When you’re looking to add detail or visual interest to a ceiling, installing box beams is a great way to do it. But you also want to make sure that you’re choosing the right materials and getting the look that’s right for your space.
While a traditional real wood beam can sometimes add structural support to stabilize a wall or foundation, they also are extremely heavy and difficult to install. And, depending on where it is being installed, a solid wood beam may compromise the stability of your structure. In most cases, you’ll need help from a contractor to install a solid wood beam. They also can be very expensive. That’s one reason box beams have become so popular.
A box beam is a three-sided structure that has been made to look as if it is one large, solid piece of wood. They are a great alternative when a solid wood beam won’t work — such as when you want to cover up an existing beam or hide wires or pipes in a basement. Box beams can also be used to “dress up” floor-to-ceiling supports in a basement.
You have a few different options when it comes to choosing your box beams, and your choice will affect both the cost of your beams and the amount of work required for installation.
Know Your Options for Box Beams
The type of box beams you choose will depend on your time, budget and installation expertise. Here are three different ways you can go:
Build Your Own. If you’re a hands-on home renovator, you can build your own box beams, although it’s going to add some time to your project. You can build box beams out of woods like plywood or pine, but make sure that you’re comfortable with your carpentry skills if you’re taking this on for the first time. Making your own can save you some money, but remember to allow extra time for staining and drying between building and installing them. If you’re building your own box beams out of reclaimed wood, be sure to check for any pests or insects that have made nests in the wood, as you don’t want to share your home with them!
Real Wood Beams. Real wooden beams have some advantages that have made them a popular selection, such as their unique patterns, colors and textures. They are fabricated to look like solid wood beams, but are less expensive because of their three-sided, hollow design. This design also makes them lighter and easier to install. Barron Designs makes its real wood box beams from virgin wood, which makes them less prone to problems like warping, cracking and twisting. Then the wood is crafted to match the color, texture and character of reclaimed wood to give it the appearance of being weathered and aged.
Faux Wood Beams. When you’re adding beams to your ceiling, faux wood beams have several advantages, such as being lightweight, easy to install and also being less expensive than real wood beams. Another strong selling point is that because they are made from polyurethane, faux wood beams are not going to rot, warp or twist like real wood, nor will they be susceptible to termites and other wood-damaging insects. Barron Designs has a huge selection of faux ceiling beams in custom sizes and in a variety of finishes to suit every home design style — or you can buy them in paint-ready condition with a beige double-primer coat, and finish them yourself to complement your décor.
Just one more word on selecting your beams: Make sure you choose beams that are proportionate to the size of the room. Higher ceilings can accommodate larger, wider beams. Plus, you want to avoid having your ceiling appear overwhelmed or crowded by the beams. If you’re not sure of what size beams you need, call our design support team toll-free at 800.651.4223 or join our online chat for advice.
How to Install Your Box Beams
Once you have your finished box beams, you’re ready to get started. Installing box beams requires these five steps:
Step 1: Mark the Space
One of the biggest things to consider is how the beams will be spaced. Measure your ceiling and see if there are any obstacles to work around — such as vents, light structures or pipes — and take those into consideration as you plan placement of the beam. Although you want your beams spaced as evenly as possible, moving one just a few inches to accommodate any fixed obstacles won’t have a negative effect on the overall look of the room.
Now, use painter’s tape or masking tape to mark where they’ll be placed.
Step 2: Place the Anchor Blocks
You’ll need to install anchor blocks on the ceiling to support the beam, so measure the inside dimensions of the wood beam and cut blocks to fit that width. Now, using a stud finder, locate the best spot to position the wood blocks and mark that spot.
Once you’ve finished marking the spots, attach wood blocks within the tape lines, preferably every 3 to 4 feet.
Step 3: Measure and Cut
Now you’re ready for the beams themselves. If you are installing faux beams, it’s best that you allow them to sit at room temperature for at least 24 hours so they will adjust to the temperature of the room. Also, when cutting, leave a little extra length at the end of the beam. It’s much better to have a tight fit than to come up short.
When you’ve finished cutting, do a “dry run” and make sure the beams fit properly in the space. Make any adjustments necessary.
Step 4: Secure the Beams
Apply adhesive to the sides of the wooden anchor blocks and slide the faux beam into place. Be sure to push it tightly against the ceiling with no gaps showing. Then, place screws through the side of the beam to attach it to the block. The screws will help keep the beam in place while the adhesive dries, so place at least two screws on each side of each beam to make sure it will be secure. Caution: Do not overtighten the screws, which could cause damage to the beam.
Step 5: Add the Finishing Touches
Use caulk to fill in any spaces between the beam and wall if necessary. Then, fill in the screw holes with caulk or wood filler. Allow it to dry, then enjoy your room—and admire your handiwork.
If you’re still not sure which type of box beam is best for your room or for your level of expertise, remember that the Barron Designs design team can help you choose what product is best for you.