When looking for decorative ceiling beams, whether to hide existing exposed beams or other structural elements in a ceiling, choosing ceiling box beams for your ceiling is the perfect solution in most cases and a gorgeous addition to any space. When looking to buy faux wood beams, the subsequent Google Search results you can see that they are all the rage and extremely popular for your home, if you trust the volume of search results. Be weary though, you'll definitely get what you pay for. Affordable is a relative thing.
What Are Faux Ceiling Beams Anyway?
There are two basic types of beams in the faux ceiling beams category:
Foam or Fake Wood Beams are most commonly made from high density polyurethane foam and are made in molds, or even extrusion forms. We've even seen beams (and the most inexpensive of flooring) that has a printed image of wood grain laminated to the face of the imitation material! Yep, like printing a picture of wood and sticking it to a piece of Styrofoam.
New Real Wood Beams are made from real wood that is new wood which is then hand distressed for texture and color. The term "faux" refers only then to the fact that this is a hollow wood beam made to look like a solid wood beam.
Box Beams Are Not Structural
Box Beams are not structural elements in that they are not intended to support the ceiling or in many cases support heavy chandeliers. They are decorative in nature but intended to look like a structural part of the building structure. Be sure to anchor any heavy lighting or objects hung form the box beam through to the rafter behind the box beam.
Don't Go Down the Wrong Path
Real wood ceiling box beams add charm, warmth, character, and depth to any room. However, searching for "faux wood ceiling beams" may send you down the wrong path if you're looking for something that is enduring, enhances your home's value, and delivers the perceived value of a quality architectural element. The internet is full of cheap faux beams, fake rustic beams with fake rough sawn texture and not real wood. Know the faux before you go.
When looking to add ceiling beams to a room, there really are two basic categories available:
Hollow or Boxed Wood
Solid wood beams are the most authentic choice and choosing reclaimed wood cannot be compared with as far as the level of character, uniqueness, and story-telling they bring to the space. They originated as structural support for the room and building and harken back millennia. Solid wood beams are heavy though, which increases the difficulty and expertise required to securely install them. We'll leave that for another article, this article is about the second option, Hollow Ceiling Beams; or as we call them Box Beams for Ceilings.
Benefits of a Hollow Ceiling Box Beam
Choosing Hollow Box Beams for ceilings offers many benefits to the homeowner and great for the installer, including but not limited to:
Ceiling box beams are lighter weight than solid beams so installation is so much easier than with solid beams
Box Beams can be built to your specifications. Unlike a solid beam where any modification to the face width or vertical depth to ceiling dimensions is made which removes the original face, box beams are built (specifically related to reclaimed wood beams) to retain the original face if that face has original character and patina
Ceiling Box Beams can be build from a wide variety of wood species to showcase the grain, knots, and character of the natural wood to the degree desired. It may be more difficult to find the number of similar beams for a room with the same dimensions needed while also sharing the same visual characteristics desired; though not impossible through the right supplier. If you're looking for solid ceiling beams you should give us a shout. As a division of The Vintage Wood Floor Company, we are the largest producer of reclaimed wood anywhere and have 30,000sf of reclaimed material on hand to pull from--that's rare indeed.
Box Beams can be built with different face dimensions whereas solid beams are what they are. If using newly harvested wood that lacks any distinguishable patina like with reclaimed wood beams then this isn't much of an issue as reducing one or more of the face size isn't removing and patina. When using reclaimed wood with original face that has that gorgeous patina then this is an issue to pay attention to as described earlier.
The "Faux" in "Faux Wood Beams
Fake wood beams are like fake wood floors, rarely do they really look like the real thing. Even if they approach the look of the real thing, you'll know the difference. Fake wood either looks too consistent, too "plasticky", or uneven across the range and you'll see the difference once you have to stare up at them over time. By then, it's too late.
Like imitation wood floors, repetition in grain pattern can be a real issue because of the molds used. The variety of molds required to ensure uniqueness in each beam's character across multiple beams needed for a room is high and not a viable investment for manufacturers looking for the quick and "good enough" cash and carry product segment these beams fall into.
There's Nothing Faux or Fake About Our Real Wood Box Beams
Faux in our world only relates to the fact that these beautiful hollow beams are created to look like the solid beams from which we sourced the material from. No foam here! We make every ceiling box beam by hand, onsite from real wood. We craft them from reclaimed barn wood as well as newly harvest wood like European White Oak. With our inhouse Finish Room we can create the perfect color and finish to match your vision.
