I would like to replace the wood columns with a different material like concrete (or something durable). My porch size is about 12x12 feet. I'm not sure about the column height, maybe about 15-20 feet. Do you have a ballpark on how much this will cost?
Connie ~ Portland, Oregon
Hi Connie, I hate to be vague, but there are a lot of options when it comes to pricing front porch columns and some variables that must be determined. One of the most important issues is whether the columns are structural or decorative. The fact that they are 15-20 feet tall would lead me to believe that they are structural, but a 12 x 12 feet porch is fairly small, so they might not be structural after all.
What I am referring to when I talk about structural or decorative is whether the front porch columns are needed to support the load of anything above them such as the porch roof or the second story of your home. In some cases a porch roof or second story cantilevers out and is self supporting and when this happens the porch columns may be purely decorative. However, if the columns are carrying the load that is above them, then they must be engineered to weight bearing specifications for that use.
There are a number of options for front porch columns if you want to stay away from wood columns, which may be a good idea considering the climate in Oregon. If the columns need to be structural, you can use steel columns to support the weight and then place an aluminum shell around the steel to make them more appealing. It may also be possible to brick around the steel columns; I have done that before and it looks very nice. There are columns available in fiberglass and other synthetic materials that can be purchased as structural columns. These types don't need a steel column inside them; they are manufactured to be structural. They would need to be painted every so often, but would be resistant to rotting or insect problems. A fiberglass column 20 feet tall would need to be fairly substantial if it was structural and could be 12 or 14 inches at the base.
As you can tell, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered before you can get any accurate cost figures. My suggestion would be to have a reputable contractor around Portland come out and let you know whether the columns need to be structural. They should be able to tell by looking at the framing configuration above the columns. I would also have them double check the height of the columns, 15 or 20 feet tall seems very high for a front porch column unless you have a colonial type front elevation.
For some ballpark costs, though, I would say you can figure at least $400-$500 per column for labor and material for aluminum or fiberglass columns, as a column that large is going to be somewhat expensive and difficult to set into place.