Just to be clear, George has never been to my actual house. However, when I noticed my front porch column was completely rotted, my first thought was to bust out my copy of By Hand & Eye.
This is when I noticed it last spring
This is what I’ve been staying at
This is how bad it was
My next stop was my father-in-law who was an industrial arts teacher before becoming a full time shop foreman at a machine shop. He busted out his drafting kit and gave me a lesson on how to create a simple scaled drawing. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted in new posts but I knew I didn’t want something you see in a new housing development where the 1x material dictates the dimensions and look of the columns. As I explained whole number ratios and pre-industrial artisans my father-in-law looked at me skeptically. He’s more of a tape measure and shop drawings kinda guy. Not wanting to get into an argument we tried a few different things and settled on the drawing below.
For the record: I pointed out the plinth to overall height was 1:5 and the cap to plinth was 1:3. He said, “nonsense.” I showed him the math. He’s not a convert but he was impressed.
So with a plan in hand, I headed to the home center to buy some pressure treated 4×6’s and PVC 1x material. The purchasing process was much more of a nightmare than I could’ve imagined but eventually I got the right material and on a hot June Saturday we took out the old “posts” (1×6 untreated hollow boxes) and put up the now structurally sound 4×6’s.
End of day 1
A few weeks later we wrapped the columns with PVC. I will tell you: this stuff isn’t great to work with. First off, it’s stinks when you cut it. Secondly, the fine dust gets all of your sweaty arms and face. Thirdly, it’s pretty expensive. But I’d do it all over again due to it’s longevity.
The look for most of the summer
My front porch looked like this for most of the summer and several neighbors commented that it looked great. But I felt George Walker cringing every time I pulled into the driveway and looked at it. I was determined to put some moulding on the columns but I couldn’t find any stock moulding at my local home centers. I looked online but still couldn’t find anything either (at least not easily). So, I took the leftover material from the posts and started playing around with different router bits.
Trimming the routed edges on the tablesaw
Here’s the setup for longer runs of moulding
I’ve never made my own moulding before but I think it’s something I’ll try in the future – just not with PVC. It was tough to hold when routing but I kept reminding myself this is more carpentry than fine woodworking. I was able to create a bunch of different mouldings in the shop giving me options when I went to install. I settled on a roundover for the top of the plinth and a small cove for the top cap. The final step was to send the family away so I could spend some time putting the trim and moulding up.
Here I’m holding up the pieces to ensure I got the ratios right
Here’s what it looked like without the moulding
I used a dull blade but a nice mitre box for the moulding
I got the cuts pretty tight most of the time
I still need to caulk and paint but the painting will likely wait until next spring where we” do an overhaul to the door and the rest of the trim. I’m quite happy with the results but if anyone knows of where to get good PVC moulding I’m all ears.