Best Wood for Exterior Columns for Your Front Porch

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Designing a porch is an art in itself, and choosing the right material for your columns can make or break the look and functionality. Fortunately, readily available wood has always been a popular material, due to its great support and durability for exterior use. 

But what is the best wood for exterior columns? I’ll walk you through some of the best choices and provide insights to ensure your designs stand tall and look grand!

What’s an Exterior Column? Does the Wood You’ll Use Matter?

Structural columns, typically found in architecture and engineering projects, provide the necessary support for beams or arches that bear the weight of ceilings and walls. 

By transferring compression from upper elements to those below them, these pillars ensure buildings remain stable throughout their lifetime. 

The wood you will use matters. When selecting wood for porch columns, it is important to evaluate the climate to prioritize your material requirements. You should also take into consideration its durability and aesthetic appeal. 

front porch

Based on the look you’re aiming for, you have the choice to either preserve the wood’s natural beauty or opt for painting/staining. However, it’s vital to treat certain woods with extra care to get your desired finish and ensure longevity.

Why Opt for Wooden Columns? 5 Main Benefits

Exterior columns support much more than just structural integrity; they also add a decorative flair to any building. But beyond simply looking pleasing, these pillars offer some benefits:

1. Natural Beauty & Aesthetics

Columns and pillars give an elegant and timeless appearance to any building. Ornate capitals provide a stylish and decorative touch that can enhance the overall exterior aesthetic of the entire house.

2. Durable and with Minimal Heat Deterioration

Homeowners increasingly recognize the value of structural columns. Not only do they add a touch of style to any home, but their durability ensures that the look will last for many years – even decades!

3. Helps Sound Absorption

Wooden columns have natural sound-absorbing properties, which makes them an ideal choice for anyone looking to reduce the amount of ambient noise in their surrounding environment.

house porch

4. Practical Advantages (Supporting Structures, Etc.)

Exterior columns play an important role in securing the longevity of porch and deck roofs. With their capacity to bear significant weight, these structures can guarantee solid support for years to come.

5. Various Designs

Structural columns bring an appealing touch to any interior design. Numerous options are available, from stone and wooden pillars to fiberglass designs in a variety of shapes and styles.

11 Recommended Wood Types for Exterior Columns

1. Birch

milling Birch wood

For an exterior column with a stable, high-density material and attractive aesthetic look, birch wood is the ideal choice. Its straight strain of pores and waves adds distinct character to any porch or feature. 

Its fine grain offers great durability compared to other hardwoods or softwoods used in construction. Plus, you have the option to explore various stains and finishes that can bring out rich color tones in your project.

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Cons

2. Cherry

milled Cherry wood

With its distinct reddish-brown hue, cherry wood is a popular choice among even novice woodworkers to create beautiful exterior columns. Its workability and finishing properties make it easy to glue, nail, polish, or screw for an attractive result. 

In fact, this type of wood stains well, but make sure you know the right technique in staining cherry for better results. 

While relatively soft compared to other hardwoods, it makes the process straightforward for beginners. This timber offers impressive strength with lasting good looks when used in outdoor applications such as column construction.

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3. Maple

maple soft wood

Maple has proven to be an ideal choice for exterior columns due to its affordability and excellent durability. Its unique color—a creamy sapwood with soft pink-brownish undertonesoffers both traditional charm and contemporary appeal. 

Experienced woodworkers may find the maple hard to work with, but those new to the craft can use it confidently, knowing that proper care will ensure long-lasting results in their projects! 

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4. Mahogany

Mahogany lumber

Mahogany is superior for crafting exterior wood columns due to its astounding resistance against moisture and water. This makes this type of timber highly durable, making it a great choice in terms of both strength and longevity.

Its ability to withstand harsh weather conditions also comes at an extra cost compared with other woods – but the added expense more than pays off in protection from the elements over time!

Mahogany wood is undeniably attractive, with its unique reddish-brown hue lending a classical touch to any area. Its durability and strength also make it an ideal choice for outdoor columns. 

However, mahogany’s weight and challenging nature make it more suited for professionals or those with extensive woodworking experience. And as you can probably guess, given its premium attributes, it does come with a heftier price tag.

