Add Character with a Box-Beam Ceiling
Hollow beams transform a room’s trim detail while making it easy to integrate lighting and run wiring.
Synopsis: Box-beam ceilings can add elegance to any room: round, triangle, square, or rectangle. By adding a soffit, you can normalize an oddly shaped room to accept this ceiling treatment. The hollow beams are great for installing lights and hiding wires or pipes in remodels. Veteran finish carpenter Chris Whalen shows how to assemble a simple box beam using quirk joints between the sides and bottom, and gives several options for intersecting the bottoms of the beams across the grid.
Box-beam ceilings are a great way to add personality, elegance, and character to an otherwise ordinary space. In a room with an oddly placed structural beam, box beams can make sense of the unbalanced ceiling. Furthermore, the hollow beams can house recessed lighting and provide a chase for wiring. Whether the beams are painted or stained, the layout principles are the same, and the joinery and design can be as simple or as elaborate as you want.
A recent restoration that my company undertook provided an excellent opportunity for a box-beam ceiling: a 1970s breezeway connecting a 19th-century Queen Anne Victorian to its detached garage. The box beams and custom wall paneling helped to convert this cold breezeway into an inviting entertainment room, a cozy place to enjoy the fireplace, the wet bar, and the entertainment center.
You don’t need a perfectly shaped room
Although square or rectangular rooms are the most likely candidates for box-beam ceilings, almost any room shape will work, even circular or triangular rooms. The key is to create a symmetrical layout. The breezeway is roughly rectangular, with a small bump-out in the ceiling on one end. We eliminated the bump-out by adding a soffit to one end of the room.
A typical box-beam installation usually includes some sort of perimeter band that the box…