Your home holds a lot more than the physical presence of yourself and your family. There are lots of memories throughout the walls and floors. Each detail of the house needs caring, including your oak beams. Common places where there are oak beams are the fireplace, garden, and the garage.
First of All: Anti-infestation Treatment
Although the oak material has natural tannins and has a breathable nature that usually prevents insect and fungal attacks, you can opt to use anti-infestation treatment for higher protection against insect attacks and fungal decay. For air-dried beams, you can soften the edges by chamfering to give an aged effect or more sophisticated character to the bars. Chamfering techniques may involve the full length of the beam or scalloping or sections of the beam
Moisten Your Oak Beams
Since oak beams are usually kept fresh and without treatment, it is advisable to wipe the surface with a cloth moistened in teak oil every few months, particularly during the first few years since the acquisition and installation. Oils penetrate deep into the wood and replenish the oak. Additionally, oils add a hardening layer on top of the oak beams, and this hardened layer will protect the piece from future damage.
Oak beams, like any other oak products, naturally season and darken in time, but some people who prefer it to have a lighter color can opt for treating the oak. Do not use varnish types of treatment because it will eventually break down rapidly and significantly spoil the appearance of the beam.
About Splits and Cracks on the Oak Beam
Splits and cracks are inevitable and expected in an oak piece. As the oak dries out, the wood shrinks across the grain as the fibers of the wood thin out and pull closer. Some of the fibers stick on one side and pull away from the other side, and this causes splits along the grain and often does not affect the frame strength. Also, cracks develop due to oak shrinking. These splits and cracks do not necessarily affect the quality of the oak beams instead these add character and charm to the product.
However, if these splits and cracks bother or worry you, you could always apply a moisturizer for the wood as mentioned above. But, rest assured that there is no damage to the oak structure despite having splits and cracks.
Clean Away the Stains
There may be areas of water forming on the surface of your oak beams with varying wood density. Although oak often absorbs liquid evenly, this event could occur during construction, especially for beams built outside the confines of the walls of the house.
You can apply even sanding of the wood. Then, wipe all surfaces with mineral spirits and inspect for scratches or sander swirls. Once those are gone, use a gel stain or equalize the wood density with a washcoat or a coat of thinned finish. Washcoat often offers the best protection against blotching. Another technique you can apply is to clean the stain using oxalic acid.
Restoring the Oak Beam
Some beams may display deep notches, dirty crevices, cracks, holes or even protruding wood fibers. If you have this problem, you must first look into possible existing nails and screws on the oak beams. The first step to a hand brush to remove dirt and dust from the bar. A spatula can also remove the plaster remaining on the oak beams. You can use a special filling compound for the pesky holes.
After those processes, you can proceed to grind the oak beams. If there are old nails in the wood, you should use the minimum pressure possible when using an electric sander. You can also opt to sand the beam by hand if you want to be safer. You can ask for advice from people in the hardware store about the type of abrasive paper for your oak beam. Remember to protect yourself during the grinding process by using thick gloves, safety goggles, and a respirator, and you should always respect the beam’s fiber direction when grinding. You do not want to risk possible fraying of the oak’s surface.
Last Words on the Maintenance of Oak Beams
Wooden beams with proper treatment and great care survive up to decades without signs of embrittlement and peeling. You can estimate the frequency needed for these techniques as you observe the wood quality. With these tips on hand, your home will shine in a more beautiful light.