We were wondering if we should replace the base of our column because of rotting wood or rebuild the section with epoxy?
Porch column bases made of wood are often attacked by fungal decay because moisture builds up deep within the wood. Chisel out the soft decayed wood back to sound wood to determine the extent of the damage. If the rotten section of wood is small, say less that six cubic inches, near the surface and there is sound wood beneath the decay, then an epoxy/wood repair can make sense. First the wood must dry out, which can take a few to several weeks. Epoxy consolidants are thick syrupy liquids that cure to form a flexible plastic. Soak the repair area with liquid epoxy consolidant to stabilize and prime the wood surfaces. Then fill the void with epoxy paste filler, which is the consistency of mashed potatoes. It cures to form a solid mass that can be shaped to match the surrounding wood with ordinary woodworking tools.
If the decay runs deep into the column base, or if it is larger that six cubic inches you have a more serious situation. Repair or replacement of column base parts should be done by a contractor with plenty of old house structural experience. Be sure to locate and eliminate the source of moisture that caused the decay, or your column bases will just continue to decay. If you cannot control the moisture consider replacing the wood bases with ones made of aluminum.
John Leeke is a preservation consultant who helps homeowners, contractors and architects understand and maintain their historic buildings. You can contact him at 26 Higgins St., Portland, Maine, 04103; or by E-mail: johnleeke@HistoricHomeWorks.com; or log onto his website at: www.HistoricHomeWorks.com
© John Leeke