We are still in the thick of our kitchen remodel. The cabinets are painted and we are waiting the requisite 30 days for the paint to cure. Some of the specialty hardware got broken during door removal so we are waiting on replacements to arrive. The new countertops will be installed in a week. The countertop contractor won't remove the columns on the island so we have to do it or have it done before then. When I wrote my tiny cabin book some people were upset that I didn't show exactly how to do certain projects, so I am documenting the kitchen renovation in more detail.
I actually kind of liked the columns on the island but my husband has always hated them. I was sure they must be load-bearing because they were a good decade out of style when this house was built. Why would you include them if not for function? However, it turns out they were just decorative. I don't know who made the decor choices in this house, but current trends were certainly not a priority for them. The master bedroom had horrible mustard yellow shag carpeting when we moved in! The columns are actually one of their least-objectionable choices. Here's how we determined they were not load-bearing.
In the photo above my husband is starting the column removal after deciding they probably aren't load bearing. Here's how he decided that. He removed the trim around the top and bottom of the columns and drilled small holes in the columns, counter top, and ceiling in unobtrusive areas that would be covered by new trim if we had to keep the columns. You can see one of the holes in the photo below. Please excuse all the junk all over the bar top. We can't use several shelves until the paint cures, so for about three more weeks. We did move all that stuff out of the way before we removed the columns.
I forgot to take a photo of it, but my husband has a wireless endoscope video camera, which is a camera on a flexible tube, similar to the one I linked above. You can thread it into hollow spaces and see what's inside on a little handheld screen. That was an inspired gift from our son; my husband uses it all the time for everything from installing the stovepipe in the cabin to looking in the ceiling for leaking pipes to construction. Ours is unbranded so I am not recommending any particular brand but it is a great thing to have if you do a lot of your own handiwork around the house.
Anyway, he drilled the holes just large enough for the camera and looked inside. He consulted with a structural engineer from his office and watched YouTube videos so he knew what to look for. If the columns were load-bearing they would most likely have a post going through the center all the way from floor to ceiling. These columns were not only hollow but one of them wasn't even touching the countertop on one side; it was just held on with trim wood and caulk! The columns are made of thick fiberglass so it's possible they could be load-bearing despite being hollow. In that case, however, you would expect them to be really shored up with beams both under the counter and in the ceiling above. In this case there was just a frame of 2x4s inside the island and a regular stud in the ceiling. Jerry, my husband, showed the video from the camera to the structural engineer who agreed they were not load-bearing due to their lack of support. Just in an abundance of caution however, Jerry set up a final test.
Before removing the columns, Jerry set up his laser level, similar to the one I tagged on eBay, and marked along the laser beam lightly with pencil. That way if the pencil marks sagged below the laser beam we would know the ceiling was sinking and could quickly set the columns back in place. To remove the columns Jerry cut small holes in the base so he could hit them with a sledge hammer until they began to tilt (that's what he is doing in the first photo). My job was to push on the base of the columns while he hit the top until they tilted sideways and we could carry them out to the garage. We left the laser level up for several hours after removing the columns and the ceiling stayed level, so we know the columns were just decorative. I kind of miss them but everyone else thinks the kitchen looks way larger and more open so I guess I'm outvoted! I must admit, I won't miss dusting them all the time. If you've never lived in the South you have no idea how much dusting is required. According to my allergist this is the dust capital of the USA and the worst place I could possibly choose to live with my set of allergies! So the columns like everything else had to be wet-dusted all the time (because dry dusting just doesn't cut it here in our humidity), which made the paint flake off so they also had to be re-painted every few years. I guess it will lessen my chore list to get rid of them.
My name is Amanda, but my childhood nickname was "Mandaline". I am a mother of three turning my passion for creating into a full-time business.