If you are building a new porch or updating your old one, choosing the right columns is one of the most important aspects of the job. Wood is the most common material, but what kind of wood is best?
This article will take you through some of the best types of wood for exterior columns and give you an idea of what to look for when selecting columns for your porch.
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Does it Matter What Wood I Use for Porch Columns?
Yes, it matters what type of wood you use for your porch columns. They need to stand up to a lot of wear and tear from the weather, so you need something that is durable and resistant to moisture. Wood that has a natural resistance to mold and mildew is good too.
The climate is very important when making your decision because that will give you an indication of what your priorities should be. For example, moisture resistance should be top of your list in a rainy climate. However, if you experience a lot of rapid temperature changes, you need a more pliable wood that can contract and expand a lot without cracking.
As well as durability, you need to think about aesthetics too. The columns frame your porch, so you want them to look great. Are you going to leave the natural wood and protect it with a clear coat or do you want to paint or stain it? Different types of wood take treatments better than others and you need to take this into account.
Choosing the wrong type of wood for exterior columns leads to more maintenance in the long term and you will need to replace your columns more often. Keep reading to learn more about the best types of wood for exterior columns and the pros and cons of each.
10 Best Types of Wood for Exterior Columns
Mahogany is a beautiful type of wood that has a deep, rich color. It is very durable and resistant to moisture, making it ideal for porch columns. It has one of the highest water resistance ratings of any wood, so if you live in a rainy climate, you should consider it for your columns.
Mahogany also takes finishes well, so you can leave it natural or stain it any color you like. Even though mahogany has very high water resistance, you should still seal it for outdoor use to protect it against fading in the sun and increase its longevity.
It’s ideal for round, square, rectangular, and octagon columns and works brilliantly if you are going for a classic look.
However, mahogany is not the cheapest type of wood and it is quite heavy to work with. If you are trying to build your porch on a budget, mahogany might not be the best choice and there are some more affordable alternatives. However, if you are willing to spend a bit more, mahogany is the hardiest option for exterior columns.
Oak is another great choice for porch columns. It is a hardwood that has great strength and stability. This is very important in a porch column that has to bear a lot of weight. This dimensional stability also prevents too much fluctuation due to temperature changes, so your columns won’t crack and split.
Oak also has a natural resistance to mold and mildew, making it a good option for humid climates. Oak is available in a range of colors, from light yellow to dark red, so you can find one that will match your home’s aesthetic.
If left untreated, the Oak will still hold up to the elements. However, the sun will cause it to fade to a gray color in a year or so. If you want to retain the color, you should use a sealer on it. Alternatively, you can paint it.
Oak is another wood species that is fairly expensive, but it if you want a durable wood for columns.
Birch is not the hardest wood, but it has great strength properties and works perfectly for exterior columns. It can be used for columns of all shapes and sizes and it is very rot-resistant, making it good for wet climates.
However, the main reason that people use birch over other species of wood is the aesthetics. The grain is very wavy and unique, and it is knot-free, so you get a nice even appearance. Using a clear sealer is best for birch columns so you can still see the beautiful grain.
Cedar is a good option if you want an easier DIY job because it is very lightweight compared to options like birch or mahogany. However, it is still one of the most durable and rot-resistant woods out there. It also has a natural resistance to insects, making it a good choice if you are worried about bugs getting into your porch columns.
Cedar is available in a range of colors, from light pink to dark brown, so you can find one that will match your home’s style. It also takes finishes very well, so you can leave it natural or paint it any color you like.
One downside of cedar is that it can warp in extreme weather conditions. If you live in a hot, humid climate, cedar might not be the best choice for your porch columns.
Maple is a strong, hard wood that is perfect for porch columns, and it is very affordable. It has excellent qualities, especially considering the price, and it is more than sturdy enough for your columns. The slight pink tinge gives maple a unique look that works very nicely on a modern home.
You can use maple for a variety of different types of columns and it will last for years to come. However, maple needs more maintenance than other types of wood when it is used for exterior columns. Make sure that you either paint with a good quality exterior paint or use a clear sealer like spar urethane on a regular basis to give maple columns the extra protection that they need.
Redwood is a great option for porch columns because it is one of the hardest woods that you can use. It also has a very nice finish, so it doesn’t need to be painted if you don’t want to. Redwood is available in a range of different colors, from light pink to dark brown. It’s also a non-toxic wood, which may be a priority for some people, although it’s less of an issue if you are using it outside.
The only potential downside of using redwood for your columns is that it is more prone to scratching and denting than other types of wood. However, you can get around this quite easily by using a good quality sealer. If you do damage the columns, they can be sanded and resealed easily.
Cherry is one of the easiest types of wood to work with, so if you are installing the columns yourself and you don’t have a huge amount of experience, this is a good choice. Cherry also has a great aesthetic, so it’s very popular for porch columns.
Cherry is on the expensive side, but it’s worth paying the extra if you want a lightweight wood that is simple to work with. It has a lower strength rating than other species on this list and may not last as long as something like mahogany, but it is still durable enough for your porch columns.
Fir is one of the best budget options because it still offers great weather resistance and it still has reasonably good strength properties. It is a softwood that is lightweight and easy to handle, making it good for DIY porch projects. Fir also has a natural resistance to fungus which is important if you live in a humid climate where mold and mildew thrives.
Fir is especially good in climates where the temperature fluctuates a lot because it has low shrinkage and warp. Although it isn’t the strongest wood available available,, it perfect for people who want a cheap and easy option.
Spruce is very similar in strength and weather resistance to pine and it’s another great affordable option. It can take plenty of weight so it’s suitable for columns, but it is more prone to warping than fir, so it isn’t as well suited to changeable climates. It also dries very quickly, so if moisture does soak into the wood, it will not sit for too long and cause damage.
The natural appearance of spruce is fairly dull, so it works best when painted. You need to keep on top of maintenance too because the weather protection is not as good as some more expensive types of wood. That said, it still makes an excellent budget choice for your exterior columns.
Pine is a popular choice for exterior porch columns because it will not shrink, warp, or change shape under even the most extreme weather conditions. It’s a very soft wood that is easy to cut and handle, so you can use it for all types of porch columns.
It’s also readily available and affordable, so you don’t need to worry about issues with sourcing materials for your project. However, pine does require more regular maintenance to protect it from the weather. It takes paint nicely or you can stain and seal the wood.
RELATED: Read our 9 Best Types of Wood for Exterior Gates
Can You Use Materials Other than Wood for Porch Columns?
While wood is the most popular material for porch columns, it’s not your only option. You could also use:
This is a popular choice for people who want a really sturdy column that will last forever. It’s not the cheapest option, but it’s definitely one of the most durable. You won’t have to do regular maintenance on concrete either, apart from the occasional cleaning.
Stone can be a beautiful choice for porch columns, but it’s also the most expensive option. It needs regular maintenance to keep it looking good and it can be quite heavy, so you need to make sure your porch is strong enough to support it.
Metal columns are a great option if you want something that is weather-resistant and doesn’t require any maintenance. However, they are not always the most attractive choice and they can be quite expensive.
Fiberglass is a good material if you want something that is lightweight and weather resistant. It doesn’t require any maintenance and comes in a range of different styles, so you can find something that suits your home. The only downside is that it can be quite expensive.
There is no one perfect material for porch columns. It really depends on your individual needs, what you are willing to spend, and the climate that you live in. If money isn’t an issue, options like mahogany and oak are worth the investment. However, if you are working with a smaller budget, there are still some excellent, durable wood types you can use for exterior columns.
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.