faux wood vs. real wood beams


Ready to add texture, warmth, and dimension to your home? Do you have a room where you want to draw the eye upward and define the living space? Sounds like you’re looking for faux wood beams and trusses.


Perhaps you’re someone who doesn’t love the term “faux”. That’s okay. Some people feel that way at first. However, once they start researching the real costs and benefits, they start to appreciate the concept more. Here at Volterra, we offer both HDF faux wood beams, and natural wood box beams. This guide is meant to help you compare your options and find the right one for you.


First off, let’s be clear about terminology. Many people get confused about the different terms used to describe decorative beams. “Faux beams” refers to any beams or trusses that aren’t integral to a room’s stability and functionality. So, if the beams aren’t a part of your original architectural plan, then they’re faux beams. That’s right, if you don’t already have some beautiful old-world beams hidden underneath layers of plaster ceiling then it doesn’t matter if the material you’re using is reclaimed wood pried off of an old barn in Provence, France. They’re still called faux beams, because they’re not needed to keep the roof up; they’re simply decorative.


What Kinds of Decorative Beams Are Available?


The thing is, there are a lot of different ways to go faux. Here’s a summary of your options:


Different kinds of decorative beams


What Are HDF Beams?


Here at Volterra, we’re big fans of #4 (as you might have guessed). We’ll tell you why in a bit, but first, let us SHOW you why…


decorative faux wood beams

Decorative wood beams


That’s right, those are faux wood beams used in the images above. They’re hollow, constructed from high density polyurethane foam, and fashioned to look exactly like solid wood beams.


Now, when we say foam, you’re probably picturing something soft, spongey, and great for sleeping on, right?


HDF is foam of a different sort. It’s strong, solid, extremely dense, and able to capture specific textures at a near-microscopic level. If you ran a hand over it, you would feel the distinct ridges and planes of a rich, weathered wood grain. And if you picked it up, it would be surprisingly light.


HDF faux wood beams are made by pouring the foam in liquid form into a mold, which was constructed using the exact cast of a real piece of wood. This allows us to duplicate the original external appearance of wood, right down to the graining, knotting, and even the worm holes.


How Do HDF Faux Wood Beams Compare to Real Wood?


Alright, so HDF beams look convincing. But how do they really perform in action? How do they wear over time, and how do they stack up against real wood for your house, your maintenance plan, and your remodeling budget?


Here’s a comparison chart that will let you understand your options better:


HDF beams vs real wood


How Does Installation Work?


Although it has the most impact on your time and sanity, few people fully consider the process of installation when they choose which kinds of faux wood beams to use in a room. A major installation process will monopolize your space for months, putting every other project on hold. Shoddy installation jobs will ruin your aesthetic and cause major challenges down the road. Individuals who think ahead about installation enjoy the benefits of manageable timelines, not to mention the peace and quiet that comes with having your home to yourself again. So let’s talk a little bit about the installation process for different kinds of beam & truss installations.


We’ll start with this picture…


Woman lifting hdf beam


That’s a massive faux HDF beam of 14”x22”x20’, which only weighs 113 lbs.


A real wood beam of the same size weighs nearly one ton. This is precisely why you’ll never use solid wooden beams merely for decorative purposes on the ceiling–they’ll have to be structural. But what about hollow box beams made of real wood? This is a compromise between the solid wood and faux wood option. However, it will still be more than twice the weight of an HDF beam.


Because they’re so lightweight, they’re easy to install. Often, two people can complete the project in just one day. For some projects, it’s only a matter of a few hours. See for yourself in the video below.



Ready to Go Faux?


Volterra was founded in 2002, and has since become a leading provider of specialty architectural design materials. We’re most well-known for our huge range of beautiful faux wood beams and trusses, which have transformed award-winning restaurants, featured homes, and four star hotels. We also offer natural wood beams as part of our woodworking line. Shop our product selection online and browse our galleries for more ideas.