How to Get the Look: Faux Wood Beams

Exposed wood beams add character and interest to any room and are the focal point in many country-chic and industrial designs. If you’re dreaming of adding this feature to your home, you don’t need to get out the saw and start peeling back the ceiling to find your own wood beams.

Follow this easy how-to guide to get the look.

Determine where you will install your beams

Whether you want to install one beam down the center of the room or several spaced across the ceiling, your beams need to be installed at the studs. This is to support the weight of the beams so that they don’t pull down your drywall. This can mean either perpendicular to the studs, secured at each stud your beam passes, or laid along the studs running the same direction. Either way, you need to find and mark the studs where your beams will be placed.

Buy, measure and cut your wood

Your beams can be any width, length and height that you choose as long as they form a square or rectangle. For easy building, using a standard width of lumber makes the most sense. For example, four 1x8 boards for a square beam or two 1x8 and two 1x6 for a rectangular beam. Whatever width beams you choose, you will want the lumber to be untreated and 1-inch thick.

Whenever possible buy lengths of wood that will allow you to hang your beams in one long piece. If your ceiling is too wide, you can install your faux beam in sections but pay attention to where your seams will lie when cutting your boards. Measure and cut your boards to your required length. You want your board to fit very snuggly up against your walls so be sure to measure twice, cut once, and err on the side of caution. You may consider using a laser measuring tool for the most accurate results.

Attach your base

First, you will install the base of your beam by securing the lumber that will be the width of your beam to the ceiling. This is how your faux beam will attach to the ceiling. This wood will not be seen once your beam is installed so it does not need to be stained. Attach this board with screws at each stud or every 12 inches if running along a stud. This beam doesn’t need to be pretty, but it does need to be secure and straight. 

Option: If you have vaulted ceilings you may want to install your faux beams so that they appear to float between the two sides of your ceiling rather than flat against the drywall. This will be done in a similar process, but rather than securing a length of wood as your base, you will need to install a block on either side of the ceiling to which your beam will be secured. Be sure to secure it to them to the studs!

Build your beams

You will create and stain your beams before securing them to the base. The length of your three remaining boards should be the same as the base already attached to your ceiling. Lay your bottom section (your remaining width-sized board) on a flat surface. Stand your two height sized boards on either side to create a U- shape and fasten the boards together using a nail gun. Brad nails are recommended as they are less likely to be seen on your finished project. Place a nail about every 6 inches.

Option: If you want your beam to look more authentic, you can miter your lumber so that there are no seams showing when your beam is complete. If you choose this option, be mindful that you need to miter your base beam as well as ensure all your boards will still fit together. You will also want to glue as well as nail your boards together to create your U-shape if you’ve mitered your boards. 

Prep the outside of your U-shaped beam for staining. Lightly sand using 100 grit sandpaper and a hand sander to remove any printing or dirt, then use a damp rag to remove the dust. If you want to give your beams a more aged look, give them some bumps and bruises with a hammer or other tools. Stain your wood according to the instructions on your selected stain.

Install your beam

This step is definitely more Do-It-With-A-Friend-Or-Two than DIY. You will need to slide your beam over your base to secure to the ceiling. This will require a couple of people to help place and hold the beam and one to nail it on. Your U-shape should fit snugly against your base and may take a little pushing, prying and hammering to get it on. Don’t be hasty and do any trimming or cutting, your beams should fit together tightly. Once in place, secure with your brad nails every six inches or so.

Option: If you’ve installed your beams in sections rather than full strips the length of your ceiling, you might consider covering the seams. This can add an additional decorative touch to your beams and can be done using any number of materials such as wood trim, or shaped and finished metal for a more industrial look.

For a surprisingly easy and low-cost DIY, your faux wood beams are guaranteed to have an impact, adding interest, height and design to any space.