Old oak beams are indeed a heritage item that should very well be preserved – not just for their aesthetic appeal, but their historical significance as well. Those homes and buildings with old oak beams have a definite asset, and oak beams such as these can increase the value of any structure in more ways than one. But if you have old oak beams in your building or property, you may be wondering how you can adequately preserve them or even restore them to their former beauty and glory. As time goes on, oak beams can look even more attractive, but they may also be privy to wear and tear and even the effects of too much damp, moisture, and exposure to sunlight if they are outdoors. Cleaning old oak beams is one thing, but finishing them is yet another. Here, then, is what you should know about the proper way to finish older oak beams.
Removing silver sheen
If you would like to remove the silver sheen from oak beams that have been air-dried or oak beams that have weathered outdoors, you may need a bleaching agent such as wood reviver gel. The gel has oxalic acid, and this can bleach the timber without resulting in damage. You must use it with care, however, because it can tarnish and corrode metal fixtures or fittings. If you have interior oak beams, you may be able to finish them with varnish or wax, so their colour is preserved. Any external oak beam can be painted with a wood preservative, preferably a clear colour, and oil that is UV-resistant so you can prevent and avoid silvering in the future.
What to avoid
You should avoid using linseed oil for finishing your old oak beams, even though it is a traditional choice. Linseed oil cannot dry fully, and the wood cannot absorb it completely, hence leaving a sticky and oily surface residue. This residue can then allow dust and dirt to stick to the beam’s surface, which will simply undo your hard work of cleaning. If you want a finish that has a traditional look, go for beeswax polish. You can purchase this or even make it yourself when you dissolve beeswax in some turpentine through the night. It is best to apply the polish thinly and then polish it until it shines. If the coat of polish is too thick, it will be too soft on the timber’s surface and result in a dull and lacklustre appearance.
For a limed appearance
If you want a limed appearance or effect but don’t want to use alkaline lime, you can make use of lime wax. Once you have stripped the beam and sanded it, you can raise the grain of the wood with the use of a brush with copper bristles. Avoid the use of steel brushes because it can react with the material’s tannins, resulting in a blackened appearance, as confirmed by beam restoration experts who know of other unique and gentle methods to restore and revive oak beams. You can massage the lime wax into the grain and then let it dry. When it dries a little bit, rub the surface residue and apply a clear wax coating to seal and protect it. This will result in a rustic effect that also emphasises the oak’s natural grain.