This project illustrates the replacement of deteriorating wood columns with custom fiberglass columns made by Devereaux Designs, Inc. on this Federal-style architecture house in Virginia.
Rotted Wood Columns
The Federal-style house was built in 1980 using wood columns salvaged from a much older building in South Carolina. Over the past 30 years, the old wood columns were infested by wood boring beetles and the bottoms rotted from moisture due to contact with the concrete plinths (bases).
The following image is a closeup of the wood column water damage on the concrete plinth. The plinth has ventilation slots just above the brick patio, however the problem is the wood wicks moisture from the plinth and rots. Attempts to repair the wood rot by sawing a few inches of the column and installing concrete doughnut plinths to make up the difference only prolonged the inevitable rot cycle.
Architectural Fiberglass Columns by Devereaux Designs, Inc.
After hours of online research and talking with column sales companies, fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) columns made by Devereaux Designs, Inc. were selected because:
- Devereaux Designs is a manufacturer of columns, capitals and plinths.
- Fiberglass does not rot and is insect- and water proof.
- The fluted columns were made to exact custom dimensions:
14 feet 10-5/8 inches tall, 28 inches base diameter and 23-1/2 inches top diameter.
- Each column has a load bearing capacity of 20,000 lbs.
Pound for pound, fiberglass is stronger than a wood or steel column.
- The fiberglass columns are relatively lightweight, each weighing approx. 250 lbs.
The Devereaux Designs column load bearing strength has been independently verified through destructive testing by the Cerny and Ivey Engineers, Inc. Testing Laboratory:
For example, the 24 inch base diameter fluted round (FR) column failed at 73,000 lbs maximum load! Of course, the rated load bearing capacity will be much less for a large safety factor in accordance with the Building Codes.
Fiberglass Columns – Factory Pickup
Devereaux Designs offers delivery and installation services, but in the true Do-It-Yourself (DIY) spirit of HandymanHowTo.com, the homeowner constructed a saddle frame to haul the fiberglass columns on a car trailer from the Devereaux factory in Georgia to the house in Virginia.
The frame is made of 2×4’s fastened together with wood screws and anchored to the trailer with nylon straps. Each strap is rated at 300 lbs working load for a total of 900 lbs holding strength at each corner, or 3,600 lbs total on the frame. Chains are bolted to the back of the trailer and sides of the frame, then tensioned with a come-along between the chains to prevent the frame from moving forward in a panic stop. A winch cable is attached to the front of the frame to prevent rearward movement.
The columns are rolled out from the Devereaux Designs factory floor to be loaded on the trailer. The columns are pre-primed and ready for the finish paint coat after installation.
The columns were loaded by two men onto the transport rig and clamped in place by the carpet lined saddles, which are fastened by screws to the wood frame. This proved to be a very stable and secure means of transport for these bulky items. Brad Aaron, Factory Manager, poses here with his company’s latest creation:
Mr. Aaron was very helpful and a wealth of column installation advice.
The columns rode very well on the 7 hour drive from the Georgia factory to the house in Virginia.
Devereaux Designs Factory Tour
The Devereaux Designs people were excellent hosts and took us on a factory tour. The factory produces columns, decorative capitols, outdoor trim and ceiling domes, but what was surprising is the wide variety of custom creations including architectural restoration work, historical reproductions and fanciful creations for amusement parks. Devereaux employs designers, artists and sculptors to create just about anything you can imagine and they will work with your architect.
Sample of the amazing creations by Devereaux Designs:
Trompe l´oeil fiberglass ceiling domes painted by a local artist. These domes are 3 feet in diameter.
An 11 foot diameter ceiling dome. The trim ring is designed to accept recessed lighting. My wife is asking me how we can get one of these built into my house!
Very elaborate Corinthian capitals crated and ready for shipment. Staff sculptors carve the intricate models for the fiberglass molds. Everything is produced on-site at the Devereaux Designs factory. Capitals are available in both load-bearing and non-load bearing designs.
More Corinthian capitals in the finishing area at the factory:
Fiberglass column molds and layup area at the factory. In principle, the process is similar to the construction of boat hulls.
The factory also produces many smaller items such as this dock box and decorative urn:
Coming soon! The new fiberglass columns are installed on the house in Virginia.