A wise architect once told us that when we design or remodel a home, we should ensure that walls, ceilings and floors consist of several levels or planes. We were told that such a practice would result in interesting shapes and shadow lines that would make a home more fun to be in and, if done properly, far more valuable.
There is a plane in your house that you can alter without a great deal of expense – the ceiling.
We're not suggesting that you raise your flat, eight- or nine-foot high ceiling or that you convert it to a pitched ceiling.
We suggest "beams with a twist." Not twisted beams. Beams that are different, interesting, easy to build and expensive-looking when completed.
In the past, the standard way to create a false beam for a ceiling was to nail three pieces of clear, dry 1x wood together to create a hollow shape that resembles a timber. The two exposed corner joints were a problem. Should they be butt-joined, lap-joined or mitered?
It never really made much difference which of these assembly techniques was used. A box-beam (false beam) usually looks exactly like what it is – fake! Particularly when the joints can be seen.
We have discovered an interesting way to hide the joint. Sculpting. Sculpting and an offset butt joint. The only extra tool you'll need is a router. Otherwise, our box beam is made just the same as all the others, from three pieces of wood (a bottom and two sides).
First, use a router to sculpt two edges of the bottom piece. Next, the side pieces will have to be glued and nailed in place. Instead of using a butt joint, offset each of the side pieces about an eighth of an inch. This will make the beam about a quarter of an inch wider than with other methods.
It is nearly impossible to spot a puttied joint when it is offset against a routed edge. This is because the offset ends up looking like part of the routed edge. This puts the joint on an inside corner. Since inside corners are frequently filled with shadows, the result is that the joint is camouflaged.
Once the routing has been performed, assemble the three pieces with lots of glue and nails. Don't forget the clamps. No one will ever know that your box beams aren't real timbers.
By the way, the chic thing these days is to run the box beams in two directions, sort of like a tic-tac-toe board. Three- and four-foot square patterns are very popular. If you want the box beams in your ceiling to cross in this fashion, there is a trick.
First, put up all the beams that go in one direction. The beams that go the other way will have to be ripped narrower so that the routed edge of the second set of beams dies into the flat side of the first set of beams that you installed, rather than into the routed edge where a gap would occur. Paint or stain and varnish.