How to clean and restore wooden beams

Kayla Gulec Kayla Gulec
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Wood is one of the most popular, useful, and versatile materials used in home construction today. It can be used to make furniture, dining room table and chair sets, and probably most notably, wood is used as a supportive frame for houses. When wooden beams are used as support systems in your home, it can be hard to notice when deterioration sets in, given how many other things you have to worry about on a daily basis. But when neglected, your wooden beams will lose their luster, leaving your home feeling a little less spectacular.

Keeping wooden beams in pristine condition is no small undertaking. You have to consider the type of wood you have in your home, which products should be used in cleaning and restoration, and the frequency at which to do this. But never fear—we are going to show you everything you need to know about how to keep your wooden beams shining like the day they were installed.

Causes of aging

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Wood ages just like every other organic matter on the planet, and aging can originate from both natural and artificial substances. Outside of the home, severe rain or snowfall can destroy wood and lead to recurring mold growth. Inside the home, however, humid atmospheres and various splashes and spills can have the same effect. Another natural cause of wood aging is infestation. Insects like termites can make their way into your beams and eat the wood from within. 

Wooden beams can age through the use of non-suitable cleaning products, as well. Cleaning products that contain harsh chemicals, such as bleach or chlorine, will damage the integrity of the wood, strip it of its strength, and cause it to deteriorate.

Types of wood

There are many different types of wood available on the market for wooden beam construction. When selecting the right type of wood for your home, you must consider the decor and purpose of the beam. For example, a support beam must be made from sturdier wood than a simple decorative beam. 

Oak beams are the strongest and heartiest of all wooden beams, and they are also the most popular type of wood used throughout the world. Then there are plywood beams – these beams are generally used as vertical and horizontal stiffeners. Plywood beams are lightweight and are used to create stronger structures by nailing them to flanges. There are also veneer beams. This type of beam is created by adhering multiple layers of thin wood together.

Cleaning the beams

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Cleaning your wooden beams unfortunately requires a lot of effort and precautionary measures. Before using any hardcore cleaning method, it is best to dust and vacuum the beams. You can clean your beams by soda blasting them or chemical free blasting them. These processes remove and strip the paint, varnish, and any smoke damage (from cigarettes, cooking, fireplaces, etc.) and both processes are not harmful to the wood. And because of the nature of this type of cleaning, you can be very precise with which areas you clean without having to worry about damaging any nearby materials. 

If you want to go for a more natural way of cleaning your wooden beams, you can create a vinegar and water solution by mixing two parts water and one part vinegar. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle, spray it on a clean rag, and use the rag to wipe the surface of the beam. Vinegar is a natural cleaner and disinfectant that removes residue without damaging the wood.

Restoring your beams

One way to restore your wooden beams is to remove the old finish on them. A lot of the time, it is the finish that looks the most tattered, and as it should, being the protective outer layer of the wood. Then, choose an oil or natural beeswax to stain the beams. Oils and wax penetrate deep into the grain of the wood and replenish it. This also helps in slowing down the aging process, as the oil and wax form a hardening layer on top of the wood that will reinforce it and protect it from future damage. 

A beeswax polish can be made by shredding a bit of beeswax into a jar and covering it with pure turpentine. Leave the jar to sit overnight and then shake well in the morning. The turpentine will dissolve the wax and subsequently create a good polish. If there are any holes in the wooden beams, make a thinner wax so that it can be brushed into the cracks in the wood. If the timber has worm holes, make the wax into a thinner consistency by adding more turpentine so that the mixture can be brushed deep into the wood, as it will help consolidate the damaged area. Then, apply the wax to the beam with a soft cloth. It is important to never use a thick coat of wax, as it will remain soft on the wood and make it look dull. 

What not to use

As with any maintenance ritual, there are certain products that should be used and certain products that should definitely not be used. One thing you never want to use in cleaning a wooden beam is water. As we have said earlier, one of the causes of wood aging is constant exposure to rain, snow, or humidity. Cleaning with water will only increase your chances of damaging your wood. 

Another product you want to stay away from is linseed oil. Linseed oil used on wood tends to remain quite sticky and therefore attracts dust and dirt which discolours the wood over time. Harmful cleaning chemicals should also be avoided. They tend to strip the wood of its integrity and strength, and definitely stay away from insect repellants. Some people believe that insect repellants will keep infestations at bay, but they just end up eating up the wood instead.

How often should you clean?

The frequency at which you clean depends on a few factors – how old your wood is, how susceptible the beams are to moisture or infestation, and how much traffic you get in your home. A good rule of thumb to go by, though, is a twice a year cleaning. 

If you have very old wooden beams, it can be a slippery slope when it comes to how often you should clean. You might think, the older, the more you need to clean, but that isn't necessarily true. The older your beams are, the weaker they tend to be, so sand blasting your beams often may lead to even greater weakening. If your beams are in a high moisture area, or you have experienced infestation before, you may need to clean them more often. And if you have a large family or just tend to entertain a lot, you will find yourself needing to dust and vacuum your beams more frequently (which is a great preventative measure against aging), but you don't necessarily have to go through the entire deep-cleaning process.

We hope this article helped you to clean your wooden beams! For more tidy tips, read on to discover six ways of deep cleaning your home!

After reading this Ideabook, are you ready to clean your wooden beams? Let us know how it goes in the comments section below!
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