Pine beam roof struts with pitched glass roof

Pine roof beams

Painted Beams

It is believed that decorative painting of timbers began in the 15th century. Initially it was common to use limewash with naturally occurring pigments mixed in to add colour. In the 19th century, fashion dictated that colours made way for black which may have derived its colour from tar and/or coal liquid by-products used. Today in the UK, it is common for the exposed structural timbers in historic properties to have been painted using traditional black gloss paints. However, the phased decoration of timbers means that many layers can have built up over time, creating a rich history, but equally carrying a mix of leads, oils and other toxic substances that were ‘of their time’.

There is now an increasing desire to remove this paint to either reveal the original timber or to lighten and lift rooms – the combination of black beams and low ceilings can create dark and gloomy feeling rooms or stark contrast on external facades.

The removal of paint from historic timbers is difficult, can be dangerous and some techniques can be highly damaging to the timber itself. Given that many of these timbers are centuries old and help date the property and give clues as to its history, anything that risks affecting the integrity should be avoided.

How to lighten painted beams

For decades, the only solution to dark, black, painted and fire or smoke damaged timbers was chemical stripping or shot/sand blasting. These processes are messy, destructive and can affect the integrity of the beams. They also remove archaeological evidence of the building’s construction and development. It is for this reason that we invented our process in 1997.

Rather than stripping back layers which create the rich history of the building’s construction and development, we apply an additional cosmetic layer that helps to highlight the original features of the timber, whilst also lightening the look and feel.

Our solution enhances what is already present and allows you to balance aesthetics with conservation. We simply create another step in the long timeline already associated with your property.

Detailed view of a beam rennovated with the Back from black process

Treated beam

Benefits of our process

No Need to Clear the Room – Simply protect valuables and furniture as if you were decorating.

Fast – The process is fast. We recommend ventilating the area in question for 24 hours post application, but only to aid the drying process. Rooms can typically be used again on the same day.

Mess-Free – With our process there is no need for messy and disruptive sandblasting or any other blasting method, mechanical or chemical stripping. It is the only mess-free alternative to blasting and stripping. The process is applied with brushes only.

Highlights Original Features – Where black paint hides features, our process accentuates and Highlights original timber features.

Can be Removed – When creating our treatment, we also made sure that it can be easily removed if necessary, again without the need for blasting or stripping.

Preserves Historical Integrity – Our process is a cosmetic treatment applied to the timber, without the removal of any historic paint or timber layers.

Non-hazardous – We do not use corrosive chemicals in our process. All applications are water-based and virtually odourless

Find out more

Please take a look at our case studies to learn more about the process or you can download our guide here:

Back From Black – A Guide to Our Process

Find out more