What's the Difference? Precise Terminology for the Home Inspector
What's the Difference? Precise Terminology for the Home Inspector October Home Inspections 866 628-1084
What’s the Diff? Series
Precise Terminology for the Home Inspector

by Arlene Puentes, October Home Inspections

What's the Difference Between a Pier and a Post and a Column?

One of the construction/architectural dictionaries I consulted says that a pier is one of the pillars supporting an arch. Two dictionaries say that a pier is the support for one of the arches on a bridge. Another reasonably says that a pier is a wood post driven into the ground, below water, to support a structure.

The way I've always used the term is described by another dictionary that says that it's the thickened section of a supporting wall which provides lateral support to concentrated vertical loads or, as another dictionary put it, the load bearing brickwork in a wall between openings. Several dictionaries allow that the term is widely used interchangeably with the word column. Or, to describe a large column, or a squat column or a short column.

Similarly the words post and column are used interchangeably. Or, a post is a slender column. Or a post is thicker than a stud. Or a post is a member used as a brace, shore, prop or jack. Or a 4x4 is commonly called a post. Or a post is the load bearing vertical member in post and beam framing (also known as post and girt, post and lintel, plank and beam framing) which divides the structure of a building into bays. One author (and I am grateful to him for his candor) admits that a post is an upright framing member and that the word has many uses.

A column is, of course, a relatively long, slender structural compression member which is used vertically. Of course? Well, no. A column can also be a pier, a post, a pillar, a strut or a stanchion.

What you need to know: You're not wrong. The person you're speaking to is not wrong. There are no nationally agreed upon terms. Actually, I find that rather relaxing.

All text and photos © Arlene Puentes
Do not copy


More from the "What's the Diff" Series:

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Mortar And Concrete?
Masonry And Concrete?
Cinder Blocks and Concrete Blocks?
An Adjustable Metal Column and a Lally Column?
A Check and a Crack in a Wood Framing Member?
Yankee Gutters and Built In Gutters?
A Ridge Beam and a Ridge Board?
A Joist and an I-joist?
Stucco and EIFS and Fiber Cement Siding?

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