Beams are a great way to add some visual interest to a room. And when it comes to beams, there is no shortage of options. Solid reclaimed beams are beautiful, but they can be expensive and labor intensive to install.
An alternative to solid beams are box beams. Box beams are made of three individual pieces of wood that are nailed together to form what looks like a solid beam. It’s a much more economical option and it is something you can do yourself.
In our current house, we built and installed box beams in our family room. In this article, I’m going to show you how we did it.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- brad nailer
- 1 1/2″ brad nails
- 1×6″ clear pine (3 boards per beam)
- 2×6″ lumber (1 for each beam)
- stud finder
- 2 1/2″ wood screws
- wood glue
- tape measure
- air compressor
Step 1: Determine the Number of Beams
The first thing I did was decide how many beams I wanted, and this was really determined by the length of the room. After I decided that it would look best if they were spaced 6 feet apart, I determined that I would need to make 6 beams to fill the area evenly.
The number of beams you build, will more than likely be different. Again, it all depends on the length of your room and the look you are going for.
Step 2: Find the Ceiling Joists
Installing beams during the building process meant I could mark my ceiling joist locations on the walls before the ceiling sheetrock was installed. But if you’re adding beams to an existing ceiling, you’ll need to use a stud finder to find the joists. Once you find your first one, the others should be easy since their normally 16 or 24 inches apart.
Step 3: Attach 2×6 Boards to the Ceiling
To determine how long the 2×6’s needed to be, I measured the width of the room, which was 15 feet.
Using a miter saw, I cut 6 2×6 boards to 15 feet. Then using a framing nailer, I attached each board to the marked ceiling joists. If you don’t have a framing nail gun, you can use a drill and wood screws.
Step 4: Build the Box Beams
To construct the box beams, the first thing I did was cut all of the pieces of 1×6″ pine boards to a length of 15 feet. This was the measurement of the width of the room from step 3.
I constructed each beam out of three pieces of the pine. I set one piece up on its side. If you have someone to help you, they will need to hold this piece for you. If not, you will need something that is 5.5 inches tall to place the board on against and to help hold the next board in place. Chances are you don’t have something like that laying around, so you can use the scrap wood to build a couple of little boxes that are 5.5′ x 4.75″.
First, I squeezed a bead of wood glue down the edge of the first board. Then I placed the next board on top of that one to form an “L” shape and made sure the edges lined up.
Next, I started on one end of the boards and worked my way down to the other end nailing the two pieces together. Each time I made sure the edges were flush where I was nailing. I spread the nails apart about 12 inches.
Then I flipped over the two pieces that I just nailed together and repeated the gluing and nailing for the third piece.
I put the completed beam to the side, and repeated the steps to make the rest of the beams.
Step 5: Stain the Beams
I stained my beams before I put them up. To match the other wood elements though out our main living area, I used a 1:1 mixture of Classic Gray and Red Oak.
You can use whatever color best compliments your room, but I would recommend experimenting with different colors on a scrap piece of wood before applying it to the beams.
Step 6: Install the Box Beams
Once all of the beams were stained and dry, it was time to install them. This part required two people and two ladders. We placed the ladders underneath the first 2×6 that we nailed up earlier.
Each of us holding one end of a beam climbed up the ladder and slid the beam onto the 2×6.
Then, using the brad nailer, I nailed the beam to the 2×6 on both sides as shown in the illustration. And I repeated this for the 5 remaining beams.
Something to Consider Before Installing Box Beams
One thing to consider before installing box beams in your house is your ceiling height. Beams can make a ceiling feel lower. I would not recommend installing beams on ceilings lower than 10ft. However, if you have a lower ceiling and you still want to put up beams, you could use a 1×4 instead a 1×6 for the side pieces, giving you a shallower beam.