Tarting Up Ceiling Beams


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+1 for the Bahco 665 scraper. We have one oak beam in our utility room that was covered in layer upon layer of thick paint as shown in the before and after shot below. I used a heat gun and a bahco then applied stained furniture wax with a shoe brush. I found wire brushes scratched the surface too much.


Depends how far you want to go and what you want in the way of looks. They are not nice looking beams as a bit square but what about cladding them in some old second hand timber that you can apply the finish before attaching.

I don’t mind the squareness, tbf an alternative did not cross my mind! What would be a more pleasing shape? Just softened edges or something more arty?
Thanks all for the suggestions!

I don’t really fancy painting them, it’s possible that’s the fashion again but I’m not so inclined to follow fashion on soemthing that’ll hopefully be as I leave it at the end of this process until I can’t focus my eyes on it anymore!

So I suspect variations of stripper on the ‘old finish’, much scraping and flossing, and oxalic to ‘lighten and even out’ will be the way forward…
Hot soapy water, don't soak them, works well at evening out old watermarks. When dry try Briwax clear wax for the lightest finish, this will still darken them but will greatly improve them. Whatever you do don't blast them, it will cost you something more than half of everything you ever owned and take years to remove all the dust. Ask me how I know...
So I thought I'd report back on progress....

I tried a lot of the tips/suggestions above, but in general any kind of chemical (stripper, oxalic etc) gave very inconsistent results. The beams had various kinds of accumulated finishes (bits of paint, various stains/varnishes in various colours), some appear to be a different species fresh from the builder's yard complete with random nails causing black marks and some sort of thick green paint that would be more at home on a shed than indoors.

Doing test sections also resulted in an 'overtreated' section that looked worse as it was hard to even up with the adjacent bits when I returned to finish the area.

Of couse, once you start and have made things look worse, you must continue digging.

The process I ended up going through more or less:

- To clean the beams with some water/soda crystals and scrape off any large oddities.
- Once that was done, I basically taped off each room, and hit them with my orbital sander (80, 120, grit). This was pretty laborious waving the sander overhead for hours, and with my old sander generated a lot of dust and vibration. I upgraded to a festool one, and the dust extraction was so much improved that the dust levels were easily dealt with by simply vaccuming the room afterwards. Getting into the edges that meet the ceiling generated the most dust as the small delta sander had much worse extraction with the triangular pads.
- Some parts of the beams had 'character' wear (cracks, deep gouges etc) that would have meant sanding them down so much it would have looked bad, so I just cleaned those up with scrapers/strippers etc and left them in place.
- Finally once they looked 'OK' I went over them with the oxalic acid leaving it 20-30 minutes or so and then washing off with soda crystals in water to deactivate. This cleaned up some of the stains and evened out the various shades somewhat...

So - a painful job, but in the end the sanding was not as dusty as I feared. The main issue was that the vibrations (that were much less into my arms with the festool) were transmitting loudly into next doors house generating lots of complaints, so I ended up scheduling the adjoining rooms were the beams must be resting on a party wall of sorts for days when they were out at work!

Anyway... a few before and afters. Not perfect, but certainly better in our opinion and has lightened up the rooms.

Thanks all for the advice!


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And now you have the arms of a gorilla t'boot 💪

It's a shame nobody but you will likely appreciate the time and graft. If it were me, I'd be tempted to clock the first person commenting, "oh, so you just sanded them then". They look great, well done (y)
And now you have the arms of a gorilla t'boot 💪

It's a shame nobody but you will likely appreciate the time and graft. If it were me, I'd be tempted to clock the first person commenting, "oh, so you just sanded them then". They look great, well done (y)
Thanks! Luckily I do have a cheerleader/project manager in the house and she is very pleased :)
Any idea how many hours you put it this project- yeah don’t answer that . The end result is what counts and it look fabulous. I take it this won’t be an annual event 😳😳😳
True, we opted for triple glazing instead of the fancy electrics though. We had 8 replaced when the roof was done last year so will hopefully be someone else’s choice next time it’s due!

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