Decorative column casings - Application and specification.

Since Pendock was formed in 1987, its name has become something of a byword for high quality decorative casing and enclosure solutions for concealing structural elements and building services to improve a project’s aesthetics and, in many cases, provide protection.

Pendock’s Technical Project Manager, Gavin Byram, provides an insight into the applications for one of the key product brands within their range, ‘Radius’ column casings, while also exploring key areas that should be considered during their selection and specification.

Column casings are a widely used and highly versatile method of concealing interior and exterior structural steelwork. Over the years, the demand for new solutions and designs to meet equally demanding project specifications, has had a significant influence on the range of solutions currently available.

Today, the Pendock Radius brand comprises six individual column casing types, which are manufactured in a range of standard shapes and materials, as well as bespoke options, which are:

·         MDF -CL - Circular MDF casings, which can be left plain for on-site finishing, but are usually specified with a durable and decorative high pressure laminate (HPL) finish.

·         PLY-SQ - Pre-formed plywood, usually specified with a decorative HPL finish, with the option of square or rectangular shapes.

·         MET-CL and MET-SQ - Circular or square casings manufactured from aluminium of stainless steel. Typically specified with a PPC finish although brushed; polished; textured; patterned and perforated options are also available. Bespoke manufactured for individual projects.

·         GRG-CL - Circular glass reinforced gypsum (GRG) casings produced from moulds in standard or bespoke sizes and shapes. Typically left plain for on-site decoration.

·         GRP-CL - Glass reinforced plastic (GRP) casings that are produced from moulds in standard circular shapes and can be specified with bespoke dimensions or forms for individual projects.


Although aesthetics are central to what are largely decorative items, specifiers should also carefully consider issues of practicality, as this will directly affect material selection, and in some cases, the choice of finish.

Buildings with high footfall, such as conference centres, shopping malls, retail outlets, and airports, usually require the greatest level of durability. This is best afforded by pre-finished products using durable high-pressure laminate (HPL), alongside stainless steel and aluminium with polyester powder-coated finishes.

At the other end of the scale, glass reinforced gypsum (GRG) casings are more suited to the performance and aesthetic needs of lighter traffic interior spaces, such as smaller retail units, offices or car showrooms.

As with casings manufactured from MDF or plywood, GRG casings should only be specified for interior projects, while for external applications, column casings should always be manufactured from metal or GRP due to their inherent weather resistance and high durability. GRP is also an ideal choice for indoor swimming pools and larger aquatics centres as they are unaffected by high humidity levels and moisture, or the corrosive properties of chlorine.

Elevation is another key design consideration. As a guide, where column casings are stacked to reach extended heights, they should generally be specified in a pre-finished material rather than site finished options, as it can help simplify installation.

If site-finished materials are specified, such as GRG or plain MDF and plywood, it’s likely that scaffolding will need to be erected, then dismantled, relocated and rebuilt, so that each column can be finished in turn. This clearly, adds avoidable time and cost to the building programme and is an issue than can be removed at the specification stage.

Casing shape is not only a matter of personal preference but is also driven by the elements that need to be concealed. In many applications, the column casing will be enclosing a single column or structural support, which usually results in circular sections being favoured for aesthetic and ergonomic reasons, given the wide choice of diameters and finishes available.

However, where building utilities, such as electrical cabling, air conditioning system components or pipework are secured to structural supports, a circular shape could prove impractical, as the diameter may need to be over-sized, purely to accommodate the additional services. An alternative solution would be to use, rectangular, elliptical or extended circle designs, allowing the elements to be concealed effectively while minimising the casing’s footprint and maximising floor space.

Specifiers can also utilise the external surfaces of column casing to locate electrical sockets, lighting, signage, security cameras and television screens among other items. This can help provide additional benefits for shops, schools and other buildings, where space is generally at a premium, but may also have an influence on the casing shape and material.

For example, where electrical sockets are fixed to the column casing, it might be more practical to specify a square or rectangular casing solution with a flat surface, rather than curved. Also, if the casing is to support lighting, cameras or mirrors, shape becomes less of an issue, but the casing itself needs to be robust enough to support the weight and allow the fixing of the necessary support brackets.

It’s also worth noting that with very few exceptions, all column casings will need to incorporate adjustable recessed head and skirting collars as part of the specification. These provide a level of dimensional flexibility, at both design and installation stages, allowing any variation in the floor to ceiling height to be accommodated.

This is particularly helpful in multiple column installations where the casing heights can be kept the same and any gaps, top or bottom, are filled by the sliding collars.

As a general guide, in terms of budget, laminated-faced plywood products are the most cost effective, followed by aluminium and GRP options, with stainless steel being the most expensive material. In almost all cases, price tends to be driven by several factors, in addition to material choice. The size, shape and finish should be considered, as well as whether the casings are a ‘standard’ or a bespoke manufactured items.

Typically, MDF and plywood casings can be specified from a standard range while GRG and GRP moulded casings allow a high degree of versatility for bespoke solutions. As metal casings are bespoke manufactured, this usually attracts a price premium, as they are specified to meet unique dimensions, forms, finishes and other dedicated project criteria.

For assistance with specifying any Radius column casing, please contact call 01952 580590, e-mail or visit

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