Feb 25, 2019

Faux Wood Beams

I have always loved the look of old wooden beams in a home.  When we built our home in 2001 we had a young family and were on a strict budget! Well....wooden beams,  were way out of our price range.... But I never lost the desire to have them or the hope....With our high ceilings and peaks...wood beams would be right at home here! I knew I must find a way to have them...…Fast forward 18 years..... we sure are in need of some updating and cosmetic changes in this aging house. (I tend to spend too much time focused on the yard and animals........) Well we tackled the floors last year, but there is so much more in the plans that still needs to be updated.  In our "work on the house" plans for this year are the guest bath, kitchen cabinet painting and some superficial enhancements to finish out the windows and adding some faux wood beams to the ceiling.  After lots of research and pricing of beams...eeek,!!  They are expensive.... I decided if it was going to ever get done I'd just have to jump in and DIY it!  I just love that kind of challenge!  Don't you?  I am by nature a re-creator....If I can see it, I can re-create it....but I'm always pretty sure I can do it cheaper, and that's always a good thing for our family budget and my whims.....

So I hope you will enjoy joining me in my DIY Faux Wood Beam adventure!

Step 1: Getting Started. These are the supplies I used: Pink 4'x8' insulation foam board, handheld circular saw, gorilla glue, screw driver, 2" wood screws, styrofoam heat wand cutter, styrofoam saw, hammer, woodworking type tools. I used a wide type chisel, and a heavy duty tool that reminds me of a thick heavy screw driver...…I found it amongst my husbands tools and it seemed to do the job beautifully.  Most anything very heavy with a thin but blunt end should work fine. Wood clamps capable of more than a 6" clamp. A wire brush is the magic tool for grain,  acrylic paints, (I used what I had on hand) and some General Finishes Java Gel stain.  

Step 2: Cutting the foam. I stripped the foam board length wise. One 4"x 8' strip and two 6" x8' strips make one U shaped beam. I used a handheld circular saw to get the job done.  The 4" piece will be sandwiched between the 6" strips adding an inch on either side to make it 6" on the third side after glued together.   Giving the appearance of a solid 6"x6" beam. I was careful to use all safety precautions when using my power tools. I also used a dust mask to avoid any inhalation of foam dust. 

Step 3: I laid my strips on the ground plain side up (letters down). Placed my heel weight on the strips here and there leaving faint indentions in the foam. I use the wire brush, applying pressure as I drug it from end to end in one continues movement. This made the grains in the wood....Then, I continued to add grain till I was content. It can be done in full or partial length, or specific areas of wood grain distressing.  Use you heavy wood working tools to mark up and score your pieces.  I just kinda stabbed at it....great way to let out frustrations! When I'm working on the beams I like to imagine a hand hewn board and try and recreate that look.  I use my 2" chisel, lay it at an angle and apply pressure with my hammer to create a depressed indention that ends with a cut area, then stab in the indented part to create the look of wittled wood. Once the sides have been distressed to look somewhat like wood it's time to glue them together. 

More distressing happens after gluing. In this picture, they are already glued together, but this gives you a close up on my hand hewn like marks. 

Step 4: This is actually the trickiest part. Using gorilla glue, glue the strips together, wood side facing out. I use a paint brush to paint "water" along where the gorilla glue will be. You are gluing three boards together forming a U shaped faux beam as shown. The 4" strip upside down on a covered (glue oozes out) work area table or bench.  The two 6" strips facing out will sit flush with the 4" strip on the work table.  Glue one side, as you glue you will screw the 2" screws as if screwing the pieces together. This will pull the pieces taunt. The hard part here is making sure the newly made 6" side is flush. Don't worry, after you have glued both sides on, while the glue is still wet, you can turn right side up remove and reposition your screws as needed until its flush and cinched in tight. I use latex gloves when working with gorilla glue.... it's messssyyyy.   I use screws sparingly as it leaves holes that will later need to be filled. Once it's flush, with the glue still wet clamp it together as tight as you can, without denting to boards to badly.  You may want some additional 4" scrap pieces to keep the sides parallel.  As the glue sets, it foams and oozes out on front and inside. So don't walk away from your project for too long. You want the bulk to be on the inside, but some will make its way out the top too. Try to scrape this off  or smooth it down before it sets completely, it is difficult to remove after setting. and also difficult to cut into. YOU DON'T want to be able to tell these are seams on the finished product.  Let material set. Remove clamps and screws and plug the holes with wood putty.

Step 5:  Making it look authentic. Using the Styrofoam saw and heat wand you can cut into the wood creating all sorts of character. Look at beams and aged railroad ties for inspiration. I have found that less is more. Don't go crazy....a few long lined grooves, maybe a few edges cut into, and you can use the wire brush again in concentrated areas to give a very tattered worn spot.....your goal here is to make all three sides look like an old aged beam, and to HIDE that seam where you glued your pieces together. I try and dull or round and gouge my corners also.  It should look like a solid piece of pink wood when you are done. Once happy that each side looks good it's time to turn it into a beam.  

Step 6:  Painting the beam.  I did my first coat with a medium orangey brown.  It always reminds me of a raw cypress beam at this point. I then use black acrylic paint to paint inside my grooves and indention areas. I'm very messy at this point. As a side note, you do not have to cover every bit of pink foam....so don't sweat it. This is where some artistic ability helps out.  Remember that dark color recess and lighter colors come forward. Use your paint to emphasize your distressing and wood grain. After the black is laid down, I use my Java Gel stain. Gel stain.....stains so use latex gloves! I do a quick superficial coating on all sides with a paint brush, covering most the beam... A thin coat not super heavy, you want some lighter color to show through in areas.  DO NOT push it into the grooves. Step back and look every once in a while visualizing what you are trying to create. (You will need thinner to clean up this paint brush.)

    Give the gel a day to dry. It should be looking pretty good by now! After dry, I do a very watered down light gray wash over the entire piece, blotting up overly opaque painted areas. Remember, you can always go back over steps at your discretion. I then use some light tans and toupes, and sienna's to add additional character. On the edges of my grooves or cuts I use lights. Areas I want to retreat I use darker colors. This is all preference here, you get to use your artistic license!  Once you are satisfied, you are done!  Here are some close ups through the process. 

This is what happens when you get carried away with the wire brush....beautiful!
This is after the gel stain, but before any gray wash. As you can see, it would be fine to leave as is...I like the weathered look of gray wood.

Step 7: Installing your beam. I used 4 inch strip of the same foam board. You can do a full strip or pieces, use your best judgment. I tacked the strip up to the peak with dry wall screws and roofing screw washers.  I straddled the beam over the placed stripping and fastened the beam to the strip with just dry wall screws. Make sure to counter sink so you can fill and paint to hide the holes.  I used EPDM rubber liner to make 2 inch strips  to cover where the beams abut each other. I made plaster of Paris faux nut bolts, I then fastened them with a hot glue gun....but you can buy an OTC similar product for the same purpose......well we are all finished!

Each Foam board will yield 2 full beams, with pieces left over! Not bad for the $20.00 investment....Since I find creating quite therapeutic...I don't charge for pain and suffering......
It does take some time from start to finish....but I was very happy with the final result and cost.  At this point I have only covered this oddly placed diagonal peek in our family room. I will be tying that into the main peak with the additional beams I'm working on now!

I hope you enjoyed my tutorial and feel confident enough to dive into your own DIY faux beam project.  Please let me know how it goes!


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