Considerations When Buying Oak Beams For Home Projects

Oak beams instantly convey a rustic strength and natural beauty which can transform any living space. Whether you are looking to create a country kitchen or add historic character to a barn conversion, here is some guidance on what you need to do to source the right beams. Timbersource, a timber supplier in Somerset, shares some expert insights.

As a building material, oak ticks the box for practical as it is so strong but it is also has an appealing texture. That is why it is highly popular for a range of home projects from mantels on fireplaces to kitchen ceiling beams. It’s important to start on the right foot at the timber yard when selecting these beams for projects. If you make good early decisions about your timber, oak beams really do transform your home spaces and often add value to property. Here’s some advice from the experts.

Make the Grade

Dependent on the type of oak beam project you are undertaking, strength of the wood can be key.

You need to source the right oak for the job. When the moisture content is deemed correct (20%) strength grading can be conducted via the TH system where quality is determined by criteria such as shape, knots, fissures, slope of grain, bark pockets and such. The grading system range encompasses four standards which are defined by the extent of defects present or not – TH1, TH2 (a minimum thickness of 20 mm) and THA, THB (with a thickness greater than 100mm). TH1 is a higher grade than TH2 and THA is a higher grade than THB.

Look for knots in the wood as a high frequency of knots will mean the wood is weaker and possibly more susceptible to warping.

For projects like shelves and mantels you would be wise to use air dried or green oak beams.

Always be aware that grading is not an exact science – which is why expert opinions from those dealing the wood should be taken, if offered.

Right on Delivery

Sometimes the length of wood that is delivered is much larger than you need, leaving you with a headache of disposing of a lot of wood at project’s end, it’s also such as waste. Get the wood in perfect condition for the task prior to order. A little extra work pre-delivery by the supplier can save so much project time. Make sure your supplier can saw the wood to exact dimensions to save you time and guard against potential errors. If the wood is cut extensively it may lose the grade but a qualified grader should be able to re-grade the wood for you prior to delivery.

Treating the Wood

Think about what you want your timber to look like. Oak may be stored indoors or outdoors at the suppliers – the wood that is outdoors is usually darker from weathering. It’s simple enough to add a request to plane. Be aware that naturally air dried oak may contain splits on the surface.

Oak beams, if used indoors should really be oil stained as this gives the wood extra strength and protection. You can spray the stain onto the beam or use a cloth to wipe it on. The stain needs to be left to penetrate the beam for around five minutes and after that wipe it off carefully with a soft cloth. If you want a really dark wood effect repeat this process and leave for longer. If you want to add a varnish ensure the beam is allowed to dry properly first – leave it for 72 hours after treatment.

Oak beams may need maintenance over time as they can turn grey or the finish clouds or flakes so inspect the beams annually to see if they need a treatment or some TLC.

Oak beams are great for interiors and can be the signature style that turns many a house into a home, so take the time to really consider the look you want and be careful to source a supplier that has a proven history in timber supply.

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