Thursday, September 20, 2012

Replacing Porch Column Bases 2: Custom Base Replacements

Quickly, because I need to leave for work, an update on the porch column base project. Over the past few weeks, I did some research and found a company that will turn copies of our column bases for a very reasonable cost. They can work from a sample, so last weekend, we jacked up the porch roof again to remove one for a sample.

When we do the installation of the new bases, I'll talk about the mother*&%^$#@$! hard job it was to remove these cute little innocent looking pieces. Right now, I'll just show the samples. So, here are the two pieces that we removed, one on top the other, as they would be in situ:

 Here they are dis-assembled. It's obvious that neither has a hole in the middle for air circulation, so I have asked the millworking company to make our replacements with a hole. They're made of cedar.

The replacements will be made of cypress. I've done as much research as possible, and had three different recommendations from the millworkers who gave me quotes: red cedar, cypress and oak. There seem to be pros and cons to each. Cypress is softer, but it is said to have natural oils in it that help to guard in moist conditions. I don't know if its true that it is better in wet conditions because the tree grows in water. It's not a tree with roots and leaves anymore, so I honestly don't know if this claim is scientific fact or a myth. I'd appreciate any comments on this question.

This one is the trouble-maker to remove. The column was nailed into it with 9 2-1/2" nails, countersunk in the column itself. The nails might be an indication of age -- they really didn't seem to be that old, maybe from the 1970's. I remember seeing nails exactly them when I was young. Now I'm giving away my own age. It wouldn't surprise me at all to know that these columns are replacements of replacements of replacements. If they are that recent, the former owner's daughter might be able to tell me, and so I plan to write her and ask.

In any case, the reason for 9 nails is because the column is made in 9 vertical segments. Here you can see the vertical cracks in the paint, that show where the segments are joined. So the base provides an important role in keeping the column together. Below are some close-ups of the column after we removed the base. 

Here you can clearly see the damage I had to inflict to remove the nails:

And, finally, a little bit of a longer shot that, again, shows how the column is composed of vertical slats of wood. It too is cedar and is hollow inside, and there is no rot in any of the six columns--I presume, in part, because they're hollow and the porch faces west and gets the intense afternoon sun, so any moisture evaporates out the top.

As a final note, when I did the research looking for millworkers to query, I found that entering "custom turning and millwork" in google produced the best results. The search "column bases" turns up good advice (like this, hopefully!), but most of the companies out there that manufacture column bases are  now doing so from artificial substances. And that could be a reasonable way to go, given how much damp porches sustain, it just doesn't work for us as we're not replacing whole columns and because I just like wood.

Also, the quotes varied dramatically. The one we went with is only $68 per base plus a $20 set up. The highest quote was almost $1,500 for six bases. So, if you are reading and about to do something like this, be sure to get several quotes.

More to come when we install.

Addendum, spring 2013: The entire story with instructions for replacing bases is tagged with the label "Replace Porch Column Base Series," which you will find along the right-hand side of the main Life at Pugsley blog page.  Or, you can go to the next in the series, about making the new bases and prepping the porch floor, here.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, who did you use to make your column base? We are having a hard time finding anyone reasonable in price to make them- we would love to spend 68!