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Renovate Your Way

Renovation options for everyone

Renovation projects often enhance curb appeal while increasing property values. Others preserve a historic structure for future generations. Sometimes, the replacement of aging architectural elements also addresses safety concerns.

Here are seven projects to consider for your residential or commercial property.

1. Update Exterior Millwork

Over time, the exterior millwork on residential and commercial structures shows signs of age. Wood cornices, columns and balustrades crack. Water gets into gaps and crevices, potentially rotting the wood. Similarly, stone elements begin to crumble and weaken, particularly where they must endure repeated freeze-thaw cycles.

Over time, the maintenance of these aging architectural elements becomes increasingly more difficult and expensive. Replacement becomes the only realistic option.

Many commercial renovation projects require new exterior millwork, including restaurants, hotels, offices and nursing homes. Historic buildings eventually require updates to balustrades, columns, cornices and other important exterior elements.

Fortunately, project leaders, designers and other stakeholders have newer synthetic materials at their disposal. Craftsmen fashion columns, balustrades and more from polyurethane, fiberglass, PVC and polymer stone. These lighter weight materials mimic the look of wood or stone while delivering simplified installation and impressive longevity.

For example, it is possible to fashion new cornices from both polyurethane and PVC. Worthington contributed polyurethane cornices and brackets at the Smyrna Elementary School in Georgia. Also, take a look at the Worthington polyurethane and PVC cornices on the edifice of the Kappa Kappa Gamma house at the University of Alabama.

It is possible to replace aging balusters with those fabricated from polyurethane, fiberglass, PVC or stone polymer. Likewise, deteriorating wood columns can be replaced with those made from fiberglass, polyurethane, aluminum and other modern materials.

Case Study: James Wade Bolton House, Alexandria, LA

The charming James Wade Bolton house was originally built in 1899. The residents of Alexandria, LA, witnessed a renovation that used modern materials to preserve a structure of real historical significance.

Worthington Millwork contributed customized fiberglass columns and a polyurethane balustrade system to the project. The client supplied an original wooden baluster, and craftsmen precisely duplicated the profile in high-density polyurethane. Worthington Millwork also replicated other key components of the balustrade, including bases, capitals and column shafts.

2. Add an Entrance System

First impressions count, whether it be at your home or your place of business. With the right combination of Colonial-style pediments and pilasters, you can transform an ordinary entrance into an extraordinary one.

Original crossheads and pediments were typically pieced together from multiple pieces of wood. Over time, contraction and expansion often opened up the joints. Water seepage leads to decay. Freeze-thaw cycles widen unsightly gaps.

By contrast, the use of high-density polyurethane allows for one-piece construction. Eliminate the seams that once allowed water to permeate the original pediment.

Case Study: Cato-Meridian Central School, Cato, NY

A turn-of-the-century school building in upstate New York got a new entrance system and much more. The major renovation project in the Cato-Meridian School District required the replacement of numerous architectural components. The Cato-Meridian Middle School is located along Route 370 in Cato, NY. The community is west of Syracuse and just north of Interstate 90.

The original building housing the middle school was constructed in 1908. More than a century later, an annual visual inspection of the building revealed "evidence of rot, decay and corrosion of the wooden moldings and cupola." The school district wanted to preserve the school's exterior features and to honor the historical significance of the structure.

The renovation project was quite ambitious in its scope. For example, the middle school's main office was relocated to the front of the structure where an impressive two-story Georgian colonnade entrance stood. The project united this prominent architectural feature and a new single-point secured main entrance. Students and visitors now enter the school where its most appealing architectural detail is found.

For the project, Worthington Millwork replicated vital architectural components, including:

  • Balustrades
  • Window arches
  • Pediments
  • Cornices

The project required exacting attention to the architectural detail of century-old components.

The project's contractor forwarded corbel and molding profiles to Worthington Millwork so they could be accurately replicated in high-density polyurethane. The contractor received multiple samples in different colors and sheens along mock-ups and custom drawings.

3. Replace Aging Balustrades

Over time, wood and stone balusters eventually deteriorate. Wood can rot, crack, split or warp. Sometimes, insects invade wood balustrade systems. Stone also deteriorates over time, It can fracture or even crumble.

Fortunately, it is possible to custom fabricate replacement balusters made of long-lasting materials like polyurethane, cast fiberglass and polymer stone. If portions of the existing rail system are intact, you can simply replace any bad balusters with ones fabricated from these highly durable materials.

Polyurethane balusters are lightweight and UV-resistant. Thanks to their closed-cell foam construction, they are also impervious to moisture and insects.

The same is true of fiberglass balusters. Cast fiberglass balusters are often used in commercial applications where their Class A fire rating is a plus. They are so durable they come with a lifetime warranty.

Polymer stone balusters are much lighter and more durable than their traditional cast stone counterparts. Over time, they also resist the adverse effect of endless hot-cold and wet-dry cycles. Integrated color minimizes the appearance of scratches or other blemishes.

Invest in a renovation that will withstand the test of time. Invest in polyurethane, cast fiberglass or polymer stone balusters!

4. Replace Architectural Columns

Some popular architectural elements have been around for decades or even centuries. However, columns have been around for literally thousands of years. Of course, those stone columns in use at the height of the Greek and Roman empires were extraordinarily heavy.


