How to Make a Wood Beam

Wood Beams in a House

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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 - 2 hrs
  • Total Time: 8 hrs
  • Yield: One decorative beam
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $50 to $100

Wood beams give a house a look of timeless rustic elegance. Builders traditionally used heavy wood beams to support upper floors and roofs. That dramatic look endures over the years and today brings a feeling that is both intimate and solid.

You can make your own faux wood beams. It’s an easy illusion to create, and the beams are straightforward and fun to build. And for all of that sense of permanence they evoke, they are just as easy to remove, leaving little or no damage to your home.

To create a decorative wood beam, first the wood is aged and distressed (if desired), then a supporting wood cleat is screwed to the ceiling. After assembling the three-sided wood beam, it is attached to the cleat. The finishing touches are to cover seams, joints, and ends with metal beam straps—again, another set of extra features that enhance the beam but aren't necessary.


One beam takes about an hour to build, but multiple beams go much faster because you can build them assembly-line style.

Decorative Wood Beam Basics

Faux wood beams are long, hollow three-sided boxes. After installation, the U-shape faces up and the three finished sides face the room.

A hidden cleat attaches securely to the ceiling drywall and the underlying joists. The faux beam straddles the cleat, and fasteners attach the beam to the cleat from the sides. Distressing—a way of rapidly antiquing wood—makes the decorative beam look like it has been there for ages.

When two beams butt up against other, metal beam straps cover the seam. They're used for covering the ends, too, and they're easy to put on.


Decorative wood beams are not structural. They are not meant to carry any weight other than their own. Laminated veneer lumber is one type of structural beam. It's also possible to construct structural, load-carrying beams on a do-it-yourself basis by attaching several pieces of dimensional lumber side-to-side. Neither type of beam is within the scope of this project.

2 Wood Beam Options: Softwood or Shiplap

Two types of decorative wood beams are made with lumber found at most home centers. The most common type uses relatively thin and inexpensive one-by-six boards, while the other type uses shiplap boards that start with a rustic look but are considerably more expensive.


It's also worth mentioning that pre-made beams made of polyurethane foam can be purchased. Though expensive, they only need to be installed, not assembled.

Distressed Softwood Lumber

If you're going to be creative with faux wood beams, go all the way. Building faux wood beams from one-by-six dimensional lumber gives you the blank canvas you need for your genius to shine. This square-edge board is a softwood such as pine and is often called common board.

Dimensional softwood lumber squares up on its own to easily create 90-degree angles. Best of all, you'll have fun devising all sorts of ways to distress the wood. Chains, hammers, nails, and nailsets can be used to create texture in the wood.

Three boards form a U-shaped box. The surface is distressed, then the box is mounted on the ceiling cleat. Beam straps cover the ends and any mid-point seams where the faux beam meets up with adjacent beams.

What We Like
  • Create the look you want

  • Less expensive than other optionis

  • Squares up to make 90-degree angles

What We Don't Like
  • Shorter wood

  • Joint may be visible

  • Distressing the wood means more work (if that's not your thing)

Interior Shiplap Wood

Simulated aged shiplap siding has a rustic appearance because it has been machined that way. In the factory, the siding is primed and painted so it has the patina of aged wood.

Shiplap boards are assembled much like the distressed dimensional lumber method, except that boards need to have their shiplap tongues cut off lengthwise. Since some shiplap siding boards are long, you can potentially create a faux beam that runs the length of the room—no seams.

What We Like
  • Pre-aged and distressed

  • Long enough to fit room without seaming

  • Joints are less visible

What We Don't Like
  • Cutting off shiplap tongues

  • More of a uniform color than if manually distressed

Polyurethane Foam Beams

Three-sided faux wood beams are made from high-density polyurethane foam. Modeled from real wood, they are skinned with realistic-looking wood tones and textures. Of the three options, this is the most convenient since you purchase them from online suppliers. There is nothing to build; it's all assembly work. A 20-foot, 4-inch-square polyurethane foam beam costs in the range of $400 to $500.