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5. Douglas Fir

Douglas Fir lumber

Douglas fir is one of the best wood for exterior columns, offering both economy and good finishing properties. It boasts strength that rivals hardwoods while also being extremely durable in harsh weather conditions with low shrinkage or warping potential. 

Additionally, Douglas fir resists fungal and insect attacks without the need for a finish coat to protect it. 

Beginner woodworkers will appreciate Douglas fir for its lightweight and ease of handling, which are ideal characteristics that make it perfect to be worked with. However, due to the coarse texture, more experienced craftsmen must rely on power tools for a satisfying finish.

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6. Redwood

Redwood

Redwood is a great choice for woodworking projects, particularly exterior columns. Its durability and attractive grain make it especially striking as part of the architecture of your home. 

Though redwood may dent or scratch more easily than some other woods, this can be mitigated by properly sanding and sealing it with a finisher or sealer afterward. 

Furthermore, its lack of harmful chemicals and fumes makes it safe to use in any living environment – plus, its natural decay-resistant qualities mean that outdoor usage won’t quickly cause damage due to weather exposure over time.

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7. Red or White Oak

quarter sawn Red Oak

Oak is renowned for its superior strength and durability, making it an ideal choice for exterior columns that must withstand harsh weather conditions. 

Red oak boasts a white-to-brown color scheme with striking growth rings offering dramatic light-to-dark tones in the wood grain. White oak provides lighter hues paired with intricate swirls of darker character marks across the surface.

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8. Cedar

Red Cedar lumber

Cedarwood is an excellent choice for both novice and experienced woodworkers, providing superior workability and durability- perfect for crafting eye-catching exterior columns. 

Its pinkish-red texture gives a vibrant look to your home’s façade, while the lightweight material makes it easy to manipulate. Aside exterior columns, it’s one of the best wood for making bed frames

Cedar also provides natural weather resistance due to its rot-resistant properties, although sealing may be required to prevent discoloration from oils or chemicals absorbed into its porous structure.

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9. Yellow Pine

Pine lumber

Yellow pine is a popular choice for exterior columns due to its affordability, workability, and machinability. This softwood features pleasant grain characteristics that make it easy to handle and cut. 

What I particularly appreciate about this wood is the absence of any harmful chemicals or off-putting fumes, which makes the process not just efficient but also safer for both the craftsman and the environment.

Finishing is important to protect from moisture damage, but an additional benefit of using yellow pine is that it won’t expand/contract when faced with temperature changes.

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10. Poplar

Poplar

Poplar is an ideal option for making exterior columns as it’s much easier to work with than other hardwoods. 

An advantage of poplar over most hardwood species is that it responds well to manipulation through sawing and routing, but if you decide on using this material, make sure your focus lies in getting a good finish as opposed to relying on strength alone.

But is poplar good for outside use? Find out next!

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11. Spruce

Spruce lumber

Spruce is an ideal wood for porch columns. It mirrors the qualities of Douglas fir at a more affordable price. 

I often lean towards spruce because of its strength, resilience against the elements, and suitability for painting. The subtle, muted appearance of spruce naturally draws attention, and the fact that it’s not as commonly found as other woods only enhances its charm.

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Wood Types To Use for Wrap Exterior Columns

Cedar and Pinewood are the best wood materials of choice for durable exterior columns that stand the test of time. Their superior weather resistance ensures a long-lasting finish. 

Their affordability makes them an economical solution, too. For added visual interest, these woods can be stained or painted to your desired effect!

Choosing the Right Wood for Outdoor Columns

When it comes to exterior columns, selecting the right type of wood is crucial for durability and weather resistance. Before you settle on a choice, I’d recommend taking into account several key factors below. These can greatly influence both the lifespan and the visual charm of your columns.

Pressure-Treated Wood

Pressure-treated wood has numerous advantages: pressure-treated lumber is more resilient to decomposition, insect infestations, and mold growth; plus, pressure-treated wood often comes fireproofed for added protection.

lumber pressure treated

Kiln Dried

To ensure maximum durability, go with kiln-dried after treatment or KDAT wood. Unlike pressure-treating, which is slow and requires weeks of air drying to work effectively, the kiln-drying process takes much less time.

Shape

Exterior wooden columns are typically either round columns or octagonal since these shapes provide the best structural support. If you prefer more angular options, though, strong hardwoods will ensure your square and rectangular columns can bear the load.

