Should You Paint Ceiling Beams? (Expert Tips)

Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by Barry Gray

should you paint ceiling beams

Wooden ceiling beams are charming features that many, including myself, love! Usually, when we think about ceiling beams, we’re transported to a classic country home, but they’ve become such a coveted feature that many new and renovated homes have them. 

So, should you paint ceiling beams? Painting your ceiling beams is optional and depends entirely on the style of your interior. The options are nearly endless when deciding what to do with your ceiling beams, but generally, you’ll find that people either leave them natural, stain them in a different wood tone, or paint them a new color. 

Ceiling beams add charm and architectural interest, but how exactly do you go about choosing the best option for your own space? Below I’ve detailed sections on how to implement natural, stained, and painted ceiling beams, and more. 

How To Keep Your Ceiling Beams Natural

natural ceiling beam

Solid wood beams are breathtaking when you make them a feature in your space. 

If your beams are in good condition and complement your home’s aesthetic, I’d honestly encourage you to keep them all natural! 

Generally, wood beams work well in spaces that have mixed wood tones and natural textures. If you’re keeping the beam natural and want it to blend in a bit more, add natural fibers, neutral tones, and stick to a color palette that complements your style. 

Here is some inspiration if you’re looking to keep your ceiling beams natural:

Danie Berger, an interior designer on YouTube, wanted the natural beams of her farmhouse to be the feature — and she removed her ceiling to achieve the look! 

She detailed an entire blog post on how she went about exposing her beautiful ceiling beams and decorated her office to match it! 

In her approach, she kept the beams natural and painted the spaces between them white to make them a design feature in her office!

What About Stripping Old Wooden Ceiling Beams?

If you have old wooden ceiling beams that have previously been painted, you can quickly restore their character by stripping them of their paint and revealing the beautiful natural wood. 

While this can be time-consuming, the finished effect is usually worth all the neck cricks and hours of paint stripping.

There are companies out there that can also make the process easier, but it’ll cost a pretty penny.  

If you don’t mind the time and effort, there are two ways to restore the wooden beams yourself:

  • Sanding 
  • Using chemical removers

You can also combine these two ways if you have many layers of paint covering your beams. 

If you live on a historic property, be sure to seek professional advice before proceeding. It’s also a good idea to conduct a lead test before removing any paint. 

An easy way you can bring out the natural tones of the wood after removing the paint is by rubbing it with wood oil or wax.

Staining Your Ceiling Beams To Match Existing Wood Tones

Staining your ceiling beams is the middle ground between leaving the beams natural and painting them. 

Let’s imagine that you have very yellow ceiling beams and that your aesthetic leans more towards a cool and dark-toned wood — an easy way to remedy this is to stain your ceiling beams a different color. 

Emily Henderson, an online blogger, and homeowner wrote a detailed blog post on how they went about staining their wooden ceiling beams. 

In her post, she writes about how they first wanted to paint the beams but decided to bleach and stain them instead. The results? To die for!

Bleaching wood feels like it shouldn’t be allowed — but it’s one of the few ways you can lighten dark wood. Fortunately, many people have tried it, documented how they did it, and the results were admirable. 

If you’re not a fan of the bleached wood look, you can always add stain over it to match your existing wood tones. 

How To Stain Wooden Ceiling Beams

stain ceiling beam

Staining your ceiling beams is an easy task if you’re well prepared. 

Here’s how to go about staining your beams:

  1. Always protect your eyes, skin, and any surface you don’t want stained. 
  2. Test your desired stain color on a piece of scrap wood that matches your ceiling, or test it on your beam on a spot that isn’t very visible.
  3. Apply a thin coat of wood conditioner to prevent a streaky stain.
  4. Stir oil-based stains before applying and work in a well-ventilated area. 
  5. Apply the stain using a fine-bristled brush or soft rag working with and against the grain.
  6. If you like a lighter tone, wipe the stain off immediately. The darker you want the color, the longer you should leave it on before wiping it off. 
  7. When the stain has dried, and you decide you want it darker, simply repeat steps 4-6. 
  8. Some stains only provide a color, not a finish. Always apply a finish over stained wood, applying it in the direction of the grain.

An advantage of using a water-based stain is that there’s a variety of colors available. Apply the water-based stain in the same way you would oil-based stains. 

You can also apply a water-based finish over an oil-based stain, but make sure to wait 24 hours for the oil-based stain to dry.

Painting Your Ceiling Beams

paint ceiling beam

Whether exposing wood isn’t a viable option or you simply don’t like the way wood beams look, painting is a great option! 

Painting ceiling beams are a great way to lighten a space — and sometimes even inject a pop of color into a room. 

There’s such a variety of options available to you when you choose to paint, so let’s start with white. 

Painting your ceiling beams white is a traditional way to blend the beams into the existing ceiling. You can either paint your beams the same color as your ceiling or paint them in a slightly darker shade than your current ceiling color. 

If you have all wood ceilings, you can also leave the ceilings in the natural wood finish and paint the beams white to add some dimension. 

You can also paint the beams a different color entirely — something that stands out like blue or yellow. Using bold colors isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but those who choose to embrace the color pull it off! 

Which Paint To Use On Your Ceiling 

Any interior paint will work on your beams — it depends entirely on what finish and looks you’re after. 

If your beams are already painted, it’s best to use high-coverage paint

Paint is an easy way to modernize an otherwise rustic-looking space, especially if you have worn and weathered beams. 

Whitewash Your Ceiling Beams

Another way you can spruce up your ceiling beams while keeping your room light, and airy is to whitewash (also known as a limewash) them. 

This technique allows the wood to be light while still showing the knots and grooves of the wood. 

You can use either Claypaint or latex paint to achieve this look. 

You simply want to dilute the paint with water in a 1:1 ratio with either paint. Then, apply the wash on a scrap piece of wood and either add more water or more paint until you get the desired whitewash look.

Paint the beams in the same direction as the wood grain. As you work, have a soft, damp cloth handy to ‘remove’ excess paint before it dries. 

You can use this method on painted and unpainted wooden beams, but any existing color will show through slightly. 


Exposed ceiling beams are a beautiful feature in any home, whether painted, stained, or left natural. 

The color you decide to use on your ceiling beam color depends entirely on your personal preference and stylistic choices. 

I’ve found that it’s always a good idea to test your options on a scrap piece of wood before diving into any change you want to make on wood. 

So, test your options, visualize how it will look in your space, and get painting, staining, or sealing in! 

Photo of author

Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.