Three-sided ceiling beams?

ElectraTooOctober 27, 2012

Hi all,

We are finally moving on to the trim work in my house. It is a French Country style and the plans call for timber trim beams on the cathedral ceiling in the family room, as well as in the kitchen. There are also timber posts framing out the threshold from the family room to the kitchen (it's a very open floor plan).

I am not opposed to using real timber beams from a cost perspective; they are actually quite a bit cheaper than those faux polyurethane beams on the market (and why they claim to be less than wood I cannot understand). I am more concerned with the weight of these beams on my ceiling, given that they would only be decorative and not structural. My builder suggests having the trim carpenter build out some three-sided beams from planks of rough-sawn cedar (or whatever kind of wood I'd prefer). This seems like the right solution to me but I am wondering how common this is, and if anyone could share the process by which these types of beams are built and installed. My main concern is that they look realistic, and that they don't look like a new piece of wood. Obviously the look I'm going for here is old farmhouse so the wood would have to have an aged appearance. I also don't want to see nail or screw holes.

Any advice here? Thanks!

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We have real cedar beams in our home - interior and exterior - but on the back veranda, two of them are actually wrapped steel beams (poured concrete upper veranda). You can tell if you look and you can see screw holes.

Personally I would not use the three piece beams or faux beams inside.

Some of ours are structural, some are not. Our beams were installed during construction before the sheetrock was installed, so they are not going anywhere... and believe me, I look up that the center beam in our MBR and wonder sometimes how stupid it is to be sleeping under it. But since I saw it installed and I know it's not going anywhere, I can sleep at night! lol

My parents used real beams installed after the sheetrock was installed. They used gigantic bolts, etc to secure them.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 4:00PM
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An old farmhouse would have real hand-hewn timbers and a Victorian or Colonial Revival house would wrap dimensioned lumber with finished boards. The bottom of the side boards might extend slightly below the bottom board. Trying to make boards meet precisely in a perfect edge is not recommended because wood will eventually move.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 4:17PM
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Just completed new home. Used approximately 2500 board feet of douglas fir for interior beams and trusses. A single king truss weights 500 lbs, not structural. Three interior trusses were installed immediately following framing.

We also have 'constructed' beams on the ceiling of the master bedroom and a coffered ceiling in the keeping room. Their finish is distinctly different from the doug fir. IMO, the ceiling structures are beautiful.

Would suggest that technical skill and attention to detail of the trim carpenter would be key in this decision. Apologies, we did a remote build, have no idea of the construction method used to construct the 'beams'.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 10:44AM
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Thanks all for your input. We have already installed the sheetrock because of my uncertainty about using heavy timbers (just figured we would do the box beams). Alison, I believe you and I have similar floor plans and designs, although mine is much more scaled back. It is a relief to hear, though, that the real beams CAN be installed over the sheetrock with bolts if need be. I am thinking perhaps a good compromise would be to do the solid beams in the kitchen where the ceiling is lower and easier to see and the box beams in the vaulted ceiling. Some kind of ridge beam is going to have to be installed regardless in order to accommodate a chandelier and it seems to me like a hollow one will make that significantly easier to run the wiring.

billygoatjoe, I completely agree about the skill of the trim carpenter being key. My builder has used his guy for years on many houses. So far the subcontractors have done pretty good work overall -- I've been pleased -- although I sometimes think my builder himself is living on Mars. I am thinking that perhaps I will have him build the ridge beam for me and see what I think before having him go on to work on the others. We will do the trimmed out coffered ceiling in the master like you have and those are in every spec house around here so I'm a bit more confident in his skill with those. Creating a false wood beam that's bare and intended to look like a true support timber is another story. My builder said he could get some cedar and have him beat it up with a chain or something; I've seen them use that technique on HGTV with some success. I guess I'll just have to give him a test and see how he does!

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 4:47PM
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