The sight of old oak beams that have been beautifully restored is remarkable; we all know how stunning oak beams can look, especially if they are antique beams that have been brought back to their former glory by careful treatment and cleaning. But the treatment and cleaning of old oak beams can be tricky – they are, after all, delicate, and they can have various issues as well, from mould and mildew to soot stains and more. But if you have older or vintage oak beams in your property and would like to know how to properly clean and treat them, here’s your all-important guide to the treatment and cleaning of older oak beams.
A step-by-step process to cleaning oak beams
Step 1: First, you should brush down the beam using a soft-bristled brush so as to remove any loose residue of dirt or dust. You should avoid using a brush that has wire bristles as this can make the surface of the beams rougher, which damages the appearance of the wood. When the surface is rough, it can also allow residue and dirt to adhere to the surface much more easily over time, which can simply make the beams appear worse.
Step 2: you may be able to use chemical-free as well as soda blasting on your oak beams, particularly if you want to remove any blackening caused by moisture, fungi, or smoke or soot stains. Bear in mind that chemicals used for standard cleaning may damage the beams, and sandblasting is not usually recommended because this can also make the wood surface rougher, damaging the finish as well. You may be able to use a mix: 1 portion of vinegar and then two portions of water; simply spray this onto a soft cloth and rub this gently on the wood to disinfect and clean it.
Step 3: if you would like to do away with old paint, one solution would be making use of a paint stripper, although it’s best to consult with the experts first – beam restoration specialists such as Bespokebeams.co.uk can advise you on the best way to remove old paint. If you are planning to remove whitewash and/or limewash, it may be possible to make use of a chemical poultice which can mix with the whitewash and/or limewash, which lets you scrape or gently scratch it off. But here’s one other thing to note: old paint may have lead and other dangerous chemicals, and when you heat it, it can produce harmful fumes, so avoid using heat guns as well as blowtorches. It would also be wise not to sand as the lime or lead in the paint dust can be harmful and toxic. If you are to use a chemical stripper, make sure the area is ventilated, and you are using the proper safety equipment.
Step 4: once you have removed old paint in the proper way, the beams can then be sanded down with fine-grade sandpaper as well as an electric sander. The sanding process can give the beams a smooth and even look without causing damage to the surface.
Step 5: if you are to remove blackening from frames and beams located outdoors, you may be able to use fungicidal treatment (like mildew and mould removers). More often than not, the blackening has resulted from fungus infestation on the damp beams. You should avoid the use of products with bleach as they can damage the beams as well.