How We Blast Clean Wooden Beams: From Start to Finish

Traditional wooden beams have a certain distinctive character. But what happens when you want to give your property a new look? You call SBL of course!

There’s nothing quite like the distinctive homespun charm of hardwood beams and structures within an older property. But when restoring an older building, there may come a point when previous paint or varnish coatings will need to be stripped. Whether it’s purely for aesthetic purposes or for something more structurally significant, blast cleaning provides a quick and gentle solution.

So join us as we investigate how Soda Blasting Ltd assist building restoration professionals and homeowners up and down the UK give older buildings a brand new lease of life!

What kinds of wood can be blast cleaned?

We can safely clean oak and elm beams because they are both hardwoods. We can also clean some softer woods like pine, though we have to be more careful with the pressure that’s applied during the abrasive cleaning process. This makes cleaning softer woods a much slower process and also runs the risk of damaging the wood.

We can even bring smoke, fire, or water-damaged beams back to their former glory depending on the extent of the damage sustained. Our blast cleaning methods are considered safe to use within Grade I and II listed buildings.

Why do customers usually ask SBL to help with their building restoration projects?

Mainly to remove older paint and varnish for aesthetic reasons. “Oldy-worldy” black-brown painted beams are common but it’s a look that’s falling out of fashion. Darker coloured beams can be quite imposing and make smaller spaces feel enclosed. Stripping this paint off to reveal the light and neutral hardwood underneath leaves spaces looking fresher, brighter, and much more modern. We also occasionally get asked to remove staining from wooden beams or paint jobs that simply look out of place.

If an older build has been adapted with newer beams or extensions, there can be a starkly visible difference between older and newer wood. Abrasive cleaning methods like crushed glass blasting bring out the grain of newer beams, aging their appearance to match older surroundings.

Now and again, we get asked to clean coatings from beams that may be affected by woodworm. Stripping the paint or varnish from the wood can allow for a more careful inspection of the damage.

Example of paint removal from oak beams – part of a wider project completed on a house in Kidderminster:

What blast cleaning methods do you use to clean wooden beams and structures?

We generally use crushed glass blasting which gives a pleasant finish with a subtly raised grain – this method is usually the quickest option too. We can also soda blast internal wooden structures; this provides a smoother finish with less enhancement of the grain. These methods result in two very different finishes, so the approach we take can be down to customer preference.

In some cases, the choice of blast media may be dictated by conservation officers, who will generally opt for gentler soda cleaning as glass blasting can be seen as a little aggressive. We never use steam cleaning to clean wooden structures as moisture can weaken the wood and potentially cause it to rot.
Crushed glass media blasted beams (before and after):

Are there any risks of damage to the wood when using blast cleaning?

Provided the right method has been chosen for the job, there should be no risk of damage to the wood. However if the wood has become damp at some point and has started to rot, we would advise against any kind of blast cleaning as this could cause rotten parts to fall away.

We never use soda blasting on external beams or structures because it can react with rainwater and cause the wood to discolour. This may be due to the fact that soda is slightly alkaline whereas the UK’s rainwater is slightly acidic, potentially causing a mild chemical reaction.

Are there any health and safety considerations when embarking on a beam cleaning project?

The main two health and safety concerns during blast cleaning relate to the dust that is caused by the cleaning process and the noise of the blast cleaning machinery. Our operatives wear breathing gear, full protective suits, and ear defenders at all times whilst carrying out a cleaning project. We stipulate that no one else should stay or work in the immediate area during the clean for their own safety and wellbeing.

What is SBL’s process for wooden beam cleaning projects?

When an initial enquiry is made, we ask for approximate sizes and photographs of the project to be emailed over. This is usually enough for us to provide a quote and time estimation for the clean but if not then we may organise a site visit to take a look for ourselves.

Before our team arrive, we request that there is enough space to park a LWB hi-top van and trailer within 30 meters of the area requiring work. At the very least, we need the trailer in the vicinity as this contains the compressor for our abrasive cleaning apparatus. We also ask that a skip is provided where possible to dispose of spent media.

On the day we’ve arranged to start the clean, our team will generally arrive as early as possible to set up our machinery and prepare the room for work to begin. This preparation stage can vary from project to project but can include sealing up doors, covering floors, and fitting dust extraction methods.

Our operatives will then clean a test patch to ensure that the customer is happy with the finish. Once they’ve given the thumbs up to continue, we’ll crack on with the work! There is a lot of dust and spent media to deal with, so we try and keep the area as tidy as possible as we go along.

What other surfaces can SBL clean for building restoration projects?

We often clean other structures alongside beam cleaning projects including brickwork, stone, and roof/floor joists. We’re sometimes asked to clean wooden staircases too, but they’re often made of pine which may be too soft to blast clean.

What happens once the project is completed?

Once the cleaning project has been completed, the first order of business is to tidy up. Our operatives will clean up any spent media and dust to the best of our ability, though please be aware that some dust will naturally settle over the following 48 hours or more, so it might not be a good idea to “move back into” that space immediately. Settled dust is easily wiped, swept, or vacuumed away. Then all that’s left is to enjoy your new, fresh-looking space!

At Soda Blasting Ltd, we pride ourselves on the care and attention we give each project. As a small family run business, our reputation means everything to us. SBL take care to fully understand the ins and outs of each project as if it were our own property. We keep you informed every step of the way – and there’s no such thing as a silly question! Get in touch with our expert team today on 0800 774 7632 for a free, no-obligation quote.