How to Paint Exposed Beams

Updated February 21, 2017

Many consider exposed beams to be an eyesore that conflicts with other finished surfaces in a home. Help these surfaces blend in better by finishing them with paint. Unfortunately, not all beams are suited for paint adhesion. Learn the proper ways to prepare the beams based on their composition, or peeling will result. Take the time to protect areas adjacent to the beams, or you may stain them with paint overlap. Use a particular brush to apply the paint, or the finish may dry with subtle brushstrokes.

Wash metallic beams with a water-based, degreasing cleanser with a coarse sponge. Rinse the beams with damp rags and allow two hours of dry time. Dust wooden beams with a broom.

Protect surfaces adjacent to the beams with painter's tape. Place dust sheets beneath the beams.

Coat wooden beams with latex primer, using a three-inch polyester paintbrush. Use metal etching primer on metallic beams. Brush with gentle pressure, applying a light coating to prevent drips and sagging. Allow three hours of dry time.

Wash the three-inch polyester paintbrush with water.

Paint the beams just as you primed them. Use a flat, satin or semigloss latex paint.


Do not prime dusty or oily beams, or you may have adhesion problems. Do not paint unprimed beams, or the finish will peel. Do not use latex primer on metal beams, or the finish will flake. Don't paint beams with a nylon brush, as this will leave brushstrokes in the finish.

Things You'll Need

  • Water-based degreasing cleanser
  • Coarse sponge
  • Rags
  • Broom
  • Professional painter's tape
  • Dust sheets
  • Latex primer
  • Metal etching primer
  • 3-inch polyester paintbrush
  • Flat, satin or semigloss latex paint
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About the Author

Ryan Lawrence is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado. He has been writing professionally since 1999. He has 10 years of experience as a professional painting contractor. Lawrence writes for High Class Blogs and Yodle. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and public relations with a minor in history from the University of Oklahoma.