Rare Wood News

Guide to Reclaimed Wood Beam Finishes & Styles.

New Kent Winery Reclaimed structure beams

Once the backbone of warehouses, mills, and agricultural buildings throughout our region, quality reclaimed woods provide unmatched strength, stability, and beauty for your project or renovation.

Whether used structurally or purely decoratively, traditional hand-hewn beams, rough-sawn beams, and resurfaced beams bring timeless beauty to the heart of your home, especially when used with an ideal wood beam finish that matches and enhances your interior aesthetic.

Here we describe the main styles of reclaimed wood beams available for your project, some of our recommended finishes or treatments, and how different finishes work with various interior designs or styles.

Wood Beam Styles

At E.T. Moore, we’re working to preserve the past by making it part of our modern everyday lives. We are experts at reclaiming old-growth beams recovered from disused early industrial buildings, docks, and historic barns so that we can continue to benefit from the irreplaceable strength and natural presence of these structural woods.

Original reclaimed heart pine beams still provide a level of structural strength, stability, and flexibility unmatched by many modern materials. At E.T. Moore, we offer single beams up to 40 feet long and 17 inches thick for your most demanding interior and exterior structural applications.

Our reclaimed beams are also available in a range of smaller original and custom sizes for both structural and decorative use. They also come in a variety of finishes that reveal these woods’ unique legacy.

Original Finish Beams

Large Original Finish Reclaimed Beam

Our original finish beams pay tribute to the resilience and durability of these industrial timbers by preserving aspects of the wear, weathering, and markings that the woods received during their “working” lives.

While grain and color ultimately depend on the original wood species, much of the texture and character of these woods, from saltwater exposure to nail hole staining, is a direct result of their former lives. This makes every piece, in some way, unique.

The rougher finish of these timbers is best preserved in structural and decorative applications such as roof trusses or ceiling treatments. That said, the “honest” textures of these working woods can be softened by sensitive hand finishing and treatment with recommended oils, stains, or varnishes.

Hand-Hewn Beams

Hand Hewn Beam

Before there were sawmills, our ancestors hewed wood with hand-made axes or adzes and used chisels to cut mortises. These techniques are still found preserved in older timbers or in wood buildings in more remote locations and bring an irreplaceable sense of connection to the past.

The unique human touch applied to these woods is best highlighted in decorative beams that celebrate this legacy of craftsmanship and connection to the natural world. E.T. Moore sources original hand hewn woods and can also assist with specialist treatments to match and recreate existing woodworking on historic buildings and restoration projects.

Rough Sawn Beams

Rough Sawn Beam

The advent of large-scale timber harvesting brought with it the use of large hand-drawn blades and circular blades in the first steam-powered lumber mills. These early industrial techniques left their mark on historic timber.

Rough sawn beams feature either the distinctive irregular straight lines of original band saws or the graceful scalloped patterning left by early circular blades. These markings are preserved in the wood with sensitive milling and finishing techniques.

E.T. Moore respects the legacy of past woodworkers and therefore we do everything we can to preserve these marks when handling wood. We can also replicate some historic effects such as circle sawing on reclaimed wood to complement existing woodwork or recreate a desired effect.

Surfaced Beams

S4S Planed Smooth Beam

Reclaimed surfaced beams have been planed smooth to provide a clean and touch-friendly surface while still retaining the wood’s authentic texture and unique features like original nail holes and natural staining. Surfaced beams provide a more subtle and versatile “palette” for use in a wide range of modern or classic wood applications.

Depending on the source of the original reclaimed wood, surfaced reclaimed beams can also be trimmed and edged to provide a more standard finish and include decorative finishes like angled corners and ends. Surfaced beams are a great way to add quality decorative wood to a space in a simple and understated way.

Wood Beam Finishes

E.T. Moore supplies and recommends a wide selection of approved sealers, stains, and finishes to preserve and protect antique woods in both exterior and interior applications.


