Surrounding & Decorating A Steel Pole
Just like the movie, a steel pole is “As Good As It Gets”, when it comes to structural support. However, a round steel column can be a total eyesore when poised beneath a beautiful wooden patio cover constructed of nothing but “square-edged” wood trim. And did you ever wonder what you were going to do with that ugly, round, unfinished tubular-beam-support that had to be plopped square in the middle of your soon-to-be finished basement? Well, the answer definitely is multiple-choice – but each and every solution is simple and easy and more than likely – well within your means. Read on!
First of all, you need to get it out of your head that because the pole is steel that it can’t be interesting – it can. If you don’t believe the shape is a problem then you may want to use giant hose clamps (check out the plumbing supply store in your area for the really big ones) as hidden (or brightly painted and visible) hangers to mount or display various decorations. Sea horses, lanterns and thermometers are great for outdoors. And pegboard, pin boards, chalkboards and more are great for inside. How many more can you think of – ten, fifty?
But, if what you really want to do is completely disguise your steel pole to match surrounding architecture then get ready for a myriad of alternatives. First, there are two basic procedures used to enclose them and then, on top of those, there are an infinite number of interesting finishes that can be applied. With finishes the sky is the limit. Again, the beginning step is enclosure or “How to build around a steel pole without filling it full of holes”. If you are really good at mitering corners (you’ll probably need a good table saw) you may want to miter the two long edges of four wood planks and fit the miters together to create a four-sided box. There are a couple of really important things that need to be considered here. First, you must use kiln-dried wood. Any material with much moisture content will eventually dry out, shrink, twist and/or split, and end up looking terrible. Also, although 1x material is acceptable it is better if the material is a hardwood. Softer woods such as pine or cedar are easier to work with, but there is more strength to be derived from oak or ash.
The other method of enclosure involves the construction of two tiny walls. 2x material can be used on edge to build walls that are one-and-a-half-inches thick. The walls are placed on opposite sides of the pole – you pick the sides – and blocks at the bottom and top hold the walls together and to the ceiling and floor. The length of the walls can be anything you want and the length of the blocks that join them also can be any dimension. Your new structure should all be exactly whatever size you want it to be. Isn’t this cool – how often does someone suggest to you that you should have it your way? Anyway, with the wall frames built then paneling, plaster, wallboard or planking can be used to conceal the frame. By the way this same enclosure can be used to conceal wiring for plugs or lights that can make your room more versatile. How’s that for turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse? Think about it. A wall in the middle of the room with two or three or even four vertically mounted track light systems. Cool!
Finally, your new pole-cover can be decorated with texture, paint, wallpaper, mirrors, widgets or any combination there of – you name it.
Keep in mind that we do not recommend drilling into the pole. If the pole is in fact structural drilling into to it could be a serious problem depending on what the pole was actually designed to do. Some just hold weight from above but others resist wind load or vertical stresses. If you are bound and determined to drill holes into a metal support column it will be wise to consult with a structural engineer first. It may cost a bit for this service, but then chances are your house will still be there next year if you comply with the engineer’s specifications.
A small housing isn’t your only choice. A special cabinet can be designed to surround one or more poles. Room separators can be built creating multiple areas. A lower cabinet with pole supported open shelving can be beautiful. Install the lower cabinet with the pole at one end. Then install a look-alike pole at the other end and mount glass shelves. Wow! Hey, what about a cabinet or bookcase or entertainment center that goes from the pole in question to and adjacent wall. For outside large walls can be built around poles to hold planters, swimming pool accessories and more. The choice is yours.
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