Taking care of wooden beams

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Exposed wooden beams give the home a rustic feel. Ceiling beams in the living room radiate warmth and looks homey. Even if the wood is still as sturdy and stable, no beam lasts forever. Climatic and human impacts will not leave the thickest beams unscathed. Thus, although your wooden support structure can trustworthy for a long time and shine in its full splendour, it will need to be revamped from time to time. Renovation of beams are connected with some effort, but will be worth it in any case. Not only will you renew the old wooden beams, but your entire home will shine in a new light. The treatment of old wooden beams and ceiling beams does not even necessarily require the help of an expert. With a little DIY know-how, you can easily create and implement solutions. What you do need, and to what you’ll have to pay special attention, can be found here in our simple guide.

Wood species

Wooden beams have always been important in the construction of roof trusses and wood-beamed ceilings. But which species are mainly used in the construction? In traditional half-timbered houses, oak as a material is particularly popular because it is extremely weather- and pest resistant. However, the beautiful and bright oak has its price. 

The more favourable solution is the spruce. The wood is valued for its high load capacity and receptivity of antifouling paints. Moreover, this type of wood seems to hold up continuously for years, with only relatively few cracks. 

Other species that are often used in the beam construction, are fir, pine and larch. The latter type of wood is renowned for its robustness and acid resistance as well as for its colour intensity. Those who do not want to decide between the wealth of materials do not have to despair: The combination of different types of wood with its different grains can have its visual appeal.

Wear and traces of aging

Old wooden beams are beautiful to look at. Many people are looking to consciously age wood and deliberately age it artificially. However, moisture, uneven load distribution, pest attacks and fungus deteriorates many a wooden beam in the course of his long life. Before you undertake the restoration, you should take the precaution to check if the beams of wood are possibly infected by worms or fungi. 

To find out if your timber beams are rotten, you can measure the drilling resistance of the wood and look at the condition of the drill cuttings. If the timber bar’s interior is strongly attacked, not even the best restoration work will achieve anything and you’ll have no choice but to replace the beams. Infected beams pose a high risk in lowering the load capacity of the structure. Before replacing the bar you should then definitely get a professional to pay the beams a bit of skilled attention.

Restore

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Die Design Fabrik

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Die Design Fabrik

Do your beams display deep notches, dirty crevices, cracks, holes or even protruding wood fibres? Then it is high time for a thorough restoration. First, review the possibilities regarding existing nails and screws. 

Next, you must relieve the bar of dust and coarse dirt. For cleaning you can use a hand brush. Plaster remaining in the beam can be, for example, scraped with a spatula. Visible holes can be repaired by making use of a special filling compound. 

Then it goes to grinding. An electric sander can facilitate the tedious work, but beware: Residues of old nails might be present in the wood, which is why you should work with a minimum of pressure. If you want to play it safe, then you can sand the beam by hand. Ask for advice in a hardware store regarding which abrasive paper is appropriate for the type of wood in question. Protect yourself when grinding with a respirator, thick gloves and safety goggles. Also, always respect the fibre direction of the beam when grinding it smooth. Otherwise you’ll risk the ugly event of fraying the wood’s surface.

Surface treatment

Straight cut, clean beams can be treated with (natural) wood oils or a biological stain, in order to protect them against environmental influences. These products bring out the natural grain of the beams much clearer. On the other hand, it preserves or intensifies the original colour of the wood. A particularly good and natural oil for wood preservation is linseed oil.

Instead of treating the bars with oil or a glaze, you can also paint it. Paint acts as good as a glaze. The difference is that a lacquer layer protects the timber from the outside while a glaze penetrates into the wood, thus protecting it from the inside. 

An increasingly popular type of treatment is one which we do not want to hide from you at this point: The post-treatment of oiled beams with beeswax. The wood wax as additional surface protection must indeed be re-applied every few years, but is one hundred percent natural and environmentally friendly.

What hurts the beam

Finished with all of the dos, we now also want to draw your attention to the don'ts. Wooden beams that have to withstand the weather should be treated not only with a colourless glaze, because the cellular structure of the wood can be weakened by UV radiation when there is paint damage. Correctly, however, you should pre-treat the wood with a colourless glaze and then sweep it with a pigmented stain. 

Keep your wooden beams away from wet sources. Wood is a living material that breathes, expands, contracts and is decayed and rotten in constant contact with moisture. Some wood species are particularly susceptible to discolouring fungi. Even brief contact with moisture is sufficient cause for damage, and the wood changes its appearance.

How much maintenance is necessary?

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luca pedrotti architetto

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luca pedrotti architetto

Now you know which types of wood are used for beam structures, how to proceed when restoring it, and what resources are used for its treatment. Since the whole renewal and treatment process is relatively complex, you will be glad to hear the length of intervals at which the treatment steps are to be repeated. Wooden beams with a good surface treatment can easily survive up to a decade without signs of aging, embrittlement and peeling. If the bar is used by your cat as a scratching post, however, or if you have raging toddlers around, then you’ll have to treat your rafters more often.

Now that you are equipped with the most important information, we wish you much fun during the restoration!

Since you have the wooden beams covered, take a look at how you can: Make your own beautiful wooden furniture out of pallets!

Have you recently undertaken the task of restoring your wooden beams? We'd love to hear about it!
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