unhappy with stone columns

MLC307May 29, 2014

We had sunken concrete stairs so we had it ripped out and a paver walkway, stairs and these columns were installed. I hate the columns. They are too much for my liking. In my opinion, they are too tall. I regret doing it, especially because it cost a pretty penny. We were away while it was installed so that is another regret. What are your thoughts? Is there anything I can do now, or do I just need to learn to like it? Thanks in advance.

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yardvaark

I feel your pain.

I don't suppose you need a lecture, but if you had created a master plan showing all the developments that would occur over the next 15 years, I don't think these columns would have been built like this. Could you add another photo that still shows everything, but from closer. I would like to see columns and slab/steps/walk.

From what I hear, that school where you "learn to like it" has a poor graduation rate.

This post was edited by Yardvaark on Thu, May 29, 14 at 23:09

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 11:06PM
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davids10 z7a nv.

put a tall urn on each of them-fill the urns with splendid trailing annuals for the summer then replace with potted evergreens-alberta spruce? for winter-columns seem like an odd idea-awful color

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 11:16PM
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davids10 z7a nv.

ps. if you can think of them not as columns but as pedestals just waiting for you to do something fabulous you might like them better-how about antique light stands?

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 11:25PM
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davids10 z7a nv.

wrought iron arch to frame the door arch

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 11:40PM
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duluthinbloomz4

This might be one instance where I'd suggest painting them so they blend in with the house.

Then as suggested above, I'd top them with classic urns and plant in a "spike" (dracaena), big red geranium or something equally as showy - and the biggest sweet potato vine I could find to spill and trail. Maybe not the most imaginative container planting, but a classic one befitting your home.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 11:42PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

From a mason's standpoint, it is not that big of a deal to cut them down in size. Depending on how they were constructed it is probably a 16 hour job to cut off a foot and reset the capstone.

If you do choose to live with them a low shallow wide planter planted with cascading plants will visually shorten the length of the column. Haddenstone makes some very classy looking urns that would look good on those columns and speak well with your architecture.

Also, check out the planting schemes of Debra Silver. She has done some very classical planting layouts that might inspire you.

pictured is a Haddenstone planter that we stained dark brown , planted with an ornamental grass/ pennisetum rubra, lysimachia and glechoma variegata.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 11:57PM
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elysianfields(9b CA)

The pedestals are quite nice. I would do a lower bowl planter as suggested in the previous post with cascading plants as shown. You can also add two planters half the size of the columns to the right and left of each pedestal to creating a container garden feature. Even two more planters low in the front, six total, for a big bang accent garden. For the vertical height of the facade and the door framing, the columns look like an appropriate height to me. Everybody has different tastes though.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 1:24AM
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lyfia

I don't dislike the columns per se, but rather that they look all alone and not tied into anything so they look out of place.

The color doesn't match anything on the house and they look lonely where they are placed.

Usually when you have stone columns like that they are attached to something else and not standing all alone. Like a fence and a gate, a wall, a roof overhang etc. You'll have to find a way to tie them into something that makes them have a purpose.

I think it can be fixed with either paint the house or the columns or something to tie it in. Add plantings on the sides of it to taper the height down or a bit of a fence or a stone wall that tapers down and out to the sides. Or add a roof overhang that connects to the stone columns. Although I don't think the last will work well with what I see of the house. Another option would be to build a low rock wall that connects the columns and makes a flowerbed, but you can't raise the soil level inside it so you'd need to have plants that would be tall enough to be seen above it in it.

Here are some pictures to give you ideas.

Raised flower beds, with soil lower

No matter what though you need to figure out how to make the color work with the house too.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 8:34AM
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lyfia

This is a crappy drawing, but I think if you can tie them into something then it won't look so off anymore.

A walkway of the same rock could work too. It just looks naked right now with no landscaping or anything else around.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 8:48AM
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davids10 z7a nv.

other than the unfortunate color the problem is that they arent doing anything-they are just there-i would take it as a challenge to spend the least amount of additional money with the greatest effect- im all for quiet good taste but i think you need to add some hot sauce to this chili

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 12:34PM
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yardvaark

The point has been made that part of the problem is that the columns are not yet part of a larger structure. They are disconnected, individual objects without ties to other things. I agree with this, but think that tying them to something else is no guarantee that the problem will be fixed. To me, a major issue is that they are simply too close together, pinching off access space to what is otherwise a spacious and well proportioned entrance. At the least, they should be wide enough apart that the entire door frame beyond shows and with some "cushion" (white space!) added. Really fixing them to the point that one is grateful for their existence might not be possible. In such case, spending more money on expensive "band aids" is not going to make one ultimately any happier.

