Painting wooden beams

Wooden ceiling beams are full of character. Typical of the classic country cottage, wooden beams can also be found in new build homes and converted properties alike. Adding charm and architectural interest, they’re a coveted feature for lots of homeowners.

In many period properties however, where small windows and low ceilings contribute to dark rooms, imposing wooden beams can make a space feel even darker.

Historically, beams were often painted in a dark colour to help preserve the wood and prevent it from rotting. Black beams can create a clashing effect, especially against a light coloured ceiling. Although this black and white effect is typically associated with Tudor properties, it’s actually quite out of character for many old buildings. And shiny, dark beams can also be very unflattering in a small space.

What about stripping old wooden beams?

If you have old wooden ceiling beams that have been painted, one way to restore character to your property is to strip the beams, revealing the natural wood. This can be a time consuming and painstaking job, but the finished effect is usually worth the effort! Specialist companies can make the process much easier, but it can come at a cost.

Wooden beams used in a kitchen and lounge.

There are two main ways to restore wooden beams yourself; sanding (or sandblasting) and using chemical removers. For older rustic beams, sandblasting is not always possible, as it could damage the beams, so paint stripper is usually more effective. However if you live in an historic property, it’s important to seek professional advice before tackling any major work like this!

Stripped wooden beams that have been sympathetically restored and finished with an oil or wax (our clear Furniture Wax is ideal) can look truly stunning.

What’s the best paint for wooden beams?

In some properties however, stripping the beams isn’t practical and can potentially cause more harm than good! Likewise, the bare wood look isn’t for everyone. One favourite way to lighten a space, while remaining authentic to the age your property, is to paint the wooden beams in the same colour as your ceiling. This works particularly well when beams and ceilings are painted in light, neutral colours such as white, cream or pale grey.

Split image of wooden beams in homes.

Any of our eco friendly interior paints would be suitable; it just depends on the look and finish you’re after. If your beams are already painted, it’s best to use a paint that will completely cover any existing colour. Our Eggshell No.17 is designed for use on all interior woodwork, and would achieve a look similar to the above left image from Pinterest, where the beams are painted in a classic full coat of white. It has a soft sheen finish and can be easily wiped clean – perfect if your ceilings beams get dusty. Simply prepare the previously painted beams with our Multi Purpose Primer, and follow with at least a couple of coats of Eggshell No.17 for a timeless finish.

How to white wash wooden beams

Another way to enhance the natural beauty of wooden beams, while keeping your room light and bright, is to white wash them. Also known as ‘lime washing’ it adds a wash of light colour to your wooden beams whilst allowing the knots and grooves of the timber to show through.

Earthborn’s Claypaint is the ideal paint to achieve this look, due to its high clay content and ultra flat matt finish.

Wooden beams split image.

Simply dilute the Claypaint with water (a ratio of 1 part water to 1 part paint is a good starting point) and apply with brushstrokes in the same direction as the wood grain. As you work, have a soft, damp cloth ready to ‘remove’ excess paint before it dries.

This method can be used on both unpainted and painted wooden beams, but bear in mind that any colour will show through the paint slightly. Fortunately, this technique is particularly effective on wooden beams that have already been stained a dark shade.

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