Yes, that double “faux” is on purpose! Everyone seems to love wooden ceiling beams, and I’ve seen several DIY ways to add your own if you don’t have real ones. Most methods involve buying wood and building 3-sided “beams” before nailing them onto a 4th top side attached to the ceiling. They look very nice. However, they are still heavy enough to make me worried about how well they’d be attached overhead. Installation certainly seems like a multi-person job, too. And, wood ain’t cheap. I’ve also seen faux beams made out of prefabricated foam that is super-light and looks like real wood. Nice alternative, but still very pricey – 8 ft can be around $120.
So, when considering adding faux beams to our guest room’s weird ceiling, I tried to think of another way to make my own. What I came up with ended up costing only $70 for FOUR beams that were a little over 8 ft – and I had most of the materials, so I only really spent $30!
Step 1: Measure and cut foam strips. I measured out my leftover 4×8 foam sheet piece and did some math to decide what size to make my 4 beams. (I’d already decided on making 4 simply because I wanted 2 on either side of the ceiling light.) I ended up measuring and marking every 3 inches. This would make my beams 3 inches tall (on the sides) and 5 inches wide (across the bottom) once the 1-inch-wide sides were attached to the 3-inch bottom piece.
Unlike the one video I found where someone made foam beams like this, I didn’t plan on a top piece at all. That person still used the method of running a board along the ceiling and then attaching the foam to that to hold it on the ceiling. But…this is foam, and even at 8ft+ these beams are incredibly light. There’s really no reason to do the work of attaching a heavier and more expensive piece of wood to the ceiling this way for foam. (Or at least, if there is a reason, I can’t think of it 🤷♀️). Simply by using the right adhesive on the top sides of my side pieces, I’d be able attach the foam beams directly to the ceiling.
Anyway, since I was only planning on 3 sides to make my beams, I needed 12 strips of foam to make 4 beams.
I ended up using my table saw, but you could use a circular saw or jigsaw or even a hacksaw if you mark straight lines to follow. With my table saw, I cut 12 strips that were 3 inches wide, plus I did a few more 3-inch strips because I needed to add more length. My ceiling spans 101 inches across, so I needed to cut these extra strips to 5 inches long. I needed, again, 3 sides for each beam, so I needed 12 of these 5-inch strips.
Side note: You could make your beams whatever size you want. I considered 6-inch-wide sides, but it’s a small and short room, so I didn’t want the beams to intrude that much. If you’ve got nice high ceilings, bigger beams would look great! And I imagine you could make them as long as you’re able to manage too.
Step 2: Assemble the pieces. With this foam all cut in my garage, I moved inside and spread an old sheet to cover my guest room floor.
Because my table saw made such straight cuts, I was able to lay one strip down and then move another into position so that the edges met at a nice 90-degree angle. I made sure both side pieces would line up like this, and then I took my caulk gun with the adhesive and ran a line along one side of what I’d determined to be my bottom piece. Then I simply positioned one side piece again and pressed it down into the adhesive. It held almost instantly – this Loctite adhesive is great! (If you use another adhesive, be sure it works on foam board because not all adhesives will be as strong.)
Once I was sure that first side piece was stuck on, I flipped the beam over carefully and did the same to the other side.
With those 3 pieces now making my first beam, I grabbed my little 5-inch long extensions and assembled 3 together like a mini beam. That done, I spread adhesive on the end of my long beam and then lined up my mini beam before pressing the two together. I made sure the edges were as tight and straight as possible, and it again stuck solid pretty quickly.
One beam assembled!
I carefully moved this beam aside and assembled the pieces for the remaining 3 beams, using the exact same method. There were a few little gaps where the pieces met, so I filled them with some adhesive to really help everything hold. I knew I could paint the Loctite too, so it helped to disguise the seams where my extenders connected.
