Prepping Old Hand-Hewn Beams

Thoughts on how to clean and restore old timbers before applying a fresh finish. March 29, 2006

I have to finish some old hand hewn oak beams. The beams are a weathered grey color. What is the best method of stripping the beams to natural color before finishing? I want to get the beams to a natural wood state before applying a tung oil finish.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
If all else fails, try a tinting toner. You can hide the dark color, while adding a natural color to the beams.

From contributor T:
Wash the beams with a fresh, hot, oxalic acid solution. This is an acid, so be very careful - rubber gloves, eye protection etc. - and don't sand the wood without first neutralizing it. A water wash will do that.

From contributor J:
I would pressure wash them first. Then look at the other suggestions.

From contributor R:
Why would you want to do anything to them? I see a lot of these used in homes today and all have been left in natural condition. They look great!

From the original questioner:
The customer wants a more finished look. I think I will start by power washing and see how they look. Thanks for all the responses.

From contributor R:
Makita makes a power brush unit that is not cheap, but does a great job cleaning and prepping beams. Most flap sanders or plastic bristle brush wheels do a good job. Then use a water based sanding sealer or water based urethane. Any oil based products/waxes/tung oil will turn them black in spots. Test, test, test.

From contributor W:
Try deck wash from Home Depot. It will restore the color to the wood and remove the grey color.