As framing continues at our Queen of Zero 2024 JLC Case Study project in Maryland, the unique architectural details of this Victorian-inspired home are coming to life.

If you have been following along this project, you may remember an earlier article anticipating the need to make some design compromises due to budget constraints and modernized building techniques. This article highlights one such modification involving the dainty and fanciful posts circling the massive two-story Victorian-style porch.

A rendering of the Queen of Zero project demonstrates how integral porches are to a Queen Anne look-and-feel.
A rendering of the Queen of Zero project demonstrates how integral porches are to a Queen Anne look-and-feel.

Steel and Fiberglass Replaces Hardwood
Queen of Zero’s roughly 35 porch posts were specified in the architectural drawings as “turned 6x6 wood” with the intention of having a period aesthetic. In the historic neighborhood where the home resides, the neighbors’ original Victorian-style posts accentuate their roomy porches in bold, bright colors and unique decorative turnings suggesting the imprint of a woodworking artist (see photo below).

However, in pursuing a Victorian style, the Queen of Zero team was facing multiple challenges with our post construction. First, the railing height needed to accommodate current building code, which is taller than typical early 20th Century design. A taller square portion at the bottom of the post reduces the size of the decorative “turned” section. Second, many hardwood options that mimicked the delicate Victorian designs were cost prohibitive. Third, the posts needed to incorporate structural supports to meet our uplift requirements.

Example of original Victorian turned porch posts from a home in the Queen of Zero neighborhood.
Example of original Victorian turned porch posts from a home in the Queen of Zero neighborhood.

General Contractor Keyur Shah, Co-Owner of DAKS Builders and Project Manager for Queen of Zero, selected the load-bearing ResinArt R-CPPOST 6” x 10’ made from spun fiberglass reinforced resin with an internal 4” galvanized steel pipe. According to Shah:

“We decided on the ResinArt turned colonial porch columns for the project because we were looking for a resilient product that met our specific size requirements and budget. We liked the fact that the ResinArt columns contain a galvanized steel pipe at its core for additional reinforcement. Another benefit of having the hollow galvanized steel pipe is that we were able to install a hidden all-thread rod through this pipe. The all-thread rod secures to the CMU pier below and the header above to prevent uplift. Additionally, since the column is wrapped in a synthetic material, it will not suffer from rot or bowing like a wood column may encounter. This was important to us because we have quite a few columns that support the porch and we wanted to ensure that the homeowner would have a durable product for many years to come.”

Installation Process
The slideshow at left shows the step-by-step process of installing the Queen of Zero porch posts. The porch foundation consists of twenty-five 12-x12-inch concrete piers. Every other post required the threaded rod attachment, as per structural engineer specifications, to prevent uplift in the event of high winds.

Using an 18-inch-long, ¾-inch diameter concrete drill bit, a 12-inch deep hole was drilled into the piers and the ½-inch threaded rod was grouted into the pier with epoxy. The fiberglass posts with steel pipe interior was then installed over the threaded rod and secured in place with a nut and washer above the solid beam header.

Techno Tradeoffs
All homebuilding projects involve tradeoffs, as we seek to balance the competing demands of budget, timeline, design aesthetics, energy performance, code requirements, product availability, technology, risk, and more. Yet, in some cases, this mash-up of necessities can be the mother of invention. The Queen of Zero porch posts may be lacking in the artistic intricacies of turned wood by a traditional craftsperson. However, this modern manufacturered interpretation gains durability and economies of scale, a techno-craft exemplar built for the ages.

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