How to Install Load-Bearing Columns

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Properly supporting the load and installing the right column are the keys to successful installation.
Properly supporting the load and installing the right column are the keys to successful installation. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Correct installation is essential when erecting load-bearing columns. You will need a structural engineer or architect to determine the size of column required and how much weight it needs to support. The installation methods can vary widely from one brand of column to the next, but the basic installation procedure stays the same. Have your engineer or architect inspect the base where the column will rest, as well as all overhead structures to ensure they are sound before proceeding to install the column.

Things You'll Need

  • Screw jacks
  • Support post
  • Plumb bob
  • Properly sized columns
  • Column hardware as required
  • Column trim
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Fasteners
  • Level

Use a screw type post jack and post to lift, or support the overhead weight. A 4-by-4 post can be used to support up 7,000 pounds, larger loads require a 6-by-6 post for up to 11,000 pounds. Hire expert assistance for larger loads. Set the jack height ¼ inch above level to leave enough room for the post to be installed.

Measure the height of the area for the column. If your column is not ordered to height, it may need to be cut. Typically, columns are designed to be cut from the base only. Mark the column on all sides to locate the cut line and use a hand saw for a precision cut.

Use a plumb bob, hanging from the column's top placement to mark the exact position for the column on the floor. Mark at least four positions, denoting the thickness of the column on either side of the beam and along its length to ensure accurate placement.

Attach any connecting hardware, such as specialty wind sheer brackets or hurricane ties, at the top and bottom of the column before inserting it in place. Fit one-piece base and capitol trim that must be in place onto the ends of the column. Stand the column erect and move it into the marked position.

Check the column for level and plumb. Use shims, or adjust hardware as required to achieve a level stance to prevent slippage or settling. Attach the hardware at the base of the column. This can consist of screwed-down L brackets, or nail-down hurricane ties. Follow the specific instructions with your hardware for best results. In general, use the recommended fastener size, style and quantity. Drive screws with a cordless drill and install nails by hand with a hammer.

Lower the jack slowly to allow the weight to settle onto the column. Stay alert for signs of trouble, such as shifting, cracks or sudden sounds. Stop lowering immediately until any signs of problems are inspected and it is determined it is safe to continue. Lower the full weight of the beam onto the column and remove the support post.

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