Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ceiling Makeover: How to Expose Wood Beams

How to expose wood beams.

exposed wood beams primitive home

The ceiling makeover in the dining room is complete.
There was a drop ceiling hiding all these beautiful, mostly original, rustic wood beams:

primitive antique home with exposed wood beam ceilings

I ripped down the drop ceiling, had two electrical lines rerouted, then turned to my contractor and had his guys install blocking, sheetrock and plaster.

The finishing touch is a colonial style wrought iron chandelier.

primitive home with exposed wood beam ceilings

The view above is from the master bedroom doorway.
(To see how I stripped the back stairway door click here.)

The dining room is the most central room in our 1740 saltbox home and it has 6 doorways:

saltbox farmhouse central chimney layout

When we moved in last June the room was dark, had no light fixture, had a drop ceiling that was only 7 feet high and a tiny piece of moulding for a mantle:

saltbox farmhouse dining room before

Almost a year later and I've done a lot of work to this space.

saltbox farmhouse dining room after

First I painted the walls Benjamin Moore simply white and had the mantle replaced as soon as we moved in last June.
Then I just couldn't hold out any longer and ripped down the plaster and lath drop ceiling in March:

removing plaster ceiling

3 days of working overhead in a dustbowl might have been the worst project I've done so far.
But all the hard work was worth it.

wood beams in dining room antique farmhouse

I did find quite a few artifacts up in the ceiling.
vintage finds in ceiling
A carriage manufacturer business card and other neat old trinkets.
But the biggest surprise:

corn husks used for insulation

About 100 corn cobs packed in between the beams right around the fireplace.  I believe they were used as insulation in the 1800s.

rough hand hewn exposed beams

post and beam construction

primitive farmhouse dining room before and after
primitive farmhouse dining room exposed wood beams
 How to expose wood ceiling beams:

1. Plastic and tape all doorways and openings.
Place a tarp over the floor to collect all the debris.

Score the edges where the ceiling meets the walls.
I was able to pull back a linen fabric layer first:

removing linen fabric from ceiling

2. Using a hammer and pry bar smash the plaster and pull it down.
It will come down in small pieces.

remove plaster from ceiling

In some places the plaster was 2" thick!:

2" thick plaster on ceiling

plaster ceiling pulled down

3.  Pull down all the lath from cross supports:

lath on ceiling

lath support beams on ceiling

Then remove the cross supports to expose the floor joists.

4.  Now you can see what electrical lines you have, most likely they will need to be rerouted up closer to the floor boards.

electrical running through ceiling beams

5. Install 2x2 furring strips that will serve as blocking for the sheetrock.
This gives the electricians 1 1/2" of space for the wires and junction box.

 furring strips attached to beams

6. Now 1/2" sheetrock can be installed:

sheetrock between exposed wood beams

Finally the guys used plaster to fill in any gaps between the sheetrock and existing walls for a smooth look.

Sand and paint to finish.


  1. Amazing! You're hard work was worth it! What a transformation :)

  2. Wow, stunning!I also love the chandelier :)

  3. It is hard to believe it is the same space. The beams are beautiful and your hardwork has paid off! I love the artifacts that you found too. It must be so fun living in a house with so much history.

  4. Wonderful! Amazing! Fantastic! Beautiful! Incredible! Perfect! Gorgeous! Miraculous! I don't know what else to say.

  5. That is jaw-dropping lay amazing! It looks fabulous.
    But corncobs,...who knew??!

  6. Absolutely love the results! On an unrelated note, where are the metal chairs from?

  7. Just gorgeous! I wish we had homes with that kind of history in AZ!

  8. Wow, that is amazingly beautiful. Seriously gorgeous.

  9. what an incredible transformation. Back to the original is amazing

  10. Oh. My. Goodness.

    I truly love all of your projects. But this? This, takes the cake. I can't imagine how hard this would have been to do, but my word, the finished product is amazing. It needs to be in a magazine.

    And how cool are the corn cobs? I love that.

  11. I did the same thing to my dining room ceiling about 15 yrs. ago and I still love it. Bit of a pain to get the cobwebs down but worth it for the look. Your room looks wonderful! It's like taking a step back in time.

  12. WOW the results are amazing, so much work but so worth it!

  13. This is jaw dropping amazing. I love the wood beams, but the corncobs and business card are really special finds.

  14. What an incredible, fantastic effort! Your dining room is so fabulous! We knocked out the lathe in our 1907 home in 1984 in the kitchen to take out the drop ceiling and put in a load bearing beam to open up a room on the back of the kitchen which at one time had been a porch. It had oak flooring and bead board ceiling. Linda

  15. I love it. It is just such a pleasant room. Your hard work really paid off.

    Mary @ Orphans With Makeup

  16. Gorgeous! Can you tell me where your chairs are from around the table. I love them!!

  17. absolutely stunning, totally worth all of that work!

  18. We are in the middle of the mess in our 1929 kitchen now...beams exposed and now moving on to installing bead board in between the beams.We found old newspapers for insulation and $ Monopoly money. LOL Messy work but I'm keeping my eyes on the prize.

  19. Those wood beams do show character! I also liked how you worked out the electrical components on this one, as they could get quite tricky. You don't want to mess around with the beams and their support. It's an impressive work that you guys did here. Cheers!

    Bryan Hubbard @ Douthit Electrical