Wood sealers provide the highest level of protection to woods by providing a plastic-based or varnish coating, making them great for exterior use or high-wear interior applications. However, once a varnish sealer is used, no further treatments can be applied on the wood without fully reconditioning it

Sealers do not change the color of wood, although they are sometimes combined with stains that do. That said, the amount of varnish in a sealer affects how glossy the finished wood appears. This can range from a high sheen to a softer “velvety” finish, depending on the look you are trying to achieve.

E.T. Moore supplies the following approved sealers for reclaimed woods:

  • Waterlox Original Sealer/Finish: A versatile sealer combined with a tung oil finish that provides a protective, elastic coating that resists surface moisture and wear. Ideal for “oily” exotic hardwoods like teak, rosewood, and ipe.
  • Waterlox Original Marine Sealer: A hard-wearing, medium-sheen sealer ideal for exterior projects or beams exposed to high levels of steam, heat, or moisture.


Stains penetrate the grain of the wood to change its color while preserving or enhancing the visual appeal of the grain. Stains provide some protection but do not include varnish to provide an impervious surface coating like sealers do.

Stains can dramatically change the color of the wood and should be carefully chosen to match the original color, grain, and texture. At the same time, most stains can be diluted for increased coverage and a more subtle effect.

Stains are also more effective on softer woods like pine because they are able to penetrate deeper into the grain than in hardwoods. That said, the tight grain, weathering, and natural aging of antique old-growth reclaimed woods like heart pine often makes them behave more like traditional hardwoods when stained.

With this in mind, E.T. Moore supplies the following approved stains for our wood products:


True finishes are meant to provide a beautiful luster to woods by penetrating deeply into the grain rather than simply adding a surface varnish. While more time-consuming to apply in multiple coats, a finish will protect your wood from the inside, while allowing you to sand down and add additional coats when your wood needs it.

By choosing to finish rather than seal the wood, you respect the natural weathering and breathability of it. This makes finishing an ideal choice for ultra-stable reclaimed wood, allowing you to refinish and protect it as time goes by.

E.T. Moore supplies the following quality finishes for use with our reclaimed wood products:

Wood Beam Finishes

While reclaimed wood is highly durable, there are only a few approved finish products on the market. At E.T. Moore, we carry the following finish options:

Waterlox Original Sealer / Finish

Waterlox Original Sealer and Finish

This Tung oil finish creates a protective and elastic barrier against moisture, foot traffic, and common household spills. This is Waterlox's oldest interior finish—it was originally formulated in 1910 and provides excellent adhesion to reclaimed wood beams.

Waterlox Original Satin Finish

Waterlox Original – Satin Finish

This low gloss level formulation offers a sturdy and elastic barrier to everyday household spills and foot traffic. There is no preparation needed—you can use this product straight out of the can with applicators such as lambswool.

Waterlox Original High Gloss Finish

Waterlox Original High Gloss Finish

This high gloss finish tung oil is meant to be used in conjunction with Waterlox Original Sealer/Finish. It provides a high 85° gloss level and is very easy to apply.

Waterlox Original Marine Sealer

Waterlox Original Marine Finish

This traditional exterior Tung oil spar varnish offers a high gloss finish and provides excellent protection against moisture, harsh weather, and sun/UV rays.

What Finish Works Best With Your Style?

While hard-wearing glossy finishes and sealers are required for exterior beams, the finish you choose for your interior woodwork should highlight the natural beauty of your reclaimed beams while complementing your own chosen style.

Modern Styles

For bright, light Scandinavian-inspired spaces, choose smooth-finished beams or make a feature out of some heavily-distressed or hand-hewn pieces—but keep all your surfaces light and clean.

Treat beams with a simple, clear oil-based finish or at most just a light treatment with Sutherland Welles Light Heart Pine Stain—but keep the wood smooth, lightly textured, and tactile. Above all, avoid overly shiny sealed surfaces.

Rustic, Spanish, and Western Styles

These styles draw directly from the natural hues of classic heart pine. If your original reclaimed beams are already mid-hued or have original woodworking textures you want to accentuate, then simply compliment them with Sutherland Welles Light Heart Pine Stain to protect and accentuate.

