Introduction: How to Replace Columns
This is the second installment of the home makeover series. The first being DIY shutters. Don’t forget to Subscribe to my YouTube channel (click here) so you will be notified each time a new home improvement project releases. I’ll get into the step by step process below, but first you should know that if you’re not comfortable doing this on your own you should consult a professional. Not providing proper support to your porch or house could result in very bad news. I will say that changing out my columns wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, but I did have to plan everything out.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- Miter Saw : http://amzn.to/2mD5lkV
- Circular Saw : http://amzn.to/2nj39MQ
- Reciprocating Saw : http://amzn.to/2snzxU3
- Floor Jack : https://amzn.to/2ou92Ib
- Drill and Impact Driver : http://amzn.to/2EEX4p4
- Saw Horses : https://amzn.to/2N9jLFZ
- Electric Planer : https://amzn.to/2N64gi2
- 48" Level : https://amzn.to/2LLvENC
- Chalk Box : https://amzn.to/2Q1JhvA
- 6x6" Treated Pine Posts
- (1) 4x4 post
- Galvanized Post Bases (with flush bottom)
- Stain : https://amzn.to/2PtrQD7
Step 2: Remove Any Railings in the Way
Step one for me was to remove all the old railings around my porch in order to gain access to the existing columns. The railings connected to the columns, so they had to go. Once the railings were removed I could focus on the plan of attack, meaning I had to decide which column to start with. You don’t want to remove any column without determining which columns were the ones carrying the load. In my case, there were a couple of columns in key positions, so I had to be careful. I should mention here that I decided to stain my columns first and do “touch ups” after the installation.
Step 3: Measure One Column at a Time
As I mentioned in the first step, decide which column to start with. I didn’t choose the corner or middle columns to start with. I begin with the column that was closest to the wall. I knew the wall was carrying most of the porch load at this post location. At this point I haven’t cut any new column to length yet. It is important to cut them as you install them due to settling and whatever adjustments that was made to the existing columns when they were installed. So, I measured the existing column I was about to replace and transferred that measurement to the new column. Cutting these columns weren’t the easiest task, but with a couple of sawhorses and a mobile shop cart it wasn’t too bad.
So, I used my Mobile Shop Cart with my miter saw attached to cut the columns. Since the columns were heavy and hard to manage, I laid it across the sawhorses and positioned my cart under the cutting end of the column to cut it to length. The cart came in handy for this, but you could also use a circular saw to achieve the same results. If you’re interested in the Mobile Shop Cart, here are the plans for it.
Step 4: Cut One Column at a Time and Install Base
Only cut one column at a time to make sure you’re replacing the new column at the exact height as the old one. Using my sliding compound miter saw, I cut the column to length. You could use a regular circular saw, but with a 12” saw I only had to rotate the column once to cut it all the way through. If you’re using a circular saw make sure you make your marks all the way around the column to help guide you as you rotate it for each cut. Once you have the column cut to length, add a base to the bottom. I used a galvanized post base on each of my new columns. This allows water to move freely under the column without making contact with the column. This will help prevent rot in the future.
Step 5: Using the Support Post and Jack
Now that you have the new column ready to be installed, you need to cut the support post to length. You also need a floor jack for this project to raise the porch a little. The support post and jack work together, which is why the support post needs to be a certain length to work properly. First of all, depending on what floor jack you’re using, figure out the height range the floor jack will go, then measure the total length of the existing column you’re about to remove. Subtract the mid range measurement of the floor jack from the total length of the existing column and cut the support post to that measurement. For example, if your floor jack has a range of 5 to 13 inches and the total length of the existing column is 87 inches, you would subtract 9 from 87, which is 78 inches. 78 inches is the length you would want to cut the support post to. The goal here is to not have the support post too short.
