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DIY: Ceiling Beams

Updated: Jun 9, 2022

Even though our house was built in 1897, all the architectural details were stripped away over the years by previous renovations. So, while the living and dining room has nice, high ceilings, there is no crown molding or anything remotely approaching charm. I liked the brightness of the white walls but things were feeling kind of frosty in here. Then we hit on the perfect solution:

wood beams on the ceiling.

I started by finding all the ceiling joists, using an earth magnet [PRO TIP: magnets will stick to the ceiling where there are nails in the joists, impress all your friends!]. Working around the existing recessed lights and the bump out in the dining area, we measured out where the beams could go. It was hard. Math is hard. Turns out the beams could either be spaced evenly around the lights or centered above the bump out, but not both. I chose the bump, and marked out the beams with painter's tape to see if I liked the look.

Six months later (not kidding) I got sick of looking at tape on the ceiling and went to Home Depot for some 2x6 pine boards. We attached them right over those damn tape lines, using extra long screws and making sure they went into the joists. I got a feel for how the beams would look, and mama likey.

What I didn't like were all the knotholes. I didn't want a rustic look; I was picturing clean and modern. Clear pine is almost double the price of the next best grade, but if you're gonna do it, do it right.

Once we (Josh) cut the clear pine boards to size, we (Josh) used the leftovers to build these cute lil mini boxes we (Josh) could use for stain samples.

Originally I wanted a very light Scandi look, so we tried a clear stain (on the left). It looked like we forgot to finish them, so that was a no. The middle stain was too yellow. The left was medium oak and pulled out the darker tones in the floor. JUST RIGHT, BABY BEAR. We actually tried a couple of other colors too, but they were too dark and too red and they didn't even make it into the house. Stain is crazy, you just have to buy a lot and try it all.

The boards we used for the beams themselves were 1x6s. I might go smaller for a shorter ceiling, but we were only doing four and I wanted them to be substantial. We used glue, staples, a few nails, and some light swearing to put them together. After they were stained, these bad boys cured for a week in the garage. I had to park on the street but it was worth it.

INSTALLATION DAY. The boxes slipped over the 2 x 6 anchor boards like a glove. It is a three person job, two to hold them in place tightly to the ceiling, and one to drive nails. You will all three be sore tomorrow. It will be worth it.

Lastly, inset the nails and fill the holes with putty. Then take a million pictures to post on all your social media because it looks AMAZEBALLS.


Here you can see how the lights are closer to one of the beams than the others. I know it would drive some people nuts, and I'm usually obsessed with details, but I just can't hate it. Maybe we'll move the can lights over someday.

This DIY was a lot of bang for the buck. The wood was of course the biggest expense, mostly because we needed lengths longer than 12 feet and I am fancy and had to have the clear pine. We also had to buy a few things, like a second ladder, a zillion stain samples, nails, screws and glue. All in, I bet it cost around $700. But it could be much less if you needed shorter boards and wanted a more rustic look. Hey, you do you.

Now how can I add a fireplace to this wall...


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