Royal Corinthian manufactures 3 types of fiberglass columns: RoyalCast™ Fiberglass Columns, RoyaLite™ Fiberglass Column Covers and Columns, and RoyaLite™ pultruded fiberglass columns. We also manufacture synthetic stone columns and square PVC column wraps.
RoyalCast™ Fiberglass columns are the most common in the industry. They are manufactured as load-bearing whole columns but can be split in half to act as column covers or in virtually any imaginable plan type. These columns are mostly made from a combination of marble (calcium carbonate) and polymer resin with very little fiberglass content (1-3%). They are miss-classified as fiberglass columns in our opinion due to the low content but that is what the industry calls them and so we follow that naming convention. They are available in every style that we offer and come with a lifetime warranty. They don't need to be painted but most customers choose to due to the grayish blue color that they come in.
RoyaLite™ Fiberglass Column Covers and Columns are a true fiberglass column. They are comprised of roughly 35-40% fiberglass strand and the rest is polyester resin and gel coat. These columns are made from the same material that fiberglass boat hulls and semi truck tractor covers are made from so they are very durable. We use state of the art spray up and hand layup technology, which results in a column that is pound for pound stronger than steel but significantly lighter. The columns are made at our factory as two halves with an integrated lap flange that connects one half to the next at installation. These columns are typically used for decorative purposes around structural columns or supports. We can assemble the two halves together at the factory to form a full column but these whole columns will bear significantly less weight than our RoyalCast™ columns and are considered decorative. They weigh a fraction of the weight of our cast alternative and come with a lifetime warranty. Although they are available in unlimited finished colors, sheens (matte to high gloss), and finishes (granite, metallic, stone, etc), typically, they are ordered with a marine-grade white gel-coat and are painted on site. As far as price, these columns tend to be more expensive for smaller diameters and widths and become significantly less expensive than our cast option at 16" and larger. Feel free to mix and match our cast and lite options as both are made from the same molds.
RoyaLite™ pultruded fiberglass columns are a subset of the above but are made as full columns that are load-bearing. The columns are made with a pultrusion process and have a composition that is very different from our other columns. They have a fiberglass skin coat that surrounds a polymer marble composite from both the inside and the outside of the column. Honestly, we should come up with a different name for them but since they are also much lighter than our cast version, we will stick to it for now. These columns are available in round non-tapered and square non-tapered due to the limitations of pultrusion and in very limited sizes (8" and 10" in round and 6", 8", 10", and 12" in square and up to 20' in height). These columns can only be made as non-tapered as they are pulled through a die (mold) and have to stay a consistent shape as that is done. They come in a white or gray color and are considered paint-grade. We make round and square columns from the other two fiberglass materials but these tend to be less expensive for the limited sizes that we offer.
Frequently Asked Questions: Fiberglass Columns
- What is a fiberglass column? Fiberglass columns are also called fiberglass reinforced polymer or "FRP". Most companies use the terms interchangeably as do we, but we try to reserve "FRP" for our RoyaLite™ column covers in an attempt to differentiate them from our cast option. As described above, fiberglass columns come in many compositions. The most popular "fiberglass column" in the market has very little fiberglass strand in it (RoyalCast™). In short, a fiberglass column is a composite column that has any amount of fiberglass strand in it. A fiberglass column typically comes with a capital, base, and shaft but we sell them individually if desired.
- Can I buy just a capital or a base without the column shaft? Yes, we specialize in capitals and bases that are customized inexpensively for your particular application. We can make our standard bases taller or shorter, widen or shorten the hole opening, make the base fully solid, remove the plinth, make a square plinth round, add vents to the base so that your existing wood column can breathe, and much more. Read more about replacement bases. Our standard capitals are just as customizable and we have many more decorative capital options than we list on our website. As always, we never shy away from historic replications or custom projects.
- Can fiberglass columns be painted? Fiberglass columns don't need to be painted but it is recommended. They are a paint-grade product more often than not unless you get our pre-finished FRP version. We recommend sanding, priming, and painting our RoyalCast™ columns using acrylic latex products and we have very detailed painting instructions for you to follow: How to properly paint cast fiberglass columns.
- What is the best caulk for fiberglass columns? Typically, installers will use a latex caulk for fiberglass columns. It is known as the "painter's caulk" as it accepts primer/paint very well. If you aren't planning to paint over the caulk, silicone caulks fare better as they will expand and contract with the column and separate less. We also recommend a polyurethane caulk from MasterSeal that we have had over a decade of success with. You can read more about caulks at the link in the previous question.
- Can fiberglass columns be split? Yes, as mentioned previously, we can split them in half if they aren't already made as halves. They can also be split to any plan type available by the factory or by your installer.
- Can fiberglass columns be cut shorter? Fiberglass columns can be made to your exact height or you can cut them with a circular saw on site. A good rule of thumb is to cut from the bottom of the shaft as some columns start to taper as you move up and others have decorative details like the neck ring or astragal at the top. Some of our columns have a capital support ring that is meant to hold a Tuscan capital in place. If you cut too much of the tapered column off, you run the risk of creating a bigger gap between the shaft and the base. The gap can be caulked but we can also make our bases to fit if you request that at the time of order.
- Can fiberglass columns be used as column covers? As mentioned at the onset, all of our columns can be used as column covers. Some are made as whole columns and can be split by us or you to act as covers while others are factory made as covers to be assembled around structural supports.
- Are fiberglass columns load-bearing? As mentioned above, two versions of ours are load-bearing and our RoyaLite™ column covers can be assembled to bear marginal weight. Keep in mind that there is a distinction between load-bearing and structural. Fiberglass columns are not structural as it pertains to uplift. They will hold the weight of your roof in other words but they won't keep the roof from lifting up during a hurricane. They can be made structural in combination with hardware like a Simpson Strong-Tie or with the use of a lally column or the like. Many manufacturers use the words "structural" and "load-bearing" interchangeably so don't be fooled. The next two questions are relatable.
- Are fiberglass columns structural? They are load-bearing and can be structural when used in combination with structural hardware or columns. However, they do have structural integrity when lateral force is applied as with the use of railings that are secured to them. See more in the question above and below.
- Can railings be installed into fiberglass columns? Yes, balustrade systems or railings can be installed into our fiberglass columns. Our columns are structurally capable of withstanding the lateral force that can be applied to a railing system. For column covers, make sure that the railings anchor into the structural member behind the column. Always, pre-drill fiberglass columns.
- How to install fiberglass columns? Please download our fiberglass column installation instructions. Make sure to use the appropriate instructions as our RoyalCast™ and RoyaLite™ column covers install differently.
- Can you screw into fiberglass columns? Yes, but always pre-drill using the appropriate size drill bit. Countersink in order to conceal the screw head. Be mindful when screwing into thinner fiberglass options and don't countersink too deep. Installation instructions are available for all of our columns.
- Where can I buy fiberglass columns? You can buy them locally at The Home Depot, Menards, Lowe's, and many lumberyards. However, most lumberyards don't stock columns and the ones that do only have limited styles and options. We do not sell direct but we guarantee the lowest prices through our distributors, even when competing against these "big box" stores. In addition to the lowest price guarantee, our fiberglass columns come with capitals and bases made from the same poly/marble composite material as the shaft. We do not cheap out like the rest of the industry but we still sell our columns for less. We don't cut corners, ever. We have the best fiberglass columns and a lifetime warranty on all of them.