Hand Distressed Faux Wood Beams vs. Naturally Distressed Wood Beams
Hand distressed faux (or fake wood) box beams are a fraction of the cost of real wood beams. For a reason. Innovation is awesome but it comes at a cost. What that cost is depends upon what we derive real value from. The price of something is not the value of something. The value of something is the sum of everything involved in acquiring it, its benefits, costs, etc. The result is our value of the thing. If the price of a thing is the driver, then we lower the relative importance of all of the features (and benefits) that make up that thing. If however we value the experience of the thing; the authenticity of it, the quality of it, long term peace of mind having to live with the decision, the rarity of it, the timelessness of it, we tend to place less importance on the price.
When choosing faux or fake wood beams you must be prepared to live with our decision for the long-term. Like the flooring in your home, you'll be living with the beams you choose for your home for a long time. You gotta get that decision right because changing it may be a costly endeavor.
Tip: When beams are not made from historic materials like reclaimed wood, may not ever match the look of old homes in their architectural materials already inside the home.
Custom Isn't Always What You Expect
Many listings in a Google search claim their faux wood beams are custom made, but how so? With nearly infinite stain color finishes and options, sure; that's custom. When makers of new wood box beams create their box beams using hand distressing, that's custom but still a facsimile of the real thing.
What are Faux Beams Made From?
Box beams can be made from an endless list of materials and real wood species. Since the species topic is endless, let's break the materials used to build custom beams down into a few categories based upon application. Will you be coloring, staining, whitewashing, or otherwise finishing them? Or, will you choose material that is best kept unfinished with inherent patina and character imbued over generations of weathering?
Newly harvested wood like our popular European White Oak but also includes any species which is processed to be smooth, have little to no texture, can be painted, stained, or even finished like your exquisite hardwood flooring. This is a popular option for us with our inhouse Finish Room where we create custom colors, tints and looks to match our client's vision and existing wood surfaces.
Reclaimed wood like our original face Hand Hewn barn wood which is over a century old and retains the original weathered face earned through countless seasons of wind, rain, draught, and sun. The patina and character of each piece of wood is unique to the next. We choose only American barns and historic rural structures meticulously reclaimed for this wood selection, and which can be hardwoods like Oak, or softwoods like Pine or Douglas Fir which will have a more gray appearance.
Reclaimed wood with a smoother look like our Heirloom face reclaimed barn wood which is the perfect choice for those who want the strength of old growth wood, its tight growth rings and grain that shine through the perfect stain. This isn't the best choice if an opaque color/paint will be used because the extra cost of the reclaimed material is hidden by the paint. Better to go with a sturdy Euro white oak instead if painted.
Here is what reclaimed Heirloom with a custom finish looks like
What Kind of Wood Should I Choose for My Ceiling Box Beams?
More importantly, what kind of appearance should you choose for your ceiling beams? Material is really secondary to the final appearance and working backwards from there is the best way to choose. See the previous bullet points about material types and their characteristics.
Examples of box beam wood material textures:
How Much Do Faux Beams Cost?
In order of price, from highest to lowest, here is how ceiling beams are priced out:
$$$ Reclaimed Wood Box Beams
$$$ Solid Reclaimed Wood Beams
$$ New Wood Box Beams (with custom finish)
$$ Solid New Wood Beams
$ Foam or Faux Wood Box Beams
Reclaimed wood box beams are traditionally more expensive than their solid beam counterpart for many reasons, a few of which are that a solid host beam must be used for its "skins", then add to this the labor of building the box beam from that sourced material.
Conclusion: Elevate the Design of Your Room with Real Wood Box Beams
However you choose to go, be it with faux foam beams, hand or machine distressed wood beams, or real wood box beams for your ceilings; look up but don't look back. If price is an obstacle to getting what will endure and what you really want then the best decision may be to wait until next year to afford the real thing. Our advice? Choose real timber over replication every time. Look around and choose a builder or supplier that isn't making these things by the thousands which are sitting on a shelf somewhere--you'll find yourself shoehorning yourself into what they have instead of what you want or need.
In the end...
Value is a concept defined by the perceiver and will be different for everyone. Decide what you value most and stick to it. If and when you sell your home, it's unlikely that the value you placed on imitation products will be appreciated to the same level as the prospective buyers. In a world of increasing "sameness" and imitations, more and more people are crying out for originality and authenticity. We're all consumers and biased to some degree and especially when buying a home. We want the world for a low price, we want everything real (wood) not imitation (faux vs. real wood, laminate vs. hardwood, etc.). Choosing authentic products for your home is easy when you choose ultimate long term value over short term gratification. Choose the offer that makes you proud to know you chose the real thing that has enduring quality to you and everyone who experiences the beauty of real wood beams.