Turned

Turned columns can be used to add a touch of elegance and support to your porch. Often referred it as Victorian, they are distinctively patterned with circles or profile lines between their two square ends. 

Victorian style porch

Round & Octagon

Professionals usually build round wooden exterior columns, constructing them with mitered edges using molders for the desired shape. 

Octagons look like round columns but have eight pieces instead of six joined at 22.5 degrees angle – which anyone can do by using waterproof glue and nylon strap clamps!

Square & Rectangular

When constructing square or rectangular columns, an array of woods allows for a range suited to any budget. 

Weather Resistance

An example would be using moisture-repellent woods if you live in a rainy area or investing in wooden posts with water-resistant coatings to help prevent warping when temperatures dip low during wintertime.

Weight-Bearing

Carefully select the wood you use and check its weight-bearing capacity with the manufacturer. A deceptively thick exterior can conceal hollow insides that cannot handle an adequate load!

installing wooden column

Style of the Columns

Wood for exterior columns comes in an array of designs, making it easy to find the perfect fit for your outdoor space.

Basic Vertical Beams

Not only do they complement the existing ornate features of your home, but they also blend seamlessly into all-wood banisters and railing paneling that aesthetically ties everything together.

Porch Column Wraps

These striking, decorative covers on your existing porch column not only add aesthetic value to your home but are also designed to remain purely ornamental and to wrap porch posts and not bear any load weight.

Buttress-Style Porch Posts

This style of posts is an excellent way to introduce unique design elements while enhancing the structural integrity of your home in a visually effective way.

Multi-Level Exterior Wood Posts

Double-decker porches can be transformed into architectural statement pieces with the use of multi-level posts.

front porch columns

Other Styles

Enhance your home’s exterior with these several other column styles: Twin posts, Wood post designs, Victorian-style columns, and the Colonial style.

How to Prevent Wood Columns From Rotting + Wood Porch Maintenance Tips

Proper maintenance is the key to preserving wood porch columns for your porch. Follow these helpful tips and enjoy an enduring, beautiful structure:

Opt for a Rot-Resistant Wood

To begin building porch posts that can withstand the elements, seek out exterior wood columns like Maple, Mahogany, and Redwood. These are naturally rot-resistant woods.

Consider Priming and Painting the Shafts

Protect your columns from moisture damage with a durable coat of paint grade or stain.

Avoid Drilling holes at the Shaft’s Bottom

Avoid water leakage and maximize stability by using a solid base with ventilation slots to securely install your column. 

man installing porch column

Pick the Right Base

With aluminum plinths [1] and synthetic bases, you can guarantee constant airflow beneath your column to reduce moisture absorption.

Signs of Rotting to Look Out For

Inspections of wooden columns should be regularly conducted to detect any potential signs of rot. Warning indicators include:

Alternatives to Wood for Making Porch Columns

If you want to spice up your porch with stylish columns, you can also opt for alternative exterior porch columns like:

Concrete

For long-lasting dependability, concrete porch columns are the way to go.

building a stone column

Stone

Stone exterior porch columns can create a truly stunning impression, but it is important to take into account the cost and maintenance required.

Metal

Metal porch columns can offer superior protection from the elements, but they may not be visually appealing and come at a higher cost. 

Fiberglass

Fiberglass columns are an ideal material for those looking to balance weight, weatherproofing, and style without the upkeep. 

FAQ

How much is a wood column?

Basic exterior wood models cost approximately $225 each. Premium redwood posts come in at roughly $500 per piece. Installation costs typically begin at around $50 per post.

What’s the ideal paint for outdoor wood columns?

Protect your exterior porch columns from the elements with a long-lasting coating of oil-based or top-quality acrylic paint. Modern, improved formulas ensure that even exterior wood columns won’t crack due to weathering and wear.

Are columns made with vinyl good?

Yes, vinyl exterior columns offer countless advantages when used to support the porch roof. Low maintenance, no rusting, and impressive strength come standard.

Conclusion

Wood columns offer an attractive, durable alternative to brick porch columns. While it’s both cost-effective and easy to maintain, it’s crucial that you pick the best wood for exterior columns that suits your environment and home aesthetics.

 With the right care, these elegant pillars can stand tall and proud for many years to come!

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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