Column Wraps -
Custom made from PVC
April 5, 2014 - May 6, 2014
There are three 4" x 8" posts
that support the balcony that overlooks the
backyard. They were originally, only in need of
a new paint job. Last year a shelter puppy we
adopted took a liking to these wood posts and
started gnawing on them. In addition to this,
the posts are favorites of the male dogs who love to
urinate on them, which means the posts get hosed down
frequently. The metal support brackets have
also rusted off. See the three posts before
There were the options of
replacing the posts or repairing the damage.
This would not prevent future damage by the dogs.
I decided that the best thing to do would be to
cover the post and totally encapsulate the wood from
any more weathering and doggie damage.
The posts are structurally sound and there is no
After searching on the web for solutions I came
across a line of products called PVC (polyvinyl
chloride) column wraps. Yep, same material used for
pipes. They come as a kit with snap-in-parts
that make covering a column quick and easy.
They also look elegant with moulding at the top and
The problem, I quickly discovered, was the size of
MY posts. All of the companies that make
the column wraps sell square column wraps for square
posts. 4" x 4", 6" x 6", 8" x 8", etc.
Dog chewing damage
the 8" x 8" column wraps would have worked for my
posts, making my posts any larger than what they
are, would be overkill. There is already very
little space on the cement patio here.
Also, I felt these grand column covers, would just look out
of place, on a house that has 4" x 8" posts and beams
The column wraps were also very pricey. At an
average cost of $179 per wrap for an 8" x 8" post.
I was looking at about $537 for the three columns.
Yikes, too much for my wallet!
I then came up with the idea of making my own column
wraps with PVC sheets. I could cut the sheets
with my table saw. Here in El Paso, very few
locations carry the PVC sheets. Locally I
could get a 4' x 8' x 3/8" thick sheet for $191.93.
I needed about 1-1/2 sheets for this project, which
means I would still need to purchase 2 full sheets.
So this would cost me about $400 with tax and I
would still have to cut the PVC sheets myself.
Next option was to find a company online that would
cut the sheets to the size I needed AND not kill me
on the shipping charges. What I discovered was
that the smaller the package, the cheaper the
shipping. If you ask a company to ship you
full sheets, you pay for trucking charges. A
smaller size can go through UPS or FedEx.
The company I found online was
Interstate Plastics which sells gray PVC
sheets in a variety of thicknesses and you can have
the sheets custom cut to the size you need. Color
did not really matter because I will be painting the
PVC. I really liked this website because you
can play with their price calculator trying
different thicknesses and dimensions until you get
the price that works for you.
Next I needed to determine exactly what size of
pieces I needed to get. A 4" x 8" piece of
wood is actually around 3 1/4" x 7 1/4". If I
just ordered based on a 4" x 8" measurement the PVC
sheets would not go snug up against the wood, which
is what I wanted AND I would be paying for more
material than I needed. So I measured the
beams and discovered I actually had a range between
3 1/4" - 3 3/8" and 7 1/4" - 7 3/8". I decided
to base my measurements for the PVC on 3 1/2" x 7
1/2", going up a 1/4" inch to be safe and to fit
around the T brace which is holding the posts to the
cross beam at the top.
I then decided on the thickness
of PVC I wanted. I really wanted the 1/2"
thickness, but the prices really jumped up. I
settled on the 1/4" to stay within budget. The
company does not do mitered cuts so I also had to
settle on putting the wraps together with butted
The length I needed was between 91" - 91 1/2".
I found on the website calculator, that there was no
difference in price between a 92" or 96" length cut,
so I ordered the maximum length of 96". I will
cut the actual length down with my table saw.
I ordered the following:
Six pieces - 1/4" thickness 3.5" x 96" = $63.78
Six pieces - 1/4" thickness 8" x 96" = $88.92
For a total of $152.70 + $60.85 shipping + $12.59
Tax = $226.14
I picked up some heavy duty PVC cement at the
hardware store for $8.98.
The PVC sheet pieces were ordered on April 2, 2014.
When I receive the sheets this project will proceed.
April 28 - 30, 2014
While I had been waiting for the PVC sheets to
arrive, I started and completed my storage shed
project before proceeding on this project.
the backyard storage shed, go here...
