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02 2018
Reclaimed Box Beams vs. Solid Beams – Which ones are right for your job?


In the 25 years that Vintage Timberworks has been supplying fine reclaimed wood beams, we have also perfected the art of creating box beams, otherwise known as faux beams, that look virtually indistinguishable from solid timbers. The uptick in interest for box beams has in part been driven by the emergence of foam beams and other DIY attempts to recreate the authentic look and feel of vintage wood solid timbers.

“We often hear comments from customers who were surprised that a quote for foam beams was more expensive than the real thing!

Vintage Timberworks is able to provide both solid beams and box beams in a large variety of sizes and lengths that most other companies simply cannot. Both solid and box beams provided by Vintage Timberworks use only authentic reclaimed wood and can be supplied in a wide range of appearances from ultra rustic to ultra-refined and clean.

While most box beams are ordered about 20′ or less, some have been produced in extraordinary lengths up to 45′ long and as tall as 26″ without a seam in the length or height. Our solid beams are regularly available in lengths over 40′ and currently up to 32″ tall. Of course, our inventory is continually changing and not all appearances are available in unlimited lengths, dimensions, or quantities. Box beams can be made in any of our solid beam appearances as well as built with our wide range of reclaimed planking options. In the event the material is not available in the requested lengths, heights, or widths, we work with the customer to decide how a seam will look and if they want it to be decorative or as concealed as possible.

If your project can use either solid beams or box beams there are several things to consider to make sure you make the right choice. Below we have outlined several pros and cons of each to consider. The table show below provides a quick breakdown on how the two options generally compare to each other. 

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Solid Beam Options

Box Beam Options Include all solid beam products AND Planking products 



Depending on sizing, box beams tend to be more expensive than solid timbers especially when the material to produce box beams is coming from solid beams. When this is the case, labor and waste involved often make box beams considerably more expensive than solid beams.  The price for box beams will be lower than solid beams in the case of larger box beams where we can use planking products that do not generate as much waste as cutting apart a solid timber. Prices for box beams are figured on material used, labor needed to fabricate, and quantity of box beams needed. Prices for solid timbers are based on dimension, length, quantity and amount of labor requested. We often supply “As Is” timbers to job sites to be cleaned up or worked onsite. Alternatively, we can cut the top nice and flat for the installation of solid beams as well as do any sanding or cleaning requested. Customers can also purchase planking products from us to fabricate their own box beams when pricing or timing preclude us from creating box beams. By appointment, individual planks can be hand selected by customers looking to create their own box beams.

Appearance Options:

Most customers who order box beams are looking for the appearance of a solid beam. When possible, we provide box beams in the requested length, height and width without having any visible seams. The grain/color matching done by our crew is truly outstanding and the mitered connection is barely visible under scrutiny. Solid beams are available in a wide range of appearances

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Sanded Douglas Fir 28′ and 40′ box beams

and can be custom milled to your specifications. Additionally, solid timbers can be hand selected from the yard by appointment if no work is requested. When customers are interested in having us mill/sand/prepare beams, our crew does the selection of individual beams. We would be happy to discuss what to expect or send any available photos. Box beams can be produced by milling the faces from solid timbers and match any solid timbers we have in stock. This is often requested when customers are purchasing many solid timbers and need something to wrap existing framing such as an I-beam or Glulam or run plumbing or electrical inside the box beams. Occasionally, customers are looking to simply clad existing beams with multiple planks. This does not give the appearance of a solid beam but can give a rustic appearance for much less cost.


Solid beams are often not an option when being placed in the ceiling of a remodel. When weight is a factor, we often provide box beams. Depending on the product used and sizes requested, the thickness of box beams generally range from 3/4″ to 1.5″ thick. We can estimate the total weight for box beams or solid beams if requested. Solid timbers will vary in weight depending on the species of wood. As all of our reclaimed timbers have been air dried over a period of many years, they will be dry in the core; making them substantially lighter and more stable than new lumber. The approximate weight of reclaimed Douglas Fir is 2.65 pounds per board foot and 4 pounds per board foot in the oak or other hardwoods. 

Application Type:

Many people assume that buying reclaimed wood beams means they are to be used in strictly decorative applications, however, this is not the case with our reclaimed Douglas Fir timbers. If your job requires structural timbers, our reclaimed Douglas Fir solid timbers can be structurally graded by an Independent Lumber. A certificate will be provided for any beams that need to meet “Select Structural”, #1, or #2 grade requirements. In cases where customers are looking for the appearance of solid hand hewn barn beams that cannot be structurally graded, we can create box beams to cover structural framing members such as steel I-beams or glu-lams. Solid reclaimed beams can also be used for decorative purposes as well as any of our box beams.

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54′ Structural Douglas fir trusses

Installation Difficulty:

With proper planning, solid reclaimed wood beams are able to be installed in most applications. In the case where the ceiling cannot support the weight of solid timbers we can provide box beams. 

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Installing box beams onto cleats

Box beams are typically fastened to a cleat that matches the inside dimension of the box beam. The cleat is fastened to the wall or ceiling and the box beam is fastened to the cleat with screws. When a box beam is covering existing wooden framing, the box beams are fastened directly to the existing framing and may need. Shims may be needed to match the width of the framing to inside width of the box beam.

Installation methods vary when using solid beams from pocketing them into the wall framing at either end to lag bolting or through-bolting into ceiling joists or rafters. Depending on the layout of either solid or box beams, additional blocking may need to be added in between joists to connect to. 

Consultation with a professional architect, or builder is highly recommended. 


Reclaimed wood can be installed in a variety of locations. With proper planning and treatment, solid beams can last a long time being placed outside. We recommend that box beams be installed indoors, however we have produced many box beams that are being used outside without any issues. The more protected from the weather and elements, the better. In these cases we use a weatherproof/waterproof glue to help extend their longevity. We sell a transparent wood treatment to be used on exterior wood to preserve its natural beauty and help prevent insect infestation or decay. Solid beams that are placed directly into the ground need additional care. We recommend  a coat of copper green wood preservative followed by a coat of asphalt emulsion be applied to the part of any beam being placed into the ground.

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Solid hand hewn barn beams



There are many applications where solid beams are just not an option and box beams need to be supplied. Examples of when box beams are required by customers

        The structure cannot support the weight of solid timbers

        Structural elements such as glue lams or steel I-beams need to be concealed

        Electrical or plumbing chases need to be concealed

To place an order, please review the beam product page showcasing different beam options or visit our planking product page as well for for material options for box beams. To produce an accurate quote, we will need to know if you’re interested in either solid or box beams and a list of sizes and lengths. All jobs are priced according to quantity, so please send us the full list of beams needed to get the lowest price per beam. We look forward to hearing from you with any questions you have or if you would like to receive a quote. 

For those interested in viewing a short video on how to install box beams, click here.


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