I think that some of the proposed solutions along the lines of placing trailing plants on top are going to fall short of being even a feaux fix. Adding height is inclined to make the narrow space feel more confining and if plants occupy any space at the inside of the passageway, they will make the opening shrink further.

(I hope photos are offered that let us have a closer look at how these relate to the other things in the area.)

Two days for a mason to remove a foot of height and reset the caps seem excessive to me.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 2:09PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

To do a quality job an estimate of 16 hours is not out of the normal range. It may take 10 -15 % more or less time, .. that is how construction estimation works.
Inclusive in such a contract for revision work comes the additional notation that if the cap stone should break during removal the contractor is not responsible for replacement and all reasonable care will be taken to keep the cap stone intact.

16 hour estimation includes:
tool and materials set up time.
Site protection ( cardboard set infront of glasswork)
score cutting the capstone from the mortar joint
chipping the capstones free
Cleaning the excessive mortar from the capstones
Masonry cutting of the stone and cmu
Metal cutting of the rebar
Cleaning up the cuts
Mixing up mortar and resetting the capstone level
Tooling the joint and clean up of mortar
Tool and site clean up.

These are items that go into doing the column reduction job but are usually not documented on the contract.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 4:02PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

You've got a large, tall house. Smaller/shorter columns would look small and stingy visually. They look in proportion to the front door and to the front of the house. If they were smaller they would disappear.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 4:09PM
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emmarene

MLC307
How about showing us the entire house? I think the columns will be fine if viewed from more distance.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 4:19PM
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MLC307

Thanks for all the responses. I was up late thinking about it last night and in the midst of my tiredness I uploaded a bad pic! Sorry about that. Here are some better pics......

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 5:18PM
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MLC307

Side view

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 5:19PM
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MLC307

Other side...

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 5:20PM
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frankielynnsie(7B)

Can you do a mock up of shortened columns? They look backwards to me and should be shorter than the part that is attached to the house. They are blocks and should be able to be taken apart.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 8:46PM
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stolenidentity

Well, that looks not so bad at all now that we see it's connected to the entrance, the steps, and a stone walk. I'd probably shorten the columns but would not lose any sleep over them. Did someone do all that adding and landscaping over night? I'd like to see a picture of the whole front of the house and the yard. Maybe the columns are okay...hard to tell without seeing the height and such as Yardvaark has said already.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 8:49PM
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yardvaark

In the original picture it was not apparent that the columns were part of cheek walls flanking the steps. Search Google Images for "cheek walls" (one example below) and note how they either slope or step down correlating with the descent of steps. In this case, the wall steps up ... WAY up, which is totally backwards!! If you reduce the height and reset the capstone on the 3rd or 4th full course from the bottom, you would have a relatively normal looking set of cheek walls. Nothing can be done about the spread, but it would be much easier to "learn to like" the whole business if the wall stepped down instead of up.

Deviant, your list reminds me of a hospital bill. More power to you.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 12:06AM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

I think your new set of photos shows more the issue, all of that new stone work is too narrow and should have been outside all of the trim for the door

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 12:19AM
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elysianfields(9b CA)

I still like them and lyfia's drawing shows some nice balance to the set-up. You can also put taller planters on the cheek walls for that step down appearance others mention as the columns would appear shorter. They are already in and built nicely why not try some other fixes and see if they grow on you first? Why spend a fortune for a little designers remorse. So they are little close together. Its a cozy, solid entrance.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 3:12AM
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yardvaark

I am adding a photo-approximation of how these could look reduced. (Infinitely better and the best way out, I think!)

