How to Restore an Oak Beam

How to Restore an Oak Beam

Oak beams are not only an inherent part of many architectural design needs, but also a striking and bold aesthetic feature. However, over time beams can become dirty, turn grey, and the finish can become cloudy or even flake off. With a few simple supplies you can restore these gorgeous features to their former beauty.

  • What you will need:
  • Oil or wax stain
  • Sand paper
  • Belt sander
  • Lacquer

Begin restoring the beam by removing the old finish. The beam may be finished with some type of varnish or glossy top coat, or it may simply have an oil finish without a top coat. It doesn’t matter which, the sanding procedure is the same.

It’s easiest to use a belt sander to remove the old finish but if the beam is in an area which is difficult to access then an orbital sander will do the job. Sand parallel to the grain, the full length of the beam, until you restore the amber, natural color of the oak.

Next, choose an oil or wax to stain the beam. This type of stain adds to the natural beauty of the wood by penetrating deep into the grain while replenishing natural oils which prevent the wood from aging. Oil stain hardens to protect the wood from the inside out and you can add more oil as needed over the years or months to reinforce the protection.

Apply the stain directly on to the beam with with a clean cloth or sponge. Leave it for five minutes before wiping it off again with a soft cloth. If the colour isn’t as dark as you would like, repeat the staining process and leave it for a further ten minutes.

If you want a glossy finish to the beam then you will need to add a top coat. Make sure you leave the oil stain to dry for at least 72 hours before applying a varnish or lacquer.

Most old beams have been finished with either varnish or shellac. These two products were fine and worked great in their time, but contemporary builders prefer lacquer for almost all interior beams; it dries faster, it’s easier to apply with a more consistent, reliable process and more affordable.

Start by filling a quart capacity spray gun with lacquer then spray an even wet coat on to the beam by moving the gun parallel with the grain. Once dry, sand the beam by hand with 120-grit sandpaper and then spray up to two more coats for a deeper gloss.

Timber and Building Merchants

George Hill is a leading independent timber merchant and building supplies provider in the North West, with branches in Oldham, Manchester, Bolton and Nelson. Founded in 1919 we’re family run, and have been for 99 years.

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