The PVC sheets arrived in one-eight foot long
cardboard box via UPS. The 12 sheets weighed a
little over 100 lbs. I opened the box to check on
the sheets and to move them from the middle of my
garage floor, where the UPS man had placed them.
I could not move this box by myself. So I moved a
few strips at a time. This material is v-e-r-y
slippery. DO NOT step on them, you will fall.
I checked the measurements of the strips. The
8" strips were actually 7-7/8". The 3.5" strips were
exactly 3.5". The missing 1/8" of an inch on
the 8" strip actually worked out OK with me because
I had allowed for a little play.
Keep this cutting discrepancy in mind, if ordering
from this company. I can see why this
happened. To cut six exactly 8" strips on a 4' x 8'
sheet. You would have to go into a second sheet
taking into account the blade width. You would
have a piece left over on the first sheet measuring
a little over 7". To save on material costs, I can
see why the company did this. Perhaps they thought I
would not notice the 1/8". Yeh, right! I
noticed. So if you need an exact
Some notes about these PVC
- It is very hard and dense material, not like
the PVC window trim sold at the hardware store
which has a lighter feel like wood moulding.
It is more like the polycarbonate sheets I
purchased for my entrance way window.
(See this here)
- Does not crack or shatter. After
dropping the sheets or them falling off my table
saw onto cement and then whacking them with a hammer.
No damage. However, the surface can be
- I was a little afraid to cut down
the length I needed on my table saw. It
actually cut very easily with my table saw, so I
worried for nothing. The edges were not
jagged. Remember I only have the 1/4" thickness.
I do not know how a table saw will work on this
material if it was thicker.
- You can drive a nail into it, if you hit it
hard enough and hit your nail with even force.
It is easier though, to pre-drill your holes.
- The material is a dust magnet.
- For painting, you will need to rough up the
slick surface with sand paper so the paint will
stick to it.
Time to put up the column
I first measured and then cut to size each strip
of the PVC. I had varying sizes to deal with,
so I had to measure each side on each post.
Exact length was not critical because I planned
to use moulding at the top and bottom to make caps
and bases for the columns.
Plan A -
The original plan had been to cement the three sides together
first. Then slip the PVC over the posts and then put
the 4th piece in place. I tried laying down the 8"
piece and then gluing the 3.5" pieces onto it with
the PVC glue. I even set-up a makeshift jig
with 3 sides of wood to keep everything square.
This was a bust. The 1/4" thickness was not
rigid enough and I could not get a good flat seal.
Perhaps with a thicker material, this would work.
I had never used PVC cement before. Boy, does
it dry fast. Like in seconds. Not enough time
to spread the cement then lay the pieces together
making sure they are square.
Plan B - Use a product like Liquid Nails to
glue the strip to the post. But the tube of
Liquid Nails I thought I had, had dried up.
Don't count this option out. It just might
work, but you would need a lot of clamps or bungee
cords to keep the strip in place on the post until
the adhesive sets. Or maybe a combination of
this and Plan C below.
Plan C - Nail the strips
to the posts. This did the trick. As
mentioned above, I had to pre-drill the holes
I placed each strip on top of a scrap piece of
wood I had set up on a couple of saw horses and
drilled the holes all at one time with a small
I spaced each row of holes about a foot apart.
Before placing the strips on the posts I had to
remove some rusted metal at the base of two of
strip set on top of piece of scrap wood to drill
Holes drilled in PVC strip
The brackets had rusted away.
However the metal rod that was inserted in the
base of the post into the cement was sound.
I then placed a butch of silicone around this
metal rod and on the cement were the PVC would
I then nailed the PVC strips to the wood with
finishing nails. Since the holes were
pre-drilled in the PVC, I was only hammering
into the wood. So they went up easily.
I started at the top and nailed my way down each
strip. Making sure the strip was centered
on the post at each row.
The photos below show the first
strip nailed in place and side view showing
thickness of the PVC sheet in relation to the post.
First side strip in place
view showing thickness of PVC strip against post
I then placed the other 3.5" strip onto the
The photo on the right shows the second strip in
I then put the outward 8" strip on, making sure
it covered the edges of the 3.5" strips equally.
