The columns that hold up your porch roof or other elements on your house exterior have a structural purpose, of course, but they also should provide an aesthetic element. If the columns are newly installed for new or remodeled construction and are unfinished -- or are finished, but boring -- there are several things you can do to dress them up. Make sure going in that you're not attempting anything that will affect the structural integrity of the columns.
Probably the easiest way to dress up an exterior columns is to simply cover them. The Internet abounds with companies offering aluminum, fiberglass or even plastic foam covers that are designed to fasten around your existing structural column and give the appearance of a fluted, sculptured or otherwise decorative column. You may also be able to find them at your local home improvement store. Follow the instructions. Generally, installation will require that you mark a plumb line (straight up and down) on the existing column to make sure the column cover is straight, then mount the cover in two vertical halves.
If your existing columns are square and generally presentable, but boring, you can liven them up with wood trim. It can be cut with a miter saw and affixed right to the column with a trim nailer. Use corner moulding underneath the top span to give the appearance that it's sitting on a pedestal. Base trim can dress up the bottom of the column. For the long vertical spans, consider narrow decorative panels, which can be purchased where you buy your trim. The trim on the columns can be painted to match the house trim to tie in the whole look.
If you've got a plain round column and you want to dress it up, trim isn't really an option because of the curves -- but stucco is. Stucco is paint that's mixed with a cement or plaster compound to give it a thick consistency that allows it to be pressed onto surfaces with a trowel and worked into swirls, pulled peaks and other shapes. For columns, the goal is to give the stucco the appearance of stone, so plaster it smoothly all around the column, letting the natural consistency of the stucco create the illusion.
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