refinishing unpainted beam ceilings

llegarrecJune 19, 2007

I live in a house from 1865. We are in the (slow) process of renovating out kitchen. Our sheetrocked ceiling was extremely uneven, so we took it down to find unpainted beams (They actually hold up the second floor) in perfect condition. I have no idea what kind of wood it is, but it is walnut colored from age. I tested a piece with my small furniture sander, and it brings it down to a nice light wood color. In theory, this could be done with my furniture sander (ha!) but the room is 520 sq feet, so this is not ideal.

Does anyone have any ideas? I am this close to half-ass sanding and painting antique white!

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I assume you don't just want to leave them as-is?

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 10:53PM
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No..They are in good condition, but they have 142 years worth of dust on them :)
I think I definitely need to sand them to remove a lot of the grit, then dry vac them. The room they are in isn't the brightest room in the house, so the dark wood really sucks the light. From the floor to the lowest point of the beam is only 95" also. I gain 10 more inches leaving them exposed. I'd really hate to have to cover them, but I can't think of what I need to do to get them nice looking again.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 7:43AM
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If they are hand-planed beams, machine sanding will remove the traces of hand-craftsmanship. I'd recommend using a cleaner to remove most of the filth, then a hand-sanding, with the grain, taking care not to make them look like newly-planed lumber. If they are sawn timbers, you may have a lot of work to do to completely eradicate the saw marks.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2007 at 7:36AM
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Hi Casey,
I am pretty sure the contractor who was out at my house yesterday said sawn timbers. I don't want to eradicate the saw marks really, I like the rustic look, I just want to get to a lighter color. It doesn't have to be perfect. I even like a bit of the walnut coming through.
Apparently there are 20 of them, roughly 18 feet long.
The price to have them sanded? $6400

    Bookmark   June 21, 2007 at 9:49AM
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I recommend a good cleaning, too. But then I haven't seen them and don't have to live with them.

You only get one chance to decide to throw out grandma's belongings, and you only get one chance to decide to erase 142 years of age. Once you decide to let someone loose with a belt sander, you can't un-ring that bell.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2007 at 7:17PM
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A very soft "wire cup brush" in an electric drill will clean off the embedded dust & stuff while leaving more of the sawn character than sanding would.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2007 at 8:47PM
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