Installing Decorative Columns

Add a distinctive and timeless touch of class to your home with decorative columns.

Intro

If you want to add a distinctive and timeless touch of class to your home, consider adding columns. After making the initial commitment, there are many more decisions to come. First, you need to select appropriate locations -- where the columns actually appear to be performing a supporting role, even if they are purely decorative. Second, choose the material of the column. You'll find stain- and paint-grade hollow-wood columns as well as synthetic materials, such as the fiberglass version shown here. Third, select a style that's appropriate for your home. Although it's tempting to select the most ornate version, a bit of restraint goes a long way.

When you order your columns, you'll probably have to purchase a stock size slightly longer than the finished size. Also check on the availability of factory-split columns, such as a quarter column, half (shown in this installation), or three-quarter. The manufacturer also may be able to supply other designs that would suit your needs.

Step 1

Measure the height of the installation site so you can place the order for the columns. Also ensure that the site is large enough to accommodate the width and depth of the capital and the plinth.

Step 2

Subtract 1/4 inch from the measured height, then mark a cut line near the base of the column. Triple-check the measurement, then cut the column to length with a handsaw. The edges of a fiberglass column, like the example shown, can be sharp, so dull them with a few passes of a rasp.

Step 3

Mark the side-to-side centerline on the surface where you'll set the base of the column. Make certain that the platform is sturdy enough to support the column's weight. Just as important, this base surface must have a substantial appearance because those viewing it will assume that this column plays a role in supporting your house.

Step 4

Transfer the horizontal centerline into a vertical centerline for the column. Extend this line all the way to the top of the installation. Extend the centerline onto the ceiling, then mark about 2 inches toward the center of the room.

Step 5

Measure the inside diameter at the top of the column, then rip a piece of 3/4-inch-thick lumber into a backerboard that will fit inside the column for the top one-third of its height. If the column tapers, ignore it and simply get a decent fit at the top. Mark the centerline at the top end of the board, check its edge for plumb, and fasten it to the wall with nails or screws.

Step 6

Drill countersunk screw shank clearance holes through the edges of the column for screws that you'll drive into the backerboard. The capital will cover the topmost screws. Space additional screws no farther than 12 inches apart until you reach the bottom of the backerboard.

Step 7

Mark a centerline at the top and bottom of the column's face. Drill angled countersunk screw shank clearance holes at the centerline near the column's top and bottom ends.

Step 8

If you're working with a tall column, recruit a helper for the next steps. Hoist the column into position, then drive tapered shims under the end on each side until the top of the column touches the ceiling. Make certain that the column's centerline matches the horizontal one on the support surface.

Step 9

Drive a screw to secure the bottom of the column. Stop the screw as soon as it touches the column so you don't strip the hole or misalign the column. Drive a screw at the top centerline of the column and along both edges into the backerboard.

Step 10

Drill countersunk screw shank holes through the plinth (base), then drive screws to secure it to the mounting surface. Again, stop driving as soon as the screw makes solid contact with the material.

Step 11

Drill countersunk screw shank holes through the capital (top), then drive screws to secure it to the ceiling.

Step 12

Apply caulk along all the seams. Then you're ready to apply the finish.


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