Some columns are structural; others are merely decorative. Structural types are made of materials that can bear substantial weight: wood, aluminum, or fiberglass composites. Non- structural columns are made of polymers (some are hollow and may receive weight-bearing wood or metal posts). They come in many classic shapes and are typically sold in increments of 4 feet. They may be coupled with any of a variety of decorative caps and bases.
Fypon makes a line of columns that are both beautiful and structural. These columns, which include classic styles as well as porch posts and lamp posts, are made from a steel pipe that has been wrapped in polymer. A special cap that prevents uplift in high-wind or seismic areas is also offered. The columns are made in 10- and 12-foot lengths. A typical 10-inch- diameter-by-8-foot-long column costs about $225 in either plain or fluted styles; capitals and bases, sold separately, are about $20 each.
Genuine wood columns are available in cylindrical, tapered, and squared profiles. The surfaces of some are decorative (fluted, for example). Typically, wood columns are sold as a complete kit, with a decorative wooden cap and base included. Although the wood has been preservative-treated, it still must be painted. Sizes range from 6 inches in diameter by 8 feet long to 20 inches in diameter by 20 feet long.
Some aluminum columns are structural; others are not. Although most are primed with a special bonding primer that may be painted, some have factory-applied finishes. These extruded columns are hollow, typically constructed from interlocking sections or staves. For example, Moultrie Manufacturing’s columns come in snap-lock staves; although they are load-bearing columns, they may be wrapped around an existing column or post. Lengths run up to 30 feet long; diameters are from 5 to 36 inches.
Composite columns-made from a mixture of ground marble, fiberglass, and polymer resin-are also load-bearing. These hollow columns offer the look of stone, but they are lightweight, tough, and highly durable. For a 10-inch-diameter-by-10-foot-long fluted column from NMC Focal Point, you’ll pay about $250. Capitals and bases are sold separately.
Some columns are made from a combination of materials. The A.F. Schwerd Company, for example, makes custom columns from tongue-and-groove wooden staves with aluminum bases. An average 10-inch-diameter-by-8-foot-long column sells for about $577 plus shipping; a fluted column costs about 25 percent more. Dixie-Pacific offers wooden columns with either wood or composition plaster capitals and wood or cast-marble base moldings.