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All-Important Guide to Removing Old Paint, Finish, and Stains from Old Oak Beams

Most of us can appreciate the beauty of older architectural and structural elements in our properties, and if your property is blessed with oak beams of a certain age, then you’re one of the lucky ones. The reason why oak beams can last so long is due to the hardy nature of the wood itself. And when treated properly, your beams can last even longer. But the prestige of having older oak beams can be marred by beams that look damaged and discoloured – so if you have a mind to restore oak beams to their past charm and glory and bring out their rustic appeal once again, here’s your all-important guide to removing old paint, finish, and stains from old oak beams.

  • How to do general and basic cleaning

First things first – you may have to do some general and basic cleaning to get rid of the buildup of grime and dirt. If you need to clean the surface, use a brush with soft bristles; stay away from wire brushes because this can damage the surface and lead to a rough, uneven look. Dust the loose dirt and grime on the surface, but make sure you are gentle, so you don’t leave any scratches or marks on the surface.

  • How to remove old paint

The paint can be an unpleasant feature when it comes to painted beams, especially if the beams have old paint from the 1960s and 1970s. These paint colours were often bold and bright and effectively hid the natural beauty of the wood. If you want to do away with this, you can make use of paint strippers. But if you would like to get rid of whitewash (limewash), use a poultice to scrape off the wash.

But as beam renovation professionals know, paint from the 1960s and 70s often has lead, and removing this kind of paint can release dangerous and toxic fumes if you use a heat-based method such as a heat gun or blowtorch. It is also not good to use sanding as the lead or lime in the dust it creates can be dangerous and toxic. When you strip the paint, you need to have the proper equipment and protective gear, and alongside this, ensure adequate ventilation for the area.

  • How to remove black stains

Beams made from oak can look ‘black’ if they have been exposed to dampness and moisture for years. For this, you may try using a mould or mildew remover. But stay away from bleach or products that contain bleach; this can cause damage to the surface of the beams.

  • How to finish the beams

If you plan to apply a finish to the beams, don’t use linseed oil – the beams cannot properly and fully absorb the oil, leaving a sticky residue on the surface. The residue can also attract more dust and dirt, and this is trapped within the beam, giving the surface an unsightly appearance. You can try beeswax polish for a more traditional appeal, but make sure to apply just a thin layer. Afterwards, you can polish it until the surface shines. Good luck, but remember: if you aren’t sure about how to do it properly, it’s always best to turn to a professional who will know exactly what to do.

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