We Specialize In Columns
How To Pick A Column
There are basically four simple questions to ask when you are considering columns:
- Round or Square?
- Smooth or Fluted?
- Straight or Tapered?
- Structural or Non-structural?
Once you have made those choices, the type of material that the column can be made from will become more apparent.
The only other consideration is the location of the column—Interior or Exterior?
Interior column choices
There are materials that play to the strengths of the combinations of all four categories.
For example: A good material choice for round (or square), smooth, straight, non-structural would be a Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) column; especially if you needed them to be split in two halves, to wrap around an existing post.
Exterior column choices
For exterior columns, the choice of materials is generally more limited. It is also difficult to find columns to wrap existing structural posts.
For instance, you can't use an MDF column for exterior but if you want round, smooth, straight, and non-structural, then you may be able to use a PVC pipe column instead, as long as they are only decorative.
If there is an existing post to be covered then you may have to consider polyurethane, which can be split into two halves.
The biggest concern about using columns is what size will work best in a situation. A basic rule of thumb is for the diameter to be one inch for every foot of height; that is, 8 inch diameter x 8 feet tall, 12” diameter by 12 feet tall, and so on. Most columns come in diameters that are in 2 inch increments: 6”, 8”, 10”, 12”, etc. Common heights are 6 feet, 8 feet, 9 feet, and 10 feet. It is generally better to build up a shorter column than it is to trim down a longer one. If the finished height is 7 feet, a 6 foot column sitting on a 12” pedestal looks better than an 8 foot column that has been cut down, and is directly on the floor or deck.
Most architects and designers do not allow enough room for the capital and base of the column that they have specified. For instance, an 8" diameter column could come with a capital and base that are up to 12" wide. That base won't fit on an 8" wide pony-wall. You could have similar issues with the capital fitting under a 10" wide bulkhead or arch.
While it is possible to get reproductions of history’s most famous column capitals— Corinthian, Ionic, and Scamozzi—these require a great deal of planning and forethought before using, and even then some column diameters cannot be properly matched up.
If you are early in the design or framing stages of a project, specialty capitals may work for you, but they are a very expensive proposition and they need a lot more room to fit in than most people realize.
We have more than twenty years of experience in dealing with these situations— call us with your ideas and we will see if they are achievable!