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I have a beam between the living room and dining room which is load bearing. We've already placed the laminate around the base, so I'm not entertaining further ideas of moving the posts. I'd like to move from walls to columns so the two rooms appear a little roomier.

Picture of load bearing beam between living and dining room, supported by double studs about 18 inches from wall on each side

Round columns are expensive. I could buy a lathe and make my own for the cost of commercially built columns, and they aren't readily available in the sizes and shapes for a half wall column, so will take time to obtain. If we go square it's just trim boards and done, but I'm interested in having a cylindrical column, without the cost and time.

PVC pipe is cheap and readily available, though. I'm thinking about doing this:

  • Use 6 or 8 inch PVC
  • Split it lengthwise
  • Fill it with expanding foam
  • Place it around the studs while the expanding foam is still soft
  • Use pvc glue along the split edges and straps to hold it
  • Secure it at the base and top
  • Sand, prime, paint

I'm going to widen the beam and build a wide half-wall base for the column to sit on, and use two half-pipes for the studs sticking out from the wall. We'll use appropriate trim for the base and capital.

My questions are: is this a reasonable process? What problems can I expect building it, or in the long run? Am I going to end up spending more time and money on this than doing it the "correct" way? Is there a primer I can use that will stick to the PVC? Will the expanding foam be enough to make it sound and feel, perhaps not as solid as wood, but more than a PVC pipe?

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"I could buy a lathe and make my own for the cost of commercially built" And I'm not going to spend that much. If we can't do it cheaply with round, we'll go square. –  Adam Davis Jan 18 at 17:48
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You might look around for a woodturning club - plenty of hobby folks might be willing to take this on for quite a bit less than the "raise the price so the one-off customer will go away" places... the artisan .vs. commercial approach can work well when you only need two... –  Ecnerwal Jan 19 at 6:11
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1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I wouldn't use the PVC pipe at all.

Here are some things to think about...

1) Splitting the PVC pipe in half will involve two saw kerfs that will make the re-mated halves not restore to original size.

2) PVC cement will not work well in trying to re-join the two pipe halves. That type of cement is meant to be used in tight lap type joints; not in rough butt type joints.

3) If you have to use the expanding foam you really should place the pipe parts in place and secured first and then inject the foam through one or more small holes through the pipe wall.

Overall I would suggest that you reconcept your approach to this and keep the lower portion of the walls as is but convert then to knee walls with height of maybe 40 inches. Temporarily support the beam within the current opening space. Then cut out the existing studs to produce knee wall framework. The top of this knee wall gets fitted with a good double 2x4 header. Trim the top of the knee wall with a flat trim board that is wider than the drywall on each side by some 1/2 to 3/4" and trim around the skirt of the board with a nice molding. Then set a partial turned 4x4 post on top the flat board and use it to support the beam. Finish out the top of the openings over to the side walls down to the bottom of the beam, band with drywall and finish. I think this would give you the better look and still open up the space perception. The shorter 4x4 type turned posts are much more reasonable in cost.

Excuse my somewhat less than elegant cut/paste/smear work with paint program but here is the general idea of what I am suggesting.

enter image description here

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Wow, thanks for the mockup! You've convinced me that the PVC is a poor choice. The hardware stores locally only seem to have patio posts, so we might just use a simple colonial post, but I"m going to keep looking around for a nicer turned 4x4. Thanks again! –  Adam Davis Jan 18 at 23:32
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