Exterior Column Materials: Why Stucco is Superior

Published: 26th February 2010
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Completely new materials are always emerging to reinvent the way we construct buildings. Solutions exist currently which - at the same time - decrease the cost to manufacture and construct, while increasing the life of the house over the long term. These materials typically remain unknown to home owners while the skilled building tradespeople reap the rewards. Stucco columns are one of these material.

Exterior columns are manufactured from a designed eps core that is cut from lightweight expanded polystyrene (EPS) then layered with alkali-resistant fiber-glass mesh and then run through an extruder - layering a thin, but long-lasting coating which appears like precast cement. It is very important for you to be conscious that hardly any purported stucco column producers make their products in the same manner - various using less expensive materials to be able to drive the price down, at the cost of durability.

The key points you need to check when selecting a manufacturer are these:
1) The styrofoam is made from Type 1 (1 pound per cubic foot), virgin (not recycled) EPS that is "oven cured"
2) The fiberglass mesh is alkali-resistant (a specific coating that prevents it from being broken down by the cement)
3) The cement coating is extruded in 2 layers, in separate runs so that the first layer is allowed to cure before the second is done. An "acrylic binder" - a type of glue - should be combined with the cement coating which increases the impact resistance of the coating, while making it more flexible to prevent cracking of the final layer.

It is unfortunate that more home owners are unedcuated about the ins and outs of the manufacturing process, as the 3 items above may literally make the difference between whether a column lasts for 3 years before deteriorating, or 25+ years in perfect condition.

Exterior columns have become popular in home renovations due to the ease of installation around existing posts or columns. Delivered in halves, the column cores can be cut to any size required to be placed around unsightly supporting members to retrofit the look of the house. The two halves can be glued together using a construction adhesive suitable for expanded polystyrene (such as PL Premium) or a cementitious adhesive product from a local Dryvit distributor - use of a rope or similar binding method is recommended to ensure a solid fit until the adhesives dry, typically 24 hours.

That is not to say they are load bearing, if the columns themselves are required to be load bearing then another materials such as concrete or fibreglass would be better suited. This point is easily worked around by using a structural post made of either wood or metal at the required load bearing points, and simply wrapping the column halves around it. Comparable load-bearing concrete columns would cost thousands of dollars to supply AND install, making stucco columns an ideal alternative.

Far from just supplying columns, many suppliers also carry basic caps & bases, as well as luxurious corinthian, ionic and doric caps & bases. These caps and bases are installed in the same fashion as the columns themselves - by wrapping the two column halves around a center pole, and having the column sit on top in the case of a base and below in the case of a cap.

Coloring options are infinite, allowing the home owner to match the column to their home or make the columns contrast as a design element. Exterior columns are supplied in the factory cement-color of the coating, and are painted using an exterior-grade masonry paint purchased from a local hardware store, or an EIFS manufacturer. 2 coats is usually recommended to guarantee full consistency of the color, and to protect the cementitious coating from the weather. If the right manufacturer is selected, the paint coating is actually partially absorbed into the cement coating, forming a seamless coating that will not peel and flake off over time.

As a project manager, Jim Schwarz has helped many home owners choose the right materials for their home renovation projects or new construction. Whenever it comes to exterior columns though, he always recommends Decoramould.

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