Do you have plain ceilings you have been dreaming about adding faux wood beams to? Well I felt the same way about my mom’s family room makeover I have been working on. Rather than a vaulted ceiling she has ordinary 8 ft ceilings that really felt low and I was looking for a way to draw the eye up and make the room feel taller. The good news is I found a great way to give her beautiful ceiling beams using almost no power tools and without this turning into a huge project. Let me walk you through how I did these DIY faux wood ceiling beams with easy how to install and give you all my tips and tricks to make this DIY project a breeze! Trust me, you are going to want your own faux wood beams!
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DIY Faux Wood Ceiling Beams
If you follow me on Instagram you know I have been working on a living room dining room makeover for my mom. And part of the scope of this project includes faux ceiling beams. Spoiler alert, these are not solid wood beams or even real wood, they are fake beams made from Styrofoam! Can you believe that? It’s true, but they look like the real thing! But before we dive in, let me show you what the original room looked like.
DIY Faux Wood Ceiling Beams Material List
Faux Ceiling Beams
Drill & Driver
Miter Saw or Circular Saw
4 ft level
4 inch Structural Fasteners
2 1/2 inch Trim Screws
Chip Paint Brush
* Note, for video behind the scenes and more detail on this install, head over to Instagram and watch my story highlight on the ceiling beams.
Step 1 – Measure the Ceiling and Determine Placement
The first step is to measure the length of the ceiling where you want to put the beams. My mom’s room is just under 12 feet wide which worked out well because the beams I chose are 12 ft 9 inches long.
The next step is to determine which way your ceiling joists run. You can easily see this by poking your head up in the attic. If your joists run the same direction as you want your beams to run, you will need to position the beams so they line up on the joists. If this is the case, you will be at the mercy of the placement of the joists. Usually they are every 24 inches on center. This is what I had to do.
If the ceiling joists run perpendicular to the direction you want to run the beams, you can really place the beams anywhere you want. The supporting 2×4 will just need to be attached where it intersects with the joists.
Keep in mind you will also need to work around any existing obstacles like a ceiling fan, vents, or a light fixture. I had to work around two vents and the fireplace.
Step 2 – Gather Supplies
I ordered these faux ceiling beams because they are light weight while still mimicking the look of a real wood beam and I didn’t have to build anything and better yet, no sanding required! Because we all know how much I love sanding, insert eye roll. They are a u-shaped beam and are hollow in the middle leaving enough room to add a support to the ceiling to attach it to. I did have these delivered because they are not available at my local store and I do not have a truck. These beams arrived via freight and let me just say, they are very realistic looking!
As I mentioned above, I used very few power tools for this project. I only used a miter saw and my drill & driver set. And technically you could probably do this with only the drill and driver by using a hand saw or having your local Home Depot or Lowes cut the 2x4s down for you.
Step 3 – Stain the Beams
Before I installed anything, I stained the beams which I definitely recommend. It’s much easier to stain or paint them while they are on the ground than having to spend hours with your arms above your head. My shoulders hurt just thinking about that, haha!
Prior to staining, I encourage you to go watch my Instagram story highlight on the ceiling beams. Staining is definitely not something I do often and the fact that these are Styrofoam threw me an even bigger curve ball since the stain isn’t absorbed in the same manner. And if I am being honest the staining was the most difficult part for me since I was after a natural yet slightly rustic look. If you prefer a solid color, the staining will be very easy!
Note, stain takes a lot longer to dry than paint especially on a foam beam like this. I needed a minimum of 24 hours of dry time between coats. Plan accordingly. Also, oil based stain cannot be cleaned up with soap and water. So I picked up several cheap brushes from the dollar tree so I could throw them away when I was done.
I started out by staining one beam with this white gel stain. I chose to do this because they are a bit yellowy in color and I wanted to take that away before I started to layer in other colors.
This is what the color difference looked like after I stained the first beam white. The original is on the right and the white on the left.
Then I decided maybe it needed to be darker and tried this brown gel stain.
This was not at all the color I was going for but I thought maybe I could layer the white over it to achieve the lighter brown I was going for. Wrong. This was a bad idea. If you are after a deep solid brown, this color is a great option, but it did not work at all for the natural color I was trying to achieve. The top version is what it looked like when I mixed the brown and white. Not a bad color but it just looked kind of muddy in person and didn’t have the variation in color I was after.
To fix my major fail, I covered the dark brown with the white until I was basically back to where I started.
After trying a few different gel stain options, I decided to try a regular stain on top of the white gel stain. I used a chip paint brush and a disposable plate to dab just a little stain on my brush. I made sure to get the majority of the excess off and then lightly brushed it on to the beams.
I used dark walnut and this gave it a much more weathered look. Although this color was a lot closer to what I wanted, I decided to add another light coat of white to soften up the rustic look just a little. To give you a better visual on the difference, the beam on the left has a light coat of white on top and the one on the right does not.
