replacing these columns is not a do-it-yourself project, so you need to proceed very carefully with this, because those columns hold a lot of weight and that weight has to be transferred while the repair is being made.

    CAROL: So let me ask you this. I’m thinking now of replacing them with the new fiberglass or composite columns, whatever they’re made out of. And I was told by a friend of mine that I should still have some kind of a steel pole inserted in the middle to hold the weight of the porch.

    TOM: Yeah, it depends on the column. There are those types of composite columns where there’s, essentially, a metal column, like a Lally column, that does all the work – the structural work. And then the decorative column kind of snaps around that.

    CAROL: Oh, I didn’t realize that.

    TOM: Because the composite itself may not be load-bearing. In fact, it will be unlikely for it to hold – to handle – almost any weight whatsoever.

    CAROL: Thank you for the information. It’s confirming what my friend told me. He’s not a carpenter, so I was questioning him.

    TOM: You tell him he’s very smart. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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