Making a Ceiling Beam #1: Planning and Getting Started

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Blog entry by ~Julie~ posted 04-15-2014 11:37 PM 2037 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Making a Ceiling Beam series Part 2: Installing the Beam »

Our basement needed new paint and flooring and a few minor renovations. In our large “living room” or “rec room” I wanted to put up a beam with lights in it. Here is what I was dealing with:
(Right side below:)

(Left side below:)

My original plan was to put a wood beam up against the bulkhead (lower) portion that contains some ducting. Because of the two vents in the ceiling, I realized that would be impossible without a lot of tearing out, so I decided to put the beam below the bulkhead instead.

The total length, just under 16’, was far too long to put one piece of wood, so there had to be joints in the beam. Instead of just straight joints I realized I could highlight the joint and make it look like a dovetail, so I made two joints along the length of the beam like this:

The beam would be hollow and allow four pot lights to be put inside. I decided to make it like this, with plywood sides and bottom, and 2×2’s to screw the box sides to.

I used basic (rough) plywood which I cut into strips. I drew out a dovetail on the end of my side pieces and cut with a jigsaw.

I then laid the cut piece over another to mark and then cut the piece that the dovetail would fit into.

This is how they would look joined together:

I measured out to find where the holes needed to be for the pot lights and cut those out of my bottom pieces:

I screwed the 2×2 pieces to the ceiling after finding wood studs behind. You can see that I set them back from the front the thickness of the plywood, so that when the beam is up it will run even with the front vertical bulkhead wall. My husband set up the electrical wiring so that it came out where the end of the beam would be. You can see those wires hanging down at the bottom of this photo. This runs from two switch boxes, one at the bottom of the stairs and one at the opposite far end of the beam.
(Left side below:)

(Right side below:)

I’ll be back next time to show you how it all went together, stay tuned!

-- ~Julie~

6 comments so far

View Belg1960's profile


1080 posts in 3299 days

#1 posted 04-15-2014 11:54 PM

Julie, please make sure that you have clearance above the pot lights. Don’t know which ones your using but most require at least 1/2” air space above and some need complete airspace above to allow heat to escape. Pat

-- ***Pat*** Rookie woodworker looking for an education!!!

View Mean_Dean's profile


6910 posts in 3381 days

#2 posted 04-16-2014 12:39 AM

Interesting project—looking forward to your next installment!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View NormG's profile


6375 posts in 3238 days

#3 posted 04-16-2014 12:45 AM

Great start, These ceilings really look great

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View ~Julie~'s profile


611 posts in 3268 days

#4 posted 04-16-2014 01:33 AM

Pat, I checked the clearance on the paperwork that came with the lights before I decided on the depth of the box. I actually read instructions!

-- ~Julie~

View kenn's profile


810 posts in 3954 days

#5 posted 04-16-2014 02:20 PM

Julie, I’m bringing you up on charges! Instruction reading! Something like that might spread and then where would we be? Knowledge is a dangerous weapon.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View Roger's profile


20965 posts in 3038 days

#6 posted 05-06-2014 11:36 AM

That is one big dovetail. Very nicely done Julie

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

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