What You Need To Know Before Buying A Wood Box Beam

Do you know what you need to know before buying a wood box beam?

Finally, for the first time ever, there's a website where you can build, price, and order your custom box beam in one visit. No waiting for a quote. But here's some helpful info to help get you there.

You don't choose a wood box beam; you design one to be built. Learn everything you need to know before pulling the trigger.

What is a wood box beam?

A wood box beam is a hollow beam made from face panels joined together with the ultimate goal of replicating the look of a solid beam. A box beam can have 2, 3, or 4 sides depending upon how and where it will be used (and seen). Keep reading to learn more. Some might call these a faux beam mantel but when you consider the level of work that goes into creating a custom wood box beam the term faux really cheapens the effort in our view.

What is a wood box beam?

What are box beams made of?

  • All of our reclaimed box beams are constructed from domestically sourced, antique American reclaimed barn wood beams which are real wood, and elevate your design to another level.
  • Part of the charm of reclaimed wood are the nails, nail holes, remnants of insect tracks (we fumigate all of our material so don't worry about bringing any creepy crawlies into your home)
  • Another type of reclaimed material box beams are constructed with are soft woods like Doug Fir and Pine from reclaimed wood horse corrals. These materials have a silvery-gray appearance and has been a sought-after material for over a decade. The patina of reclaimed wood is what sets it apart from new wood that has been artificially distressed to look old. There's no story behind that material while reclaimed wood has a rich history and engaging story to tell.
  • As with a solid wood mantel, a wood box beam mantel makes for a great fireplace surround as a new wood mantel or to cover an existing mantel
  • Our new wood box beams are generally made from hardwoods. Our European white oak box beams are the most popular in this category and are made to our client's specifications, with a custom color finish.

    Types of wood box beams 

    What kinds of box beams are there?

    There are countless types of wood box beams but all of our box beams are hand made to your specifications for your project in these materials:

    If you would like a custom (colored) finish, please do not order from this listing. Instead, please call us at 714-557-9655 to discuss your project and arrange for samples to be made for your approval. A custom finish is an involved process, far outside the ability of a website to capture; and even, if possible, we'd prefer to work with you directly one-on-one.

    We produce box beams in a variety of wood species, but it usually comes down to texture choices driving the preference. Regardless of your material selection, our craftsmen with over 200 years of experience between them will create the perfect box beam for your custom project.

    Types of reclaimed wood box beams (European white oak excluded):

    Types of box beams for ceilings

    Why choose a hand hewn box beam?

    While we love constructing wood box beams from both new and reclaimed wood, in hand hewn and rough sawn--and even resawn materials, but there is something special about a hand hewn box beam (made from hand hewn barn beams) because they bring greater visual intrigue into your room and give you a story to tell. Hand hewn is a great choice if you're looking for a rustic fireplace mantel. Each of our hand hewn reclaimed box beams is different from the next and have irresistible character and charm. Every axe mark tells the story of a pioneer over a century ago and his tenacity to build something bigger than himself. We offer both reclaimed box beams and a solid reclaimed wood beam, the latter available through our division TheMantelCollection.com which has the solid barn beam mantel in stock and ready to ship or pickup. Jump to our hand hewn box beams here.

    What Are Reclaimed Rough Sawn Box Beams?

    With the advent and availability of powered, machine-driven circular and band saws, rough sawn beams became ubiquitous. Timber milled, with circular or band saws a century ago often left behind circle saw or chatter marks, blade tooth impressions, and burn marks. As with any reclaimed material, part of the visual appeal iWhat is rough sawn reclaimed woods the staining and uneven coloration.

    Rough Sawn (could also be referred to as 'circle sawn') is the term used to describe material cut into dimensional lumber by use of a circular saw. Prior to the advent of--or use of--powered milling machinery, manpower was the force behind the tools (see our Hand Hewn box beams for that look). Rough sawn has the tell-tail circular saw marks; remnants of the tool used to cut it many generations ago.

    The circular saw marks are caused by any number of things, including a bent tooth or blade, wobble in the feeding of the beam through the machine, and the list goes on. However, the marks were caused, we're glad they were because this creates both a clean look from the more square angles but keeps the historical interest and visual variety from the saw marks.

    Old timber mill

    What Are Reclaimed Resawn Box Beams?

    When resawing the original face material away, the resawn beam core is what is remains. This resawn core has a nearly smooth face on all sides. This is the ideal type of material to sand smooth and apply a stain or custom translucent finish, allowing the beautiful old growth tight grain to show through. You'll still see an old nail hole here and there but the original face patina will have been removed.

    Example of a Resawn Box Beam:

    Reclaimed Resawn Wood Box Beam

    What are European White Oak Box Beams?

