Our Dutch colonial's porch has three original 20" diameter round wood porch columns in different states of disrepair. Two need new bases and all need to be completely stripped and re-painted. In addition, one has been wrapped (I'm not sure what they used as a wrap) and sloppily caulked (probably with a masonry caulk gun) and then painted over the gobs of caulk. We've considered replacing them with fiberglass columns (though they only go to 16" diameter). However, we would love to reburbish these and save both money and the environment. We've made a new base for similar style columns at our previous house so that's not a problem. The slats that make up the columns are still in good condition but we need to act soon as the raw wood is exposed to the elements in many places.

My questions:
1. Is there a recommended durable and attractive material that we could use to securely wrap and paint the columns, thus, circumventing the mess and danger of stripping old paint?
2. If not, what paint stripping technique and/ or product do you recommend? We have various layels of chipped paint and we would have to remove most not all, of them.
3. What kind of caulk or other material would you recommend for us to use between the slats that make up each column?
4. Do you have any other recommendations or suggestions?

We have other porch problems but this one stumps us most. Thanks for any advice you can provide.