If one of the prefinished beams on our site suits your project to a T, you should definitely go ahead and order it. Staining a pile of unfinished beams is way down the list of things that most of us love to do. It's messy, time-consuming, and (let's face it) pretty boring. But no prefinished beam can fit everyone's needs and plans. You might want something more distinctive than a traditional walnut or pine color. And some of our beams are only available unfinished. With all the effort and expense you're putting into your project, you want the result to be right -- including the exact color of your beams. If you've done much staining, you know colors can be hit-or-miss. You know the color on the lid of the can or the chart at the hardware store can only give a general idea of how the finish will actually look. And it'll look different on polyurethane than on pine or oak or maple. Thank goodness for free samples! In case you don't know: You can order a sample of any beam we sell. Order as many as you want, because they end up being free. It's true: When you decide what you want, and place your order for the actual beams, you can deduct from the beam order every penny you paid for the samples. (Well, unless you went overboard and paid more for the samples than the whole cost of the beam order.) That means you can order several samples of different beam styles, try out different stains and techniques on them, and see what you're going to get before you commit to the Big Order. Let the stain dry completely before you reach any conclusions. And be sure to choose and apply finishes according to the instructions on our web site. Sure, it takes some time and some fussing. But the results are worth the effort.