Whether the porches you design have simple, slim porch posts supporting an overhang or elaborate columns that bear the weight of a roof, these features play an important role in the way that the porch looks and functions. Porches are by definition covered by a roof or extension of the home they are attached to. To support the roof, posts or columns are included in the porch design.
The posts or columns you choose to complement the porch must be structurally sound and able to withstand whatever the elements may bring.
While there are many types of materials on the market for creating posts and columns, not all of them offer the beauty or durability that you will need. That’s why investing in the right low-maintenance porch posts can offer you versatility in appearance for the porches you design both now and in the future.
The Importance of Porch Posts
Porch posts and columns have two particular jobs that they perform in subtly different ways. Porch posts are thinner than columns and often have more delicate details. They may be very simple or have more decorative elements to them, they may be hollow or made of solid timber. They work best for overhangs, small porches, and lightweight roofs, because they aren’t large enough to support more substantial structures.
Columns are larger, heavier, and often more intricate and decorative than posts. Like posts, they may be hollow or solid, and they are designed to hold up the overhang or porch roof. Because they’re larger, they can often take on more substantial structures, but may overpower smaller spaces.
Posts and columns enhance the curb appeal of a home. They perform an important role in how the porch or entryway functions; they offer critical support without which the porch roof or overhang may collapse or become unstable.
Whether the homes you design are simple or elaborate, it’s a fact that you’ll be including at least one type of porch or column in every one. The material that you choose to build from can play a big role in how the columns or porch functions for your clients in the years to come.
Why Low-Maintenance Posts and Columns Are Desired
Posts and columns can be made from many different materials. Pressure treated and incised wood is a common option for adding structure to the porch. These types of wood aren’t always the best choice from an appearance standpoint, however. Pressure treated wood is usually given a semi-transparent stain as part of its production, which may not be appealing in color or tone. Incised wood posts and columns are also not the best choice for appearance, and may be given a fiberglass sleeve or covering to help make them look more attractive. This adds to the cost of the project, and may limit your color or style options.
Another option that is sometimes used is solid wood made of either cedar or Douglas fir. Both of these woods are beautiful, but may split on one side over time. This doesn’t affect their use; they remain structurally sound, but it can detract from their appearance.
Solid wood posts and columns need to also be painted or stained to help protect them from the elements. At the same time, color is also part of the visual appeal of the porch, so the posts need to be able to match the style and finish of the rest of the porch material. This is the biggest drawback to fiberglass or plastic coated posts; you can’t often match them to the rest of your trim. Paint or stain applied to cedar or other solid wood products may chip, peel, or crack over time, which detracts from the appearance. This is due to the UV light from the sun breaking down the surface of the wood fibers. Over time, the paint begins to lose adhesion from the wood, and needs to be replaced. Stains have the same issue, only more quickly because they don’t shield the wood from the UV light.
Peeling and cracking can also result in the underlying material being exposed, which in turn, means that the columns may be subjected to insect activity and moisture issues, which can lead to rot. In fact wood rot, in non-treated posts, is one of the most common reasons why a porch roof may fail, and why posts and columns need to be replaced. The second most common reason for solid wood porch columns and posts to fail is twisting, which can also occur over time if the posts have been subjected to moisture, causing them to swell and shrink.
To prevent rot from occurring, the posts must be continuously checked for softening, and they need to be painted or stained every few years. This is a lot of maintenance over the lifetime of the porch. Many homeowners today are looking to invest in lower maintenance materials to help solve this issue. With busy lifestyles becoming the norm, most homeowners don’t have the time or inclination to check, scrape, and paint their porch columns every few years. For this reason, they’re more likely to request a low-maintenance material when the time comes to build a new porch.
Fiberglass and PVC may be lower in maintenance, but these materials often have their own issues. They may not match the appearance of the rest of the porch, and if the homeowner decides to change the color of the porch railings, they may not be able to match the existing posts and columns. In addition, both materials may become brittle over time, which can result in other issues such as cracking or warping.
An Option for Truly Low-Maintenance Columns and Posts
Laminated wood posts solve these issues for homeowners. Preservative-treated wood has been kiln dried for stability, then surface treated with preservatives that are absorbed into the wood. This makes the wood more durable, longer lasting, and requires less maintenance. Yet, it’s still wood, able to be formed into the same styles and designs that you’ve worked with in the past, and able to be easily installed without too much of a learning curve. The posts are laminated, which means that they won’t expand and contract as easily as metal, fiberglass, or plastic, so they’re easier to install and can help save time and money on the project.
Preservative-treated laminated posts, like Belco’s XT Post are laminated posts and graded for appearance, so you can trust that you’re getting consistent materials that will always look and perform the way you expect them to. They’re easy to paint or stain, and don’t experience the same problems with UV light as other woods, due to the proprietary primer that each post is finished with. The primer protects the wood from UV rays, and prepares the wood for painting, so you can match the color with the rest of the project. This results in fewer callbacks for you after the job is complete. Your porches will look stylish and will outlast columns built using other, higher maintenance materials.
Invest in Low Maintenance Porch Posts
Low maintenance, preservative-treated laminated wood posts are easy to work with, easy to care for, and can help enhance the curb appeal of the porch you’re building, whether the porch is decorative or simple in appearance. Pay a visit to Belco Forest Products to learn more about their long lasting, high quality materials, and how they can enhance your work on future porch designs and projects.