Yes, there was some overlap in some areas with
the edges hanging over about 1/8" due to the
variations in the thickness of the post from
wear, paint, and damaged areas. If Plan A had
worked, I would not have had the overlap.
I could have trimmed the strips but I had
already planned to add some outside corner
moulding later, so I did not worry too much
about the overlap.
It took me an entire day to complete the first
post, because it was my test subject to work
through the steps.
The second and third posts only took a few hours
after I got into the swing of it.
Second side strip in place
Third side strip in place
Fourth side strip in place
Panel cut at top around the T-brace
|I did have to make
an additional cut for the inside 8" strip to
account for the T-brace that holds the column
onto the cross beam at the top. If I did
not make this cut, the PVC strip would not have
laid flat against the post.
The photo below shows all of the three posts
completely covered with the PVC sheet strips.
Yep, the posts kind of look like the black
monoliths from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
three posts now covered with PVC sheet strips
At this point, the posts are
covered, but I wanted to add a little flair to the
columns so I added a base and cap to each column. I
used 1" x 4" PVC trim on both areas. I made
mitered cuts and nailed each piece into place.
This is when I discovered you can nail through the
PVC sheets with enough force. It usually took
me about two or three hard whacks before I punched
through the sheet.
Before I placed the base and top moulding on, I
again placed a layer of silicone around the base and
placed the moulding on top of it, to further water
It is hard to tell on the photo, but the bases do go
right up against the edge of the cement. On
the post on the far left, in the photo below, it
actually hangs over about 1/4". This was
another reason I did not want to go with the
pre-made square column kits. It would have
hung over even more.
caps added onto each post
In the photos above, the posts do
not look half bad. But remember I still have
the some over lapping edges and the edges are not
totally air and water tight. So I picked up
some PVC outside corner moulding. Since I was
at the hardware store, I picked up some Liquid
Nails. After cutting the PVC moulding to size,
I glued the corner moulding onto the posts.
The corner moulding went up like a charm. I
did not even have to clamp it in place. I did
run my fingers up and down the moulding several
times to make sure it was pressing flush against the
I then caulked every single moulding edge top to
bottom to get rid of any any gaps. I counter
sunk any nails and filled the holes. The posts are
now air and water tight.
moulding added to each corner of posts and all
moulding edges caulked to prepare for paint
The only thing left to do, is to
paint the posts. I plan on using the light
green used on the shed on the posts and the darker
green on the base and caps. I will first go
over the dark gray PVC with some 220 grit sand paper
to rough it up a little. I will be using the
same oil based primer I have used on the wood,
followed by two coats of the latex paint.
Hopefully the paint will stick on the shiny surface.
First, I need to repair the decorative edge of the
crossbeam on the right. I need to strip,
repair, and sand the damaged wood before priming.
I hate using oil based paint because of the
clean-up. So when I prime this wood, I will prime
the columns at the same time.
May 6, 2014 - After stripping the old
paint off of the decorative beam end and sanding
the wood down, I primed this section of the
beams and all of the new column covers.
It took a couple days to get this beam end
ready. The sun hits this area through the entire
morning and the early part of the afternoon.
I used an old patio umbrella to shade my head
while I scrapped and chipped away at the old
The oil exterior primer went on easily on the PVC
Since I was painting the entire area, a day was
spent caulking and scrapping down the other areas in
preparation for the overall paint job.
Removing paint from beam end
beam end and new column wraps primed with oil paint
The entire section around the
columns and the columns were then painted the light
and surrounding areas now painted light color
I was originally planning to
paint the capitals and bases the dark color but
decided to paint the entire column the dark color.
This was after I did some watering and discovered
that some of the dirt spattered on the column.
While the dirt was easily brushed off with a broom,
I decided the darker color would hide these
Photos below show the finished paint job.
now painted the darker color. (Far right beam base
is in sunlight)
The column wrap project is now complete.
I still need to paint the siding which is around
the windows at the back of the house.
I also need to paint the wood along the roof
line. I will need to rent a scaffold or
boom to do these areas.
The cement also needs to be coated with the
My next project for this area will be the screen
door pictured here with the doggy door.
There are several issues to address with this
Which I will cover on this