Oak definitely has a lot of properties that have made it the material of choice for generations, not just for furniture, but more importantly, for structural support. Oak beams, in particular, have been a popular element for a long time, and many older homes and buildings are graced with these beautiful beams that continue to be an asset to any property. But if the old oak beams in your own property are showing signs of damage or wear and tear, you may be planning to clean and preserve them so they will continue to remain an asset. Oak beams can be delicate, however, and need special treatment – so here’s your essential guide to cleaning and preserving old oak beams.
- General cleaning
If you simply want to do some general cleaning, all you need is a soft yet firm brush so you can easily remove the dust and dirt on the surface that has gathered over time. You can brush it down to remove all traces of accumulated dust and dirt. One point, though, is to avoid using wire brushes, because this can make the surface rougher and it can cause damage to the timber. If the timber has a rough surface, dirt can more easily accumulate in the future as well.
- Removing old paint
If you would like to remove old paint from the surface of the beams, you may make use of a paint stripper. If you are to remove limewash or whitewash, you can do this with a poultice, which can bind with the whitewash and let you easily scrape it off. Remember, however, that old paint often contains lead plus other chemicals that can be harmful. The lead and chemicals can release dangerous fumes once heated, and you should therefore avoid the use of heat guns or blowtorches, as attested to by beam renovation experts. You should also avoid sanding because the lime or lead in the dust may also be dangerous and toxic. When you are making use of a chemical stripper, make sure you have the proper safety gear and equipment; the area should also be well-ventilated.
Once you have removed the old coat of paint from the beams, you can then sand it so as to remove other remaining residue and traces of the former finish. When sanding, use fine-grade sandpaper. For sanding exposed oak beams, you can use electric sanders. This will result in a smooth and even appearance without causing damage to the beam.
- Dealing with blackening
If the beams have blackened due to prolonged moisture exposure or fungus and other causes, you may be able to use fungicidal treatments like mildew and mould removers. But you should definitely avoid using bleaching chemicals or products because they can damage the beams.
There may be other problems that you may encounter with old oak beams, such as infestation. Fortunately, these issues can be dealt with, but you need to take care of them as soon as possible so they don't get worse. While some methods may be simple, as you have seen above, it can be time-consuming – and if you are uncertain of how to deal with it properly and would like the best results, you can always turn to beam restoration and renovation specialists.