Kitchen Chronicles: DIY Wood Beams


Hello from my new studio! We moved in yesterday and spent our first night here. It feels pretty surreal—I’m so happy and content right now.

I’ll post details about the move soon, but in the meantime you can check out this little instagram video I posted this afternoon for a glimpse of our cozy, rainy Sunday.

But first I’m dying to share our brand new kitchen beams with you!

Wood beams were high on my wish list when we were house hunting. They’re actually pretty common in this area, and I was able to look past the lack of them in this house knowing I could build my own. This is one of those huge bang for your buck projects.

When I searched for faux wood beams online, I found so many awesome options and styles from all over, like this rustic “hand hewn” beam

The only problem? They were over $400 each! The sizes I needed would have run me nearly $1200. And I’d still have to install them myself and wait 6-8 weeks for delivery. Um, no thanks. Time to DIY.

Let’s get the basics out of the way—tools you’ll need for this project:

Lumber (I used the cheap whitewood from Lowe’s in 1x4x10s, 1x6x10s, and a 1×8 we had to rip down—but you’ll only need two sizes for the top/bottom and sides)

Nail gun and nails (finishing nails work)

Saw to cut your boards to length

Drill & long screws

Wood stain of your choice

Beam straps (if you have seams, or if you just like the look—read on for more info)

Not necessary but helpful:

Wood glue or liquid nails

A clamp

The size can be whatever you’d like, but I went with 1×6″ boards for the sides and 1×4″s for the top and bottom. For reassurance, I checked online and found this tutorial which is exactly what I had expected.

Feeling confident and prepared, we headed to Lowe’s to stock up on our lumber:

I chose three beams for the layout to cover the seams where the wood planks met—two were identical and 20′ long, and one was 10′ long because it ended at a shorter wall. The total ended up at around $200 including our stain and a box of screws.

The first step was to run the top 1×4″ along the ceiling, screwed into a stud every couple feet. This board had to be solid because it would be supporting the entire beam. We used extra long 4″ screws since it had to go through the 1×4, wood planks, drywall and the stud.

Half of this shorter beam ran along a wall, so we had to line it up with our wood planks and make sure there was enough space (3/4″) to squeeze in the right side board so it would hide the exposed edges you can see in this photo:

For the two longer beams, we had to use two 1x4x10’s since they don’t come in 20′ lengths. We just butted them right up next to each other—this board would be hidden so it didn’t matter.

One board at a time…

Done!

After that was out of the way, it was time to have a little fun.

I wanted these beams to be distressed, so we pulled out a random assortment of tools and banged away.

The stain really picks up every dent & ding and makes them stand out (as you’ll see in just a sec….)

Then came the toughest part: building these things.

I enlisted my dad’s help for this—it’s definitely a two person job.

I tried to find the straightest boards I could (always double check them before you buy!) but they’re never perfectly straight, so there was a lot of forcing/persuading to get them to line up.

I ran out of wood glue so I ran a bead of liquid nails where the boards met. I held them in place so the edges lined up while my dad used the nail gun to secure them every several inches or as needed.

There were some gaps (a clamp would have been helpful) and it wasn’t perfect, but that’s why I’m all about the rustic/farmhouse style—imperfection is a good thing!

We ended up with five beams—(two 10’s combined to make 20′, and one 10′).
Then the stain came out and things got real.

This was my favorite part… watching it come to life with depth and color.

After the first short beam was ready, the boys attempted to hoist it up and install it:

But the sucker wouldn’t budge.

They hammered and pushed and shoved, but the gap we left for the right side to slide in was just too small.

So Brad had to cut it away with the jigsaw. It would be completely hidden, so it was all good.

Finally it worked—first beam down! (or should I say up?)

The next four were easier. Luckily this wood is soft and easily plyable, so they could just wiggle the sides in place around the 1×4.

We skipped the liquid nails and used standard 18 gauge finishing nails along the edge.

The beams are pretty light and they aren’t going anywhere.

Then we got to the middle…

I was just going to wait and see how they looked at this point. If the seams fit tightly and everything lined up and it wasn’t too noticeable, I figured I’d just leave it like that.

But there were gaps. It looked fine from far away, but close up, not so much. I had a solution though… we’ll get to that in just a second.
Some boards were extra stubborn and left a gap at the ceiling, so we used a car jack to push it in place while we nailed them in.

