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How to Avoid Design Flaws – Stucco Detailing and Pilasters


Events taking place on the spur of the moment every Friday night and into Saturday morning. Put on liberally and without much thought to many of Regina’s homes. OH! I thought you said plastered.

In all seriousness the pilaster, unlike the column, which is built to hold up a structure, is meant only to decorate what might otherwise be a dull, plain surface.

A pilaster is an architectural treatment, which gives the illusion of a column built into a wall. Classic architecture favours symmetry, so moulding treatments were made to express this balance and style without going to the cost of a real column. In this way, the pilaster is for looks only where an actual column of the same general appearance would be designed to carry the load of the structure above it.


I do not have to go very far to find bad design choices and detailing when it comes to pilasters. I don’t know about other cities but Regina builders for the most part don’t have a clue. I say for the most part because I can not possibly see everything…still looking for pilasters done right has become an endless task.

The Story of the Floating Column

In this case luckily it is a pilaster that is dressed up to look like a structural column. I found this example backing onto a park with a lake near the Sandra Schmirler Leisure Centre – Regina.

What caught my eye was the spindle like deck supports. Don’t get me wrong they are structurally strong enough to support it. However, visually they are just wrong for the design of the house on which the builder used pilasters as one of the elements.

The focus of this blog is the hanging pilaster. Remember that a pilaster is a make believe column. For a pilaster to be within the bound of possibility as a column it must sit on a base and not just hang off of a wall like in this example.

Hanging Pilaster

I have included a picture that shows the correct pilaster usage. The base really looks like it sits on the foundation and the cap looks like it holds up the roof.

Correct Pilaster Design

Notice how in the example of the hanging pilaster the top looks like it is just supporting the soffit of the roof and not the roof itself.

I wonder what history is going to call an architectural style where builders use details without any context.

Additional Information About Pilasters

Found In

Greek Revival homes often have pilasters. In Renaissance architecture, beginning in Italy and spreading to France and England, pilasters were to a large degree popular on both interior and exterior walls. The decorative pilaster was also common in the designs of the later European Neoclassical periods.

The pilaster is found in every style that columns are found.

Pilaster treatments in traditional or Georgian style homes are often applied to a fireplace mantle in a miniature classic form. It is also routinely found at exterior door entryways where the pilaster has taken the place of real columns, along with faux pediments and an assortment of matching mouldings.


As with the column it looks like, a pilaster has a base, capital and horizontal unbroken lintel (what the pilaster appears to support). The pilaster is the designers answer to the continuity of appearance.


By building a shallow pilaster against the surface of the wall the eye is tricked into believing the pilaster is an embedded column that is equally as strong as a real column and that the wall has been built up to this support. In reality, the pilaster is an applied decoration with no or minimal support value. Some do carry a minimal amount of lateral load but most are used to enhance the appearance, create balance and symmetry and improve value. Most pilaster treatments are applied as trims after the essential outer skin of a home is built.


Pilaster ranges from an inch or two in depth to half the depth of a real column. Depending on the use, a designer determines which size pilaster complements the design and style of for the best effect. A pilaster is typically squared and flattened with a fluted face (shallow grooves cut vertically).

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