Building Boxed Ceiling Beams

A room with boxed ceiling beams.
  • 8 hours
  • Advanced
  • 800
What You'll Need
Tape measure
Nailing strips
2x4-inch boards
Miter saw
Antiquing tools

Boxed ceiling beams are a versatile substitute for indoor structural ceiling beams. They create a rustic, classic look in any room when they are installed properly with the correct materials. Boxed ceiling beams can be constructed from a variety of woods, including barn wood, knotty pine, cypress, and cedar.

In addition to aesthetic purposes, they can be used to hide electrical/telephone conduits and small HVAC ducts. With accurate information about installing these beams, most homeowners will be able to add them to various rooms in their homes. Follow these steps to install boxed ceiling beams in your home.

Step 1 - Plan for Construction

Before beginning to construct boxed ceiling beams, you must first prepare for the installation by inspecting the ceiling where you plan to install the beams. You need to be aware of possible obstacles such as HVAC ducts, electrical wiring, and plumbing pipes that might interfere with the installation.

If you plan to use the beams to hide any of these objects, then you need to measure them to determine the quantity and dimensions of lumber pieces you will purchase. Since the nailing strip will need to be attached to ceiling joists or studs, you will want to locate the joists and mark their location in the ceiling.

Doing so will save you time when you fasten the nailing strip. Measure the length of each beam. If possible, purchase lumber in pieces long enough that you won't need to have joints in the beams once they are installed.

Step 2 - Attach the Boxed Ceiling Beam

Typically, the boxed ceiling beams are installed by first attaching a nailer, usually a 2x4-inch piece, to ceiling joists using nails or deck screws. When the three-sided boxed beam has been constructed it is placed over the nailer and fastened with wood glue, nails, or screws.

Step 3 - Construct Box Beams

1-inch boards are generally used for the sides and bottom of the beam. To give these beams a finished look, corners of the bottom and side pieces are mitered, then glued and nailed with small finish nails. To connect these pieces to resemble a single, solid beam, the pieces are laid out on a flat surface or on sawhorses while they are antiqued, connected, and finished.

Finish nail heads in the beam pieces are hidden by using a nail set and hammer to drive the nails into the wood so that the heads are set below the wood surface. Apply putty that is colored to match the finished surface to the nail holes, then sand.

Step 4 - Select Beam Materials

Lumber used for the ceiling beams can be antiqued by using tools such as an adz, carving chisels, draw knives, or even belt sanders. The antique method gives the lumber a hand-hewn look, with gouges. Depending on room décor, the beams can be left without paint or varnish, or they can be finished. Materials such as barn wood, cherry, mahogany, knotty pine, and cypress are all good options.