Totally worked.

Now, back to those gaps.

I figured it would happen, so the first thing that came to my mind were beam straps…

 

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Source

To complete the look, I decided to go with a strap on each end along with the two in the center over the seams (so three on each long beam, and two on the short beam for a total of eight).

Most of those online faux beam places sell rubber straps made to look like metal, but I was impatient and cheap and figured I could make my own.

Brad spotted these metal strips at Lowe’s for $10 a piece and grabbed two:

They were perfect.

First we measured the dimensions of our beams (ours were 5 5/8″ tall and 5″ wide), made marks on the straps and used metal snips to cut them:

With our piece cut to size, we took it into the garage, lined the mark up with the edge of a hard 90º surface, and hammered it into place.

This metal is pretty thin so it bends relatively easy.

Once both bends had been shaped, Brad drilled a hole into each end using a drill bit so we could secure it to the beams.

Fits like a glove!

Ignore the gaps in the corner, still need to add trim!

Two of the beams ended at a wall, so we only had to make a two sided strap for those:

After all eight straps were prepared (this all took less than an hour), it was time for paint!

I used an oil rubbed bronze can I had leftover from Florida.

All dry and ready to mount…

Simple as screwing them into the wood…

Done!

To be honest, I didn’t want to add the straps at first—I thought they would mess up the flow and simplicity of the beams.

But I’ve changed my mind. I love the character it adds.

Would you agree?

View from the living room (I can’t wait to get rid of this railing…)

And there you have it—the first finished part of our kitchen!

Actually, that’s not even true, we still have bulbs to replace and pendant lights to hang. But the overall feeling you get walking into the kitchen has really changed… it’s amazing how much $200 in materials and a day of work can transform the whole vibe (especially when the factory made alternative is $1000 more!)

Hopefully this inspires you to get out there and tackle it yourself. It’s one of those things that looks pretty intimidating before you do it, but then when it’s done you’ll want to do your whole house (I’m eyeing you next, living room…)

That’s all for tonight, I’ll be back shortly to talk all about our big move and what our house looks like now with the furniture in. Exciting stuff!


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70 thoughts on “Kitchen Chronicles: DIY Wood Beams

  1. Oh my gosh, they looks so amazing! I wasn't too sure about tongue and groove ceilings but you've definitely converted me. The beams just finish the whole thing so perfectly. I can't wait to see what your finished kitchen looks like!

  2. Holy cow, very creative alternative! I never would have thought of the metal straps! I was thinking about a wood laminate option, but then when you pulled that out of your hat, I was pleasantly surprised!

  3. I've been wanting to do this for our bedroom for over a couple of years… and you have totally inspired me to show how it can be done. I was weary of the faux beams – and the cost is sooo much better DIY. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Jenna you are my hero! Thank you so much for sharing your awesome tutorial. We are in the beginning stages of a room makeover and your DIY beams will be the perfect addition.

  5. This looks so cool. Good to see the result of your efforts. But you mentioned in your blog that the size of beam you needed were too costly and at the end you had to install them by yourself.

    But Loft Doors offer barn beams that too at very reasonable prices, with quick delivery and installation services

  6. Thank you! The two longer beams are around 20' long—is that what you meant? They are made from 1×6's and 1×4's (there's more detail/photos in the post if that doesn't answer your question!)

  7. Thank you so much Ana, your site is always the first place I look before starting a new project! I don't see the post anywhere on your site—am I missing something? 🙂

  8. Hi Jenna,

    This is unbelievable! Pinned and saving this one for a maybe one day project. I wanted to see if you are okay with me featuring this on my blog. I am showing how to add a character to a home featuring blogs that have found amazing ways to accomplish this. I will show a picture along with a link back to your page. my email is dfoglia413@gmail.com

    Deb
    @Seekinglavenderlane.blogspot.com

  9. Where did the post go? I got here from pinterest, but I can not see anything except the sign up for your newsletter.

      1. Thank you!
        This is the best tutorial on the process I have found – and the result is stunning!

        1. I want to do a beam coffered ceiling the same way and have been looking at using poly boards instead of actual wood. My concern is the total weight placed on the ceiling. Since you are adding to the weight of the drywall on the joists above, what was the weight of each of the beams?

  10. These look SO amazing!! I was wondering if you had any suggestions for how you decided where to put the beams? My house isn’t the biggest and I’m having a hard time figuring out where to put one of these beauties. 🙂 thanks!!