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Single molded, no joint

  • Impervious to rot, insects

What We Don't Like
  • High cost

  • Beams may be duplicated

  • Repairs difficult

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Cordless drill
  • Oscillating sander
  • Stud finder
  • Hammer
  • Hacksaw
  • Table or circular saw
  • Saw guide
  • Distressing tools: chain, nails, nailset, saw blade
  • Wood clamps or spring clamps


  • 4 one-by-six dimensional lumber or siding boards
  • 10 4-inch corner braces
  • 1-inch wide steel, aluminum, or iron straps, each 15 inches
  • Wood stain
  • Bronze spray paint
  • Wood glue


How to Build a Wood Beam With Dimensional Lumber

  1. Add the Corner Braces to the Side Boards

    With the drill, attach five L-shaped metal corner braces to one of the one-by-sixes. Use the screws included in the packet, but make sure that they will not protrude through the other side of the board.

    One side of the brace must be flush with the edge of the board. Space the braces equally down the length of the board. Repeat for the second board, with one exception: The braces should be about 1-inch off from the placements found on the first board. This is to prevent the braces from interfering with each other when the faux beam is assembled.

  2. Add Wood Glue to the Side Boards

    Lay the third one-by-six on a flat, solid surface. Run a thin bead of wood glue along the corner brace edge of one of the side boards.

  3. Attach the Bottom Board

    Lay the glued board carefully on edge on the bottom board, with the glue side down. Screw the side board to the bottom board very tightly. Be ready with a cloth to wipe away excess wood glue. Repeat with the second side board.


    Make sure that the side boards and the bottom board meet precisely, with no overlap.

  4. Cut the Cleat Board

    Rip a one-by-six to 4 inches wide. Be precise about the cut since the board must fit perfectly between the two side boards.

  5. Mount the Cleat Board

    Use the stud finder to locate the ceiling joists. Mount the cleat board to the ceiling with two screws per joist. The cleat board must run from wall to wall. If necessary, add additional cleat boards.

  6. Sand the Faux Beam

    With the oscillating sander, sand the beam. This eliminates any ridges that may ruin the illusion that this is a single large beam instead of three joined boards.

  7. Distress the Faux Beam

    Age the wood mechanically with the distressing tools as you see fit. Scrape, gouge, scratch, and pound shallow holes. Wash the wood with stain and wipe off with steel wool. Or wash with a vinegar and water mixture, then wipe off.


    Experiment with distressing on scrap wood before applying it to your faux beam.

  8. Create Beam Straps

    With the hacksaw cut to size, then hammer the 1-inch metal into U-shapes that fit the profile of the faux beam. Mechanically age the beam straps with light scratches. Further age the straps with bronze spray paint or wood stain. As with the wood, save out an extra beam strap to experiment with.

  9. Mount the Faux Beam to the Cleat Board

    With an assistant, straddle the faux beam over the cleat board. Attach to the cleat board by driving screws through the side boards.

  10. Add Beam Straps to Ends and Mid-Points

    Screw the beam straps at each end of the faux beam where it meets the wall. Also screw beam straps over mid-point seams.


    For a realistic effect, use decorative pan-head screws to attach the beam straps to the faux beam.

Tips for Building a Wood Beam With Shiplap

This faux beam variation uses shiplap board instead of dimensional lumber. For the boards to perfectly meet with only a tiny visible joint, the width of the shiplap tongue must equal the thickness of the shiplap board.

When looking at board dimensions, make sure that you are looking at actual, not nominal, dimensions. Dimensions are important. You won't be able to sand down the shiplap board to create the illusion of a unified piece. Shiplap's patina is shallow, and it's difficult to re-create without the original coatings.

  • Two boards should have one tongue cut off from each board. Do not cut the tongue on the exposed face of the board. Instead, cut the hidden tongue on the other side. These will be the two sides of the faux beam.
  • One shiplap board will have both the exposed tongue and the hidden tongue cut off. This will be the bottom of the beam.
  • A table saw will cut straight and clean. If you don't have a table saw, use a circular saw and a saw guide.
  • To build, lay the two single-tongue boards on their edges. The tongue sides should be pointing up and the finished sides facing outward. Fit the bottom piece into the groove created by the two upright shiplap boards.
  • An assistant can help hold the boards on-edge. Or you can clamp each with a spring clamp or wood clamp to hold them in place.
  • Nail the bottom board into place with several fine brads or finish nails. Then, flip the beam over and brace internally.
  • Continue to build the shiplap faux beam according to the dimensional lumber beam instructions.