Beam cleaning (again)

In a much needed boost to moral, Cat has help today from Colin who is here to assist with the big clean up process of the beams and stone chimney breast on the stairs and landing. Colin is good on ladders, Cat is not, so his help is massively appreciated here!

Starting from the top and working down, they are both scrubbing the plaster from the beams with small wire brushes (suede brushes). They may as well be cleaning the house with toothbrushes…

Cat is attacking the beams from the attic room, using warm water with the wire brush to help remove the plaster.

Tools for the job include brushes (that have been working very hard throughout the renovation but somehow still have their bristles), suede brushes for scrubbing and chisels to scrape the stubborn bits stuck within the grain of the wood.

A very good reason why Cat won’t go up the ladders on the stairs. To get the ladders flat Colin is using some of the pieces of old floorboards under one foot…

Colin hates wearing glasses, he is surprisingly vain, so here is a photo of him wearing glasses.

Cat scraping the plaster from the beams in the attic with a small knife. Painstaking work.

We had a small flurry of snow overnight!

We are going through the colour cards from Fenwick & Tilbrook, firstly looking for a colour for the sitting room and have narrowed them down to 5.

The one on the left is Fenwick & Tilbrook’s ‘Ladyholme’ and is almost identical to the F&B ‘Pigeon’ that we had originally chosen in lime wash for the sitting room. It’s a true green/blue grey and works so beautifully with the oak and stone.

The other colours are darker and bolder and we are trying to decide whether they will work. The second from left is ‘Aged Copper’, third is ‘Major Tom’ (gorgeous peacock blue), then ’68 Degrees North’, then finally ‘Champagne Jenny’. I shall order small test pots of these first 4 to see what they look like on a larger piece of card, then hopefully will be able to make a decision.

The large painted card is F&B’s ‘Pigeon’ and the small card is Fenwick & Tilbrook’s ‘Ladyholme’ (it’s identical). Behind this is the pale Earthborn’s ‘St’ John’ which will be used on the stairwell, landing and possibly in the study.

Our second choice, ‘Aged Copper’, coincidentally turns out to be identical to F&B’s ‘Oval Room Blue’ which we are using as a statement wall on the landing outside the bathroom. How about that for accidental consistency!

Cat and Colin have been scrubbing these timbers all day.

Colin, having removed his glasses for the photo. I did point out that his face was very grubby, making the glasses-wearing vanity rather ironic.

Cat has moved onto cleaning the stone chimney breast, a tough task as not only is it splashed with plaster but it has caught all the building site dust over the last few months so Cat is washing each stone.

Cat inspecting Colin’s work.

The very important piece of oak that is keeping our house up (not kidding) could be very old indeed. Generally the darker the wood the older it is and this is much darker than the beam (which is 17th century or earlier) and has obviously had a previous life somewhere else. It was supporting the main cross beam that had broken in half. The beam has been repaired with steel plates but this ancient oak support will remain in place just in case!

Washed and scrubbed, the stairs and landing are looking so much better. A mammoth task and we are so grateful that we had help with this.

Yet more hoovering. Henry is still working hard!

Just before it joins the stone chimney breast is where the main cross beam had broken. It is obvious now, but we could only see a small part of this beam before we started the renovations so had no idea of the break.

The old wooden shelves on the landing cleaned up and oiled and looking fabulous.

Remember, always wear a hat at a jaunty angle…

…and never allow yourself to be photographed in glasses. Grubby faces and boiler suits are fine.


  1. Nice Post. I’m currently renovating a 16C cottage and wondered if you have any beam cleaning advice. We have just had a load of concrete render removed from the walls so that we can expose the wall studs. The studs are in OK condition, just dirty and a bit stained by the render. Have you had success using a dry wire brush or sanding to clean up the beams? Or perhaps you use warm water? I’d appreciate any tips! Thanks!

    1. Hi Will, apologies but only just seen your comment (get inundated with spam which hides the real comments sadly).
      Our beam cleaning process was quite lengthy. Firstly we had a professional soda blaster in to clean them up, a gentle process that doesn’t damage the beams (unlike sand blasting) yet removes dirt and plaster residue. We then gave all the timbers a light sand to smooth them a little (our timbers are very rough and ready). We then had the house plastered so had to do a lot of manual cleaning of old wooden beams, windows, doors, stone walls, etc. and scrubbed them all with wire brushes. Literally like cleaning the house with a toothbrush! It works very well to remove plaster. Hope this helps, but maybe a bit late!

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