    1. Hi Amanda! I considered the obstacles (cabinets & lighting) and also the look I was going for — 3 beams were just right. Plus they were able to cover the tongue & groove planks where they ended at around every 8′ so we didn’t have to worry about any seams showing. Hope this helps!

  11. I am looking at your planked ceiling post and this one and I was wondering how you went about painting your planked ceiling in your kitchen.

    Did you use a paint sprayer or brush by hand?
    Also, did you have to prime the ceiling before painting?

    Thanks!

    1. We did it by hand and didn’t prime but that was a huge mistake! Make sure to use a good primer if you have any knots or tannins that could bleed through.

  12. Howdy and thanks for the awesome tutorial. My wife and I built 4 beams for our kitchen and are about to install the . One question though, did you polyurethane the beams? I imagine thy get greasy over time in the kitchen and wonder if they would be easier to clean if they were coated?

    Thanks!

    1. Nah, it didn’t seem like it would be worth it! The beams are easy to wipe off if anything happened to get up there but so far they haven’t had to be touched at all.

  13. Hey there just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same outcome.

  14. This looks great! I’d like to do a fireplace mantel with this technique, have you done that before, and how does it work?

  15. What a great idea. I might use this in my kitchen. Not a big of a space so I’d probably make them not as deep. Also I have cove ceilings which would prove a challenge!

  16. Bravo! Very clever the way you solved all the inconveniences. Also, a great design add to your kitchen. Greetings from Playa del Carmen, Mexico. You are invited to take a look to our website maderayvida.com

  17. This is exactly what I had in mind to do to my ceilings. Where did you get the boards for the ceiling? I cannot find anything for less than $2 bf and we need 743 ft. Please help.

  18. Hi there!
    Love your work and this project!
    We have beams that were painted WHITE would we just put the plywood over that ?
    Thanks again,
    Kim and Dan

  19. How tall are your ceilings? I would LOVE to do this but we only have 8′ ceilings in the kitchen and I worry that won’t be enough clearance to do beams.

  20. Hi Jena –

    like the effect a lot – even if my dad has passed on – but tell me – what are the boards/panelling that are already up on the ceiling – I have popcorn and have to redo that first!

    thanks
    kara

  21. Thanks for sharing your project. They look great. That’s a good idea to decorate our home with wood. But I think you should paint them. What about white color beams? I think they will be better.

  22. Hi Jenna,
    Those beams look amazing I love your whole kitchen. I was wondering though, did you paint your cabinets, or did they come that way with the house? If you painted them could you tell me the paint color? I absolutely love it and want to do that in my own kitchen. Thanks!!!

  23. My husband and I are about to tackle this! What brand nail gun and jigsaw did you use?
    Thanks!! It looks great! Wish us luck!

  24. Dude, this post was super helpful!! I had a weird transition in my one family room and was trying to figure out how to bridge this odd ceiling gap and this trick worked out great! Since the ceiling was all white I just went with using white PVC beams to create my box so it matched the color easily and also is even lighter than wood. The metal straps also was a great idea as well since there was a gap in between the box and the walls on each side. Thanks for posting!!

  25. Any suggestions for doing this on a cathedral ceiling? Is it hard to line up the ends so it’s flush with the walls? And what direction would you put the beams?

  26. Great look! We are working on a similar project, but without the more rustic “beaten up” look. Our beams are done & ready to hang, but still up in the air about straps. Where in Lowe’s did you find the metal straps? Also, what kind of screws did you use to mount them? Thanks for sharing your project with the rest of us DIYers!

    1. Hi Larry, it was one of the building material/hardware aisles where there’s various strips of metal (near the house numbers/locks). The screws were just standard black drywall screws, you can use anything!

  27. I wanted to comment on another idea for the straps. We just finished our beams and they look AMAZING! What a great detail for our rustic house. I went to Walmart and purchased men’s wide brown leather belts for $7/each. We cut off the buckle side with tin snips, fitted it to size on the beam, then cut off the other side which got rid of all of the punched holes. We set them with brad nails, and finished the look with screws. They look totally authentic and IMO so much easier than fitting metal pieces.

  28. Love it! I’m about to do the same thing in my kitchen, could you tell me what stain you used?
    Thanks so much,
    Rebecca

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