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Fixing Wobbly Gate Support Columns

I recently got a call to inspect and offer possible solutions for a customer that was planning to install a new RV gate on some older masonry columns. She was concerned about the columns being able to support the new gates without tilting and moving from the extra weight. They were already a little wobbly and could be moved back and forth by pushing on them. Not bad, but very likely something that will get worse with the addition of new, heavier gates.

Her first thought was to replace the columns completely. Tear them down, dig out the foundations/footings and start new. But this would be costly due to the amount of labor involved to dispose of roughly 3,500 pounds of concrete and concrete blocks. The new blocks also won't match the rest of the wall due to natural aging, sun fading and differences in color and aggregate from the block plant. And the columns still looked good. What to do?


There was a better solution. Save and reinforce the columns by building buttresses onto the back side of them.

Buttress is defined by Merriam Webster dictionary as "to give support or stability to (a wall or building) with a projecting structure of masonry or wood."

Doing this would preserve the original look and color of the block columns from the street view. It avoids all the digging and demolition to remove the existing columns. And best of all, it doubles the mass and strength of the columns, rather than just replacing the existing columns with new columns of the exact same dimensions. By turning 8 x 16 rectangular columns into 16 x 16 square columns we can make them much stronger for the new gates.

Here's pictures of the original four columns:

We prepped the three columns on the concrete slab/sidewalk side by dowelling and epoxying two vertical rebars vertically into the concrete (for each column) and dowelling and epoxying multiple hook bars horizontally every 16 inches. The rebars and concrete fill will lock the existing older columns to the new buttressing columns, making them monolithic. Each 8 x 16 column will become a 16 x 16 column. Very strong.

For the single column on the opposite side, we dug a footing 2 feet deep to make sure the new 16 inch square column had a deep, solid base. After that it was just a matter of laying up the block level and plumb and matching the mortar joints of the old columns:

The four new buttressing columns received vertical rebar to the top of the blocks, were filled solid with 3,000 psi concrete, and capped to perfectly match the height of the four old columns.

The job turned out great and the homeowner was very happy with the result. When the gate installers come they'll hang their heavier new gates with complete confidence that the columns can handle any weight required. A clever solution to solve a common problem here in the Valley.

If you have gate columns that have started to move contact Mesa Masonry LLC today. Our work is warrantied and satisfaction is always guaranteed.

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