Step 4 – Cut the Beams Down
This part was actually very easy! Since the beams are made from a Styrofoam type material I used a hack saw to cut them down to size. I do not recommend using a power saw for this. I think it will be too much and might damage the beam.
I measured my cut and marked it with a pencil and cut it with the hack saw on a flat surface. This produced a nice clean cut. Just make sure you take accurate measurements because it is very difficult to cut a small sliver off with a hack saw but you also don’t want to cut too much off either.
Also, these beams come with one open end and one capped end. If the beam is longer than the length of the room, you will want to cut the capped end off. If your room is longer, you will need to combine more than one to make longer beams.
Step 5 – Attach Beams to the Ceiling
Depending on your room layout, starting with the middle beam is generally a smart play to ensure even spacing. I however started with the first beam because we removed a bulk head in the ceiling between the living room and dining room as well as two wing walls that served no purpose. Rather than patching that part of the ceiling where the bulk head was, I used the existing 2×4 in the ceiling and attached the first beam to it rather than starting with the center beam and working out.
Use your stud finder to locate the joists in the ceiling and mark them out with painters tape or a pencil. I based my spacing on the obstacles in the ceiling like the vents and the fireplace on the righthand wall.
Then cut your 2x4s to the length of the room and attach them to ceiling. To get them straight you can can use a chalk line, a laser level, or you can use a 4 ft level and make sure it is plumb on the ceiling all the way down the beam. I used the last option because working with long pieces like this can be quite awkward and this was the easiest in my opinion. You can see video of the install in my Instagram story highlight.
To attach the 2x4s to the ceiling I used these 4 inch structural screws and attached them to the joists I previously marked out.
Note, these must attach to the joists to be secure. I used four screws per 2×4. I also highly recommend pre drilling pilot holes for your screws. These are pretty beefy and may split the wood if you do not pre-drill.
Once the supporting 2×4 was in place I attached the faux beams to the 2x4s with these trim screws. I used screws rather than brad nails because I wasn’t convinced the brad nails wouldn’t just rip out. I chose trim screws because they have a much smaller head and require less wood filler.
I attached the trim screws at the top of each beam close to the ceiling to ensure the screws didn’t miss the 2×4. No more than an inch from the ceiling.
Step 6 – Caulk and Fill Holes
Time for the finishing touches! Once the beams were installed, I caulked them in along the top edge that meets the ceiling and the ends that meet the wall.
I also filled in all the screw holes with wood glue and covered them with a custom mix of paint I made on a paper plate to match the beam color. I used a small artist brush to only color over the holes and not the other parts of the beam.
Step 7 – Enjoy!
Sit back and enjoy your beautiful new ceiling beams!
What would I do differently?
Overall I rate these beams an A+ because of their ease of installation and realistic look! The only major setback for me was the stain. I struggled a lot to get the color right. I think if I were to do these again I would try to achieve this same look with paint instead since it dries faster and I feel more comfortable with paint. But aside from that, these faux beams turned out better than we imagined and my mom absolutely loves them!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have a video tutorial on this?
No, but I do have an Instagram highlight with all the behind the scenes and video of the entire process including the staining.
Can I nail the beams with a brad nailer?
Honestly, I don’t know. I gave this a lot of thought myself, but I ultimately decided against it. I just wasn’t confident the nails wouldn’t rip through the Styrofoam of the faux beams.
Can I glue the beams to the ceiling?
Again, I gave this one thought too and decided it wasn’t a good option. First, something would be needed to hold the beams in place while they dried. Secondly, if it didn’t work the ceiling drywall would need some serious repair. For this reason I did not use glue, however, I did caulk in each one on the top edges and the sides of the beam once they were installed.
How much did this cost?
This cost $815 before tax. Each beam was $220 and delivery was $80. I spent about $50 on stain and brushes. I already had the screws and I spent another $24 on the 12 foot 2x4s.
Why didn’t you build the beams out of wood?
I definitely could have built beams from wood, but didn’t mostly because of weight and time. My mom’s attic is very tight and if reinforcing was needed it would have been very difficult. These beams are almost 12 ft long and that would have been quite heavy if they were solid beams made from real wood. These only weigh 10 lbs. Also in order to avoid any seams I would have needed very long wood which is difficult to rip down to size and can be expensive. Plus it would have taken me extra time to build them.
Can I paint the beams or use regular wood stain?
The manufacture specifically says to use gel stain. But after spending many hours on these, I think you could paint paint them. BUT I would definitely do a test spot on one or order a sample to test it on before you go to town on an entire beam. I do not think you could use regular stain on the whole beam though because it kind of slides off. It did adhere to the gel stain, but I don’t think it would work on its own.
If you are looking for a beginner friendly way to add ceiling beams to your living space, these are an excellent way to add some architectural detail and check them off your wish list!
And make sure you check out all the behind the scenes including the install, staining, and all my extra bits of info in my Instagram ceiling beam story highlight.
Stay tuned for more on my mom’s family room makeover and check out the fireplace I built for her!
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