Replacing Porch Columns: How to Update Front Porch Pillars & Columns

For many homes, porch columns are a popular exterior design element that brings both style and warmth to one's curb appeal. But aside from being aesthetically pleasing, many front porch columns and pillars act as structural elements, holding up the weight of the roof 365 days a year. While columns and pillars are built to last, what happens when they start to crack or rot? What can you do?

Before updating or replacing porch columns, you'll want to know whether you've got a load-bearing or decorative type. For this article, we'll assume yours, like most, are load-bearing. Remember, if you don't feel comfortable tackling this task yourself, hire a reputable contractor.

What You'll Need To Replace Posts & Columns:

  • Reciprocating Saw (and possibly a hacksaw or circular saw): If you have a balustrade attached to your columns, you may need to cut through screws.
  • 4X4 Post(s): This will temporarily hold the unsupported roof while you're prepping the new column. Be sure to get one as tall as the removed column or pillar.
  • Sufficiently-Rated Jack: You will need this to raise the 4X4 into place, and your jack will need to be rated high enough to support the weight.
  • New Column: Choose the right one for your home. The correct material is essential. Your choices include wood, fiberglass and aluminum.
  • Wood Blocks: You may need to place them under balustrades for support.
  • Pencil, Tape Measure, Level and Square: You want to get it right the first time, and these are critical.
  • Ladder: Be sure to follow the safety guidelines on the ladder.
  • Fasteners: Screws, nails, etc.

How to Replace Porch Columns

  1. If you have a railing or balustrade, you're going to have to remove it where it's attached to each column you're replacing. You may need to use a reciprocating saw or hacksaw to cut any screws or nails. Put a wood block under the hanging end of the railing for support. If there is anything else, such as a gutter attached to the column, remove it.
  2. Measure the distance from the porch to the top of the old column. Take into account any plates or decorative trim. You may or may not need to saw the new column to get the proper length needed. Note that if your column has any design features, you'll need to match the distance on the top or bottom of the new column. Be sure to cut off the same amount.
  3. If you are using a hollow wood column, you'll need to drill a couple of holes in the top and bottom large enough to allow air to pass through. Ventilating is a great way to preserve the wood.
  4. Put your jack on the porch, and measure from the porch to the jack's top. Add one inch for clearance. Now, subtract that distance from the measurement in step 2. Use that new measurement and cut the 4X4. Place the jack on the porch close to the column you're removing. Slowly raise the jack with the 4X4 on top — a cracking sound is natural — until the roof is just free from the column. Remove the column.
  5. Attach any trim or plates at the top and bottom of the new column and slide it into place. Make sure it's level, straight and aligned correctly.
  6. Slowly lower the jack and 4X4 and remove.
  7. Reinstall the balustrade.

What's the difference between a column and a pillar? A column is usually load-bearing; a pillar is often only decorative.

How to Update Porch Columns

If your existing columns are structurally sound, you may decide to update them by adding a Column Wrap. There are many new styles and materials to choose from, and once you've selected a type, there are simple steps to adding it.

  • Measure and pre-fit the wrap: Put the wrap around the Column and measure. Cut to length using a circular saw.
  • Install the Wrap: Secure top and bottom of the three-sided wrap with weather-resistant screws hidden by cap and base. Glue the remaining side to the back of the column and clamp from bottom to top. Secure this side with screws at the base and cap. If you like, PVC plugs will suffice.
  • Install any Caps or Bases: Install in the same manner as the wrap.

Are You Ready To Tackle This Project? Contact Us TODAY!

Tired of looking at those weather-beaten pillars? Want to restore your home's classic design by replacing porch columns with new ones that are elegant and strong? Let the expert team at HB&G show you our wide variety of load-bearing, decorative column solutions. Whatever your needs or questions, we're here to help. Talk with us today and let our experts help you get the great columns you want.

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