A recent article I read in The West Australian ('Collapsed concrete pillar was not restrained' 14th May 2013) brought home the seriousness of the building industry we find ourselves in. The sad outcome was the death of a 3 year old boy whilst on holiday with parents at Rottnest. Whilst the young boy swung playfully in a hammock, the brick pillar it was tied too collapsed, crushing the boys head, and killing him. This tragedy was a result of a poorly built brick pillar - something we come across all the time.
Brick Pillars can be quite aesthetically pleasing as they can be made quite wide and hence solid looking. Therefore it is common when we visit an older style house, the owners like to keep their old concrete pillars for the look they bring. It is possible to keep them, however it all comes down to their structural integrity.
The most important structural feature of a concrete column is the steel rods or strapping that should be built into the pillar. This rod or strapping is designed to be built into the base of the pier and also attached to the above supporting beams of a roof such as a patio or pergola. Without adequate internal steel support the pillar can be quite simply pushed over with very little force. Even a child swinging in a hammock can tragically force a pillar to fall over.
What we find however out in the suburbs is plenty of old brick pillars that have NO internal metal support strapping, OR the metal has rusted over time making it in effect useless. IF you wish to retain brick pillars in your patio entertaining area it is imperative that they are structurally sound. If we have any doubt about their ability to stay upright we will NEVER allow them to remain or become a part of our new patio addition. These pillars must then be removed OR rebuilt with the correct structural integrity.
With years of experience crafting modern designs, we find in most cases brick pillars are not well built and therefore not safe. But they also close in and impede the open feel of most backyards. We recommend people remove the pillars all together and allow us to space new steel columns. We can even place them up to 8 metres apart - greatly enhancing the open feel of the new covered patio area.