If your reclaimed pine is relatively pale or very smooth, then add warmth with Sutherland Welles Warm Pine finish. However, consider using this in dilution to avoid overwhelming any subtle iron staining or the natural contrast between the heart and sapwood.

“Old World” Styles

If you are looking for the gravitas and warmth of a genuine old world interior then start with high-quality reclaimed oak or dense-grained single-tone heart pine beams, then treat them with Sutherland Welles Warm Pine finish at full strength. Team with heavy furniture and rich tones to create a warm, intimate, and welcoming space.

Provided your room has enough light, you can achieve the authentic feel of an English country pub by giving your beams a darker ”smoked” finish with Sutherland Welles Dark Heart Pine Stain. Complete the look with whitewashed walls, stonework accents, and wrought iron details.

Reclaimed Douglas Fir Beams and Sawn Skins

Farmhouse Styles

The classic American farmhouse style features plenty of pastels and painted/natural wood combinations. You can bring depth and quality to what might otherwise be a rather off-the-shelf look by adding genuine reclaimed woods to the ceiling space or wall accents.

Choose clean smooth-cut or circle-cut beams over hand-hewn or heavily distressed reclaimed beams and treat them with a Light Heart Pine or Warm Pine finish to match exposed pine table legs or accents elsewhere in the room.

Industrial Styles

If you’re going for a modern loft or industrial style then choose an original finish or heavily distressed reclaimed barn beams. Treat these with a combination of dark or mid-hued stains, depending on how much light you have.

Experiment with using multiple layers of finish to slightly darken the color of some elements for a piecemeal “postmodern” effect. Team your beams with stainless steel furniture and neon or track lighting.

Reclaimed Wood Design Style Tips

Reclaimed wood beams are known for their stunning allure and rugged durability. However, there are a few design tips that will allow you to match the finish to your room perfectly:

  • Choose a Dominant Tone—Mixing wood tones is perfectly fine. However, be sure to select a dominant tone and allow the other ones to accentuate it.
  • Experiment with Contrast—Contrast can add mystery, intrigue, and make certain pieces stand out even more than usual. For example, let’s say you have an antique wooden chair with dark overtones. Pair it with a light color reclaimed wooden floor to draw more attention.
  • Use Accents to Prevent Blending—If some of your furniture pieces match the color of your wooden beams, there’s a chance they could disappear. Consider using accents such as a wall rug or other pieces to break up the color.
  • Consider the Undertones—Take a look at your dominant wood tone. Is it cool, warm, or neutral? Stay within the same undertones to create continuity and allow everything to blend seamlessly.
  • Wash, Rinse, Repeat—Once you’ve found a style that works for you, continue with it! For example, if you have light-colored beams, consider getting chairs with the same-colored legs. Repeat this pattern twice to ensure your entire room looks well put together.
  • Consider Natural Light Finishes—These types of finishes can create a bit of contrast and brighten the room. Light finishes create an airy and warm look when paired with linen sofas or chairs.

Choose E.T. Moore Reclaimed Wood Beams

Whether you select reclaimed wood beams for their size, strength, and stability or their enduring warmth, charm, and beauty—authentic antique woods bring something extra to your project.

Team rough sawn, hand hewn, or smooth planed beams with a dark, mid-toned, or light finish for a versatile design element that will complement or highlight any style. With genuine reclaimed heart pine and other original antique reclaimed beams from E.T. Moore, the sky really is the limit.

All E.T. Moore woods are reclaimed responsibly from historic buildings that are being redeveloped. Our woods are professionally graded, kilned, and milled as required and stored indoors at our five-acre facility in Richmond, VA. With a large inventory of wood beams and other reclaimed products, we can fill most orders within two weeks.

Contact us today to learn how we can help you find the best reclaimed wood beams for your project or click below to learn more about our products.

Reclaimed Wood Beams

Author Taylor Moore III
Date April 18, 2023