This post was edited by Yardvaark on Sun, Jun 1, 14 at 9:51

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 9:48AM
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MLC307

Thanks for the mock up pic. I have buyers remorse, wishing I didn't do it at all! But too late, money was spent. To reduce the column size, it would cost almost 1k. At this point, I feel like I've already spent more than I wanted to, will try and see how planters look and live with it for a little... Hopefully it'll grow on me!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 10:22AM
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yardvaark

You just need to find a hungry, talented Mexican ... I mean Canadian ... who will knock it out in a day for $450.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 10:29AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I agree with those who suggest topping the columns with low wide pots with cascading plants in them. Or any pot and plants that you think you would like. You might feel a whole lot different about them after living with them for awhile and trying the planters. They are already done and you can take your time deciding whether to change them or not. I personally would love a couple of stone columns to put containers full of plants on top of.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 10:32AM
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nandina(8b)

What fairly inexpensive ideas might work in this situation to minimize an unwanted mistake? A few quick thoughts....
1. Wreath on the door?
2. Wreaths below each of the 2 sidelights?
3. Large pots not placed topping forward columns but on the two cheek walls behind with very tall, upright plantings? Continue also with the cascading plant idea on the front columns?
4. Other ideas?

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 2:44PM
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stolenidentity

I would fix the tall columns and quit trying to "live with it" or hoping "t'll grow on me!" Yes it's a bummer expense but make lemonade of it. 1) a lesson (albeit a valuable one); 2) salvage the reduced portion of the columns and use it somewhere else in your landscape to add some funk/charm/reminder

Good luck. I'd still like to see a BIGGER picture of the place. I love stone / brick / and think your place is lovely.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 10:20PM
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elysianfields(9b CA)

Could be debated forever really, looking back at your earlier photos and the height of your facade in relation to the doorway and beautiful window above. Everything is elongated and in proportion with your house from a visual composition. Cutting down the columns seems a bit stunted. Just another opinion to weigh into your architectural event.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 12:45AM
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marcinde(7)

To the OP, I wish there was something I could say to make this better.

To everyone else - this is the difference between hiring a designer and letting your block stacker ('cuz this ain't masonry) "do a free design and estimate."

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 7:45AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Marcinde, even with professionals doing the work, people often get buyer's remorse for one reason or another. Just because a professional designs it doesn't mean you will be happy with the result.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2014 at 7:57AM
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saypoint(6b CT)

The columns would have looked better set outside the door frame, but the biggest issue I see here is the color. The house is yellow, the stone is pink. Pink and yella kill a fella.
If you painted the stone the same color at the house, or at least with a yellowish undertone, I think you'd like it better.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2014 at 11:24AM
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MLC307

Here's a picture of the house, for those who requested...

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 9:36PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Okay, so the posts are not ideal, and I can understand your disappointment; but they are not horrible either. Your last photo shows that once the front planters have some green fluffies growing, the look will soften. With or without planted pots or candle lanterns atop the pillars, with or without wreathes under the sconces, it's going to fade as a "problem". You doubtless have larger concerns in your life to manage. Let it go and move on.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2014 at 1:28PM
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MLC307

Hi there, it's been awhile but I wanted to attach a followup pic. I decided to embrace the columns (at least for now) and added flower pots. I think now they look better ..perhaps look like they serve a purpose of holding flower pots... or pumpkins in fall, etc.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 11:45PM
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violetwest

thanks for the update. Always good to work with what you've got. When you get to it, I think those accents could stand to be a bit bigger though, to comport with the scale of the house

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 10:04AM
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emmarene

I hope you post again as the plants mature.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 5:21PM
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Ruth_MI(z5MI)

I agree with Violet West that those could stand to be bigger (much wider). I like what deviant-deziner said in an earlier post: " a low shallow wide planter planted with cascading plants will visually shorten the length of the column."

Not sure how wide those columns are, but even something like shown in the link might work if you can find some wide enough.

Here is a link that might be useful: inexpensive wide, low planter

This post was edited by ruth_mi on Thu, Jul 17, 14 at 19:47

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 7:45PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

You are 'decorating' the outside of your home to the same scale as the inside. You need to think big! When the landscaping gets finished, I'll bet that the columns won't look so out of place to you.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 8:07PM
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cadillactaste

I say...work with what you have. Some much taller scale like a shrub beside the columns (taller than the column itself) will make the columns look less tall...but the height of your house I think you needed the taller pillars.

This post was edited by cadillactaste on Fri, Jul 18, 14 at 15:15

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 11:53AM
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littlebug5(z5 MO)

I like the idea of low, shallow planters on top of the pillars. You don't like the pillars because they're too TALL, right? Well, don't add TALL planters on top of them. Add short, very, very wide planters with trailing plants. The planter should be as wide as the pillar.