Optional step: Texture the foam. I didn’t do anything to my beams’ texture because I liked how the ends were rough like wood anyway, and the few dents and scrapes already on the sides looked rustic but not overly rough. You could, however, add wood grain-like texture if you want. The one video I’d found earlier showed how they used a steel brush to lightly wipe long grain patterns over the foam. You could cut out chunks to really roughen up the “wood.” You can cut, dent, put in nails, or whatever you want – foam is pretty easy to manipulate!
Step 3: Paint. Again, I didn’t bother texturing, partly for the reasons above and partly because of what I’d planned to do with paint. During previous experiments, I’d found it was pretty easy to layer paint and stain to make a faux wood effect.
First, I needed to get a base coat of light brown paint on the foam beams. I used leftover paint – the same leftovers that I’d used to paint the lower section of our guest room walls. It only took one coat, and really I didn’t need it to be perfect since I was staining over it anyway.
Once my little helper and I had all the beams painted, I let them dry for a few hours. Already, I liked how the dents and cuts looked like rough wood with only the paint on. Since a lot of people paint beams, this could be the final look if you wanted to add a perfect coat.
Step 4: Stain. The only real tricks here are to use something that won’t spread the stain on too well and to use a stain that’s darker than the paint. I used a silicone basting brush (which is great for use on dozens of projects). I dipped the brush in the stain, let a little run off, and then brushed it back and forth over the painted beam. Yes, this goes on a little bit at a time and takes a while. But it worked great to achieve the look I wanted – aged wood with rough grain lines. In some places I made it darker; in some places I really spread the stain so it was lighter. But everywhere, the basting brush allowed little streaks of dark stain to look like wood grain over the lighter brown undertones of the paint.
It’s worth noting that this can be a bit messy and splatter as you’re wiping – hence laying out a sheet on the floor. I also thought I was being smart (for once) and wore gloves. However…I was also wearing shorts. 🤦♀️
Anyway, this takes a while. But once I was done with all 4 beams, I was quite pleased with the results. I let this dry overnight. (Mine were still a little tacky the next morning, so I impatiently wiped off the wettest parts and waited a few more hours until all was good and dry.)
Step 5: Attach beams to the ceiling. Once dry, all that was left to do was figure out my beams’ placement and attach them to the ceiling. You can space these however you want. I opted to come in from the wall 6 inches on either side of the room, so I made pencil marks on the walls at either end where the beams would start and end. I wanted these 2 beams in place before committing to where the innermost 2 beams would go around my light fixture (which of course was not centered in the room 🙄), so I didn’t mark anything for those inner beams just yet.
Pulling aside my first beam, I carefully flipped it over so that the tops of the sides were facing up. With my caulk gun, I spread adhesive all along those 2 top sides. I also added a little to the ends where they’d meet the walls, just for added security.
Because these beams are so light, I was able to lift this prepped beam easily overhead. I positioned the ends so they met the pencil marks I’d made – this was how I was sure my beam was on straight across the ceiling. Then I very lightly touched the beam to the ceiling and wall to let the adhesive hold the beam in this position. Now that the beam was lined up correctly, I moved to the middle of the beam and pressed up so that the adhesive really stuck onto the ceiling. I carefully moved all along the beam and pressed up. The adhesive held immediately, and there was no need to brace the beam because it stayed in place without any support.
I repeated this with the beam that went on the other side of the room.
Next, I measured the remaining space between my installed beams and then did the math to figure out where to mark for the remaining 2 beams. I ended up spacing them 33 inches apart… Not that that measurement means anything for your project, but basically I eyeballed it and decided where the beams would look best around my light fixture. 😜
So, I repeated the process for installing these last 2 beams, and that was it.
I did go along where the beams met the ceiling and wipe away any excess adhesive that squeezed out. There wasn’t much ooze, but that is something to look for. Other than that, my beams were done!
I cannot believe how well these turned out. I had my hopes, but wow. It was easy and cheap and makes a big impact in our guest room. Do they feel like wood? Of course not. But who touches the ceiling? They certainly look like the real thing…or at least like the fake version of real thing. 😂
Now, who thinks I should change that light fixture? lol