    When creating a box beam from newly harvested wood , the process of creating a box beam is the same; resawing an appearance layer from a thicker plank, then engineering it to Baltic Birch, then joining the face panels together to form the intended shape. This is the box beam you'd choose if you want a custom finish like a floor has. With our in-house custom finish division, we have the experience and equipment to create the finish you envision. The most popular material is European White Oak, but we can provide any number of species for your project.

    Example of a (new wood) European Oak Box Beam:


    New Wood European White Oak Box Beam

    How is a Box Beam Different than a Solid Beam ?

    • To make a reclaimed barn wood hollow beam (or a faux wood beam mantel), we first resaw the original face material away from the core of reclaimed barn beams or boards (a thick veneer).
    • These original face skins are engineered to the finest Baltic Birch for strength and structure (for rough sawn and resawn box beams, hand hewn box beams are not engineered), then join the sections together, reinforcing the structure with internal blocking.
    • Using a mix of wood glue, biscuit joinery, and other fixtures (not wood screws though)the faces are joined into a secure structure.
    • Seeing the true artistry of a well-done reclaimed box beam is a real treat. Our Craftsmen are able to hide the corner and length seams and even cut in wood grain by hand so there is no discernable difference in grain at the joints. This is why our clients often think we hollowed out a solid beam to create their box beams, because the joints are imperceptible.

    Shown below, a Rough Sawn Box Beam in the process of being made (incomplete). The images show how the barn wood is structurally supported with 9-ply Baltic Birch plywood to ensure a resilient, strong, and consistent backing so there isn't any waviness as the seasons and environmental conditions in your home change:

      What is a wood box beam?




      How Big Can You Make a Box Beam ?

      There isn't a box beam size we haven't built. With our massive inventory and experience in architectural elements, we'll likely be able to create what others may not due to limitations in their material access or construction ability. Unlike what might be offered through the big box stores like Home Depot, or from a contractor not familiar with producing these works of art (you won't find wood filler in our box beams) we make ours with a solid piece of wood for each face, of original material--not a fake handmade finish.

      Example of some Hand Hewn Box Beams that are nearly 33ft long:

      How long can you make a wood box beam?

      Should I choose a box beam instead of a solid beam?

      • Choosing a box beam as a floating mantel (or embedded such as in a brick mantel fireplace) is ideal when you need to precisely control the dimensions of the beam to fit within the mounted space. Unlike a solid beam, a wood box beam's dimensions are all within our control.
      • With a solid beam, they are what they are and to reduce the face of a solid beam means to cut off the original face which leaves a fresh cut face. This is in opposition to the other remaining original faces. With a box beam we can construct it in a way as to achieve the exact front face height, top and bottom face depths (or protrusion) as well as the length of course.
      • Wood box beams are a great way to hide existing structural supports or just to add to the room's aesthetic appeal. Box beams offer the look of solid beams with the benefits of custom sizing and lightweight installation.
      • Box beams replicate the look of solid timber but have an improved workability and practicality: they're uniform in size throughout the length of the beam, are available in any length and width combination, are lighter and easier to install than solid beams.

        Where are Box Beams used?

        Choosing a custom made box beam not only looks great but has functional appeal as well. Box beams are often what you see on ceilings. A box beam is also used to wrap unappealing structural elements like pipes or I-beams, or framing in a building. Installation is far easier as well since they can be easily trimmed or modified to fit with tools on the job site, and the weight is far less than a solid new or reclaimed beam . As well, they are a great alternative to solid beams in applications which preclude the use of heavier solid beams.

        Looking to do a fireplace makeover? Many homeowners choose a box beam mantel (mantle) as a fireplace mantel because we can build to their exact dimensions. This also includes what might be called a mantel shelf and even floating shelves. We add the fire to a reclaimed wood fireplace. If you want to dress up a tired brick fireplace, a hollow or rustic faux beam mantel may just be the answer you're seeking.

        Being lighter, a hollow box beam is easier to install and doesn't require hefty lag bolts. Check with your installer or the web for the variety of installation methods. We prefer this bracket from Shelfology which actually work well for both solid and hollow box beams.

        Example of using Resawn Box Beams as Ceiling Beams:

        Hand Hewn Ceiling Box Beams

        Do Box Beams Cost the Same as a Solid Wood Beam?

        The final cost depends on the beam , dimensions, and many more factors however a box beam is usually more expensive than a solid beam simply due to the extensive labor involved in crafting such a piece . This is in addition to the cost of the host wood beam from which the original face skin material is taken.

        Take a look at our box beam product gallery in our product listings.

        In the end, we can make the perfect box beam to complement your need, room and wall decor, and timeless style.

        Example of Hand Hewn Box Beams being made (incomplete):

        Do box beams cost the same as a solid beam?


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