And I don't like the teeny weeny planter on the ground in front. Looks out of place.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 4:37PM
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BungalowMonkeys(6-VA)

I cant draw what im thinking, but an arbor along both sides would add some interest to the front and make the colums part of a design vs being stand alone. I added some window boxes, but its the idea of the arbor not the window boxes. Then stick something pretty that blooms underneath, like a hydrangea and possibly some sort of pretty climbing plant over top like wisteria.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 12:48PM
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marcinde(7)

It's kind of like the story of a guy who's out on the lake in a rowboat and his companion starts rocking the boat. In a panic, terrified they'll capsize, the first guy digs through his backpack and devises an elaborate series of counterweights to mitigate the rocking motion. Only problem is, every time his companion changes the rhythm he needs to recalibrate the solution. Hours pass (his companion's kind of a jerk) and the boat becomes more and more crammed full of a set of machines that are growing more and more complex and unwieldy.

When the better solution would have been to simply say "stop rocking the boat or I'm knocking your butt into the lake."

That's kind of what's going on here. The planters you stuck on the columns are way too small to do the job, but I worry that bigger planters (while appropriate for the columns) are going to make it feel like you're entering the hanging gardens of Babylon because of the distance apart and the height. So maybe then you add some planters in front of them to mitigate the height. But now the visual weight of the entry is even more out of scale so you have to add mass somewhere else.

Adding an arbor and loads of ornamentation across the front of the house isn't just filling up the rowboat with counterweights, you've now tied a canoe to the side of the rowboat as well and filled it.

Tell Bob to stop rocking the boat. Take the pain and if nothing else, have the columns cut back to an appropriate height,

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 8:10AM
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yardvaark

i agree with you, marcinde. The best fix is to actually fix, not camouflage. It's reminding me of the typical screening for utilities, where one creates a hedge monstrosity in order to cover up a little pipe or something coming out of the ground. After the utility object is out of sight, the screening itself frequently becomes the eyesore. The pier here is not going to get smaller by placing a planter -- even a wide one -- on top of it. Few are going to be swayed that it's a genuine improvement.

It's likely that the impediment to fixing is fear of high cost. Because this is not a complicated procedure requiring an unusually high skill level, I'd place an ad on Craigslist Gigs, with a picture, explaining what is wanted, in detail, and at least get prices. There might be someone with sufficient masonry skills available who could do it efficiently at a very reasonable cost. As an example, last year I had cause to have a small area of colored concrete demolished and removed (it was part of a slab in which a bad batch of mix was used.) My ad on craigs was answered in minutes. The next morning an intelligent, skilled (and likable) guy (who brought a helper) showed up with his jack hammer and solved my problem for $50! (He was a tile flooring installer.) I could not have rented a jack hammer and done the work myself for less. Of course, a person needs to prequalify a prospective sub by asking a few questions regarding details about how they will proceed with the job in order to get a feel if they are the right person. Anyway, I've had good luck several times and no back luck yet. I can't tell if there is anything inside the piers that will complicate this job, but from outward appearances, the bulk of the work looks like careful demolition and only a little reconstruction. With the proper tools, it wouldn't be too difficult or too time consuming.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 9:40AM
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springroz(z6 SKY)

The lamps need to be larger, and the sidelights should be painted to match the door.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 9:54AM
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marcinde(7)

hm. Well I think where Yard and I part company is the issue of craigslist. Even setting aside the scammers, there are plenty of guys on CL who may be well-intentioned but don't actually know how to do the work they signed on for. In the words of Dirty Harry, you have to ask yourself - do I feel lucky?

These aren't real masonry columns, they're glue-together concrete legos for contractors with no masonry skills. Assuming they were properly constructed (glued every course with the manufacturer's recommended adhesive), I'd have my mason pop the cap off, take the column down to the right height, and pop the cap back on. Depending on the adhesive he'd probably have to destroy most or all of the block down to that height but it'd be worth it.

Instead of CL, I'd actually try one (or all) of three approaches: 1) contact the sales team at the local yard where this block is sold and see who they'd recommend for a small job like this; 2) contact masons directly via the yellow pages/local google search; or 3) contact a local high-end handyman company. The ones who are doing more remodel type stuff (as opposed to fixing toilets and changing light bulbs) often either have a mason on staff or an awesome masonry subcontractor.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 1:34PM
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