After cutting the support post to length, you can place it on the floor jack next to the column you’re about to replace. Leave a gap big enough to install a bigger column back in the same location (and to get a reciprocating saw between). Using the jack handle, slowly jack the support post up until it reaches the header. Before you go any further, make sure the support post is centered and secure on the floor jack and level. Continue to jack the support post up until you can slightly move the existing column. At this point you want to remove the existing column by cutting it into with a reciprocating saw. Be sure to cut away from the support post and jack and NOT towards it. You don’t want to knock the support post off the jack. When you have completely cut the existing column into, you’ll more than likely have to detach the top of the column from the header. Mine was attached with nails and all I had to do was work it back and forth until it came loose.
Step 6: Installing a New Column
Place the new column, with base attached, into the same location as the old column. If you’re replacing the old with a bigger column (4x4 vs 6x6), you’re base may or may not hang off the edge of the porch and that is ok as long as you’re using flush bottom bases. Position the new column so that it’s relatively in the same place as the old one. Using a level, make sure the new column is level from from left to right and front to back. Once you have it leveled and you’re happy with its placement, slowly let the support post down by twisting the floor jack handle. Depending on what jack you’re using, it may release different than twisting the handle. Regardless, release the pressure of the jack slowly until the support post comes loose. Be careful here as the support post will want to fall, so be ready to catch it or have someone with you to give you a hand.
Step 7: Secure the New Column
You have the column set, so it’s time to secure the column in place. The column base that you’re using will most likely have holes in the edge to allow you to secure the base to the porch floor. Just make sure you use the right bit and size. I opted not to do this, but I did secure the columns to the header with screws. I secured each column on the upper ends to the header on two sides. I started the screws with my impact driver, going straight in and as the screw started going in I angled it up and into the header. I refer to this method as toenailing.
Step 8: Installing Half Columns - Cut the Column in Half
Follow the first three steps for installing full columns without using the bases.
At this point you have any old railings removed, the new column stained, and cut to length. If you’re using 4x4’s as your new columns you shouldn’t have a hard time cutting them in half, but if you’re using 6x6’s like I did you’ll have slightly more work to do. I started by finding center of the column and “popping” a chalk line using a chalk box. Using a circular saw, I cut along the chalk line at full depth on opposite sides. A standard circular saw will not cut a 6x6 in half, so I had to finish cutting the remaining center material with a reciprocating saw. If I had a beam saw. I could’ve completed this task with one pass, but because it took several passes I had uneven surfaces.
Step 9: Clean Up the Uneven Surfaces
Step 10: Removing Old Half Columns
Removing old half columns isn’t so bad. I took a crow bar and hammer, being careful not to damage the house/structure, and pried the old column away from the wall. I then cleaned up the surface where the new half column would be mounted.
Step 11: Installing Half Columns
Without bases on the half columns, you’ll want them mounted off the ground to avoid water damaged. So, at this point if they’re too long, trim them to an appropriate length. Pre-drill holes straight through the column in areas that the column will make contact to the structure you’re mounting it to. I installed six to eight 3.5” screws into a 7.5 foot half column to ensure they were secure. You could also add some type of construction adhesive for added security. Start each screw into the half column before trying to mount them and have your level ready. I mounted mine by myself, but I recommend having someone help you if you’re not able to hold a lot of weight on your own. Hold the column in place and drive one of the top screws in. One screw will hold it long enough to level it up. Once you have the column level, drive the rest of the screws in while checking for level. Touch up the edges and screw holes with stain when you’re done.
Step 12: Final Thoughts
The new columns were a great weekend project that added a ton of curb appeal to the house. Not only did I learn a lot with this project, I also gained a lot of confidence in my ability to make home improvements on my own saving money and adding value. I have a few more projects to complete to round out this home improvement series. I hope you will follow along by joining my newsletter and subscribing to my YouTube channel . The next series up will be my patio makeover including projects like an outdoor kitchen, pergola, patio chairs, and more outdoor furniture.
Also, I would love to hear what you thought about this article and project. Leave me a comment down below to let me know you stopped by. I love hearing from my visitors!