Today, cast fiberglass and woven fiberglass columns are used in many renovation projects. Fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP) offers an attractive combination of lighter weight, aesthetics and structural integrity. You'll find them replacing deteriorating wood columns on many kinds of historic residences, including:

  • Greek Revival
  • Dutch Colonial Revival
  • Federal
  • Beaux Arts
  • Arts & Crafts
  • American Foursquare

Fiberglass columns are an excellent choice in load-bearing situations. For example, fiberglass columns of sufficient diameter can support a porch roof complete with a balustrade.

You want to invest in quality when purchasing architectural columns that must withstand the test of time. One way to discern quality is with the "flashlight test." In a darkened room, shine a light from inside the column base. A high-quality column is fully opaque. Knockoffs may lack density to the point that the light shines right through the base.

When you're selecting columns for your commercial or residential renovation or upgrade, decide whether you want to paint them or not. You can use a latex or oil-based paint on both cast and woven fiberglass columns. By contrast, pre-finished polymer stone and aluminum columns require no painting.


Lightweight, square PVC columns are also used in a wide variety of renovations. The crisp, clean look blends well with many architectural styles.

Tapered PVC columns are used in a wide variety of residential projects. For example, they are commonly found on American Craftsman bungalows dating back to the late 19th century or the early 20th century. These homes are often characterized by their big front porches and large columns. Paint these non-load-bearing PVC columns to complement the look of your home's exterior. Select from standard designs, or choose to have your columns custom fabricated from cellular PVC.


Affordable aluminum columns are sometimes an option in renovations. They come powdercoated in a variety of colors. The tough finish is virtually maintenance-free. Simplified installation saves labor.

Case Study: Bon Secours DePaul Medical Office Building, Norfolk, VA

The construction of the $25 million Bon Secours DePaul Medical Office Building included the use of Worthington FRP columns, cornices and wall panels. The architecture of the red brick building with white trim blends well with the many historic structures in the community. The four-story 105,000 sq-ft structure houses physician practices and an advanced cancer treatment center. The Bon Secours Medical Center has been serving the Norfolk area since 1855 when it first opened as the Hospital of St.Vincent De Paul. It was the area's first public hospital.

Craftsmen at Worthington Millwork followed drawings created by Odell Associates in order to create new molds for the wall panels and cornices. The architect designated architectural columns that matched Worthington's standard columns specifications. This allowed for the economical use of a stock mold for column fabrication.  All the FRP columns, wall panels and cornices arrived at the site pre-primed, ready for the final top coat.

5. Add a Pergola

The addition of a pergola adds architectural drama and renewed functionality to your property.

A Pergola typically features two key components: columns and rafters. The rafters are set atop the sturdy columns in a grid pattern. If you desire, add a retractable cover to increase functionality. Limit exposure to inclement weather or intense sunshine when you're grilling out, for example.

There are both free-standing and attached pergolas. A pergola is a dynamic and aesthetically pleasing way to complete your patio space.

An outdoor kitchen combined with a pergola is a very attractive asset when the time comes to sell. Enjoy your investment now. Your next outdoor BBQ will be that much more fun for your guests. When the time comes to sell, it offers prospective buyers something that distinguishes your home from the others on the market.

Renovate that flat, relatively uninteresting grilling area into a focal point of your backyard with the addition of a pergola. The addition of trellises and plants will add to its visual appeal.

6. Plan a Ceiling Beam Renovation

Given the open-end design of polyurethane beams, it is quite easy to use them for renovation projects. The new beam can literally wrap around the existing beam.

Polyurethane beams are available in a wide variety of sizes and finishes. The size and number of ceiling beams must be proportional to the living space. Here is a good example. Beams may be as little as three feet and as much as six feet apart. In general, the smaller the beams, the closer the spacing.

The rustic look arouses nostalgic feelings of yesteryear in many citizens. Hand-hewn and rough-sawn beams were key structural components of many 18th and 19th century homes, barns and other structures. Now, Worthington's Rustic Line creates the look of a bygone era using modern lightweight yet durable materials.

Skilled craftsmen fashion real weathered and distressed wood boards into molds. As the resin sets, detailed grain, knots and imperfections become part of the surface of the new synthetic beam, bracket or shutter. The original character of the boards is preserved in the process. Multiple stains allow designers to create the desired look. There are unfinished beams and other components for those who wish to go with a more exacting look.

7. Update Railings

Aluminum railings often replace worn, warped or outdated porch, deck or stair railings. Railings fabricated from strong, yet lightweight 6063 aluminum alloy will withstand the test of time. Use them on renovations of office buildings, multi-family structures, hotels/motels and much more. Select from glossy or matte colors. The AAMA 2604 powdercoat finish is extremely durable. Aluminum railing kits are known for their simple, straightforward installation.

They are available in a 36-inch height that complies with residential codes. For commercial projects, select the code-compliant 42-inch height.

About Worthington Millwork

For more than 30 years, Worthington Millwork has delivered high-quality, American-made architectural products to those serving commercial and/or residential clientele. Every product that we fabricate must meet our high standards before it leaves our facility.

We welcome projects large and small. Perhaps you're simply adding molding to a single bedroom. Or, you might be responsible for updating a balustrade system on a historic building. Whatever your need, we'd welcome the opportunity to get to know more about you and your project. Please contact us for prompt, expert assistance!