How to restore exposed fir beams?


My house is a kinda pseudo-Spanish style, and in the front there are four large wood beams sticking out several feet from the roof line and front porch. I'm guessing they are fir, but anyway they are some kind of softwood like that. They measure 4.5" wide by 16" high. The beams are structural components, not just decorative.
So these beams are completely exposed and get rained on, and snow piles up on them, and in the summer there's direct sun all day. They look nice, but what a horrible design idea maintenance-wise.
Anyway, the beams have been painted (acrylic), but clearly not often enough, and are in pretty bad shape, with some rot and shrinkage. So I would like to go in and remove all the bad stuff, put in filler, and then seal and paint. But I don't know what kind of filler to use - it's going to take large amounts - or whether you can even fill soft wood like this. And then how can I seal it and paint it so this won't keep happening. Basically, I don't know what I'm doing, and would appreciate some advice about how to go about this.
I know there are alternatives. I could just cut them off, but if I can save them I would like to do that. The other possibility is some kind of sheet metal cover on the exposed sections, which would then be painted (or maybe copper?). If anyone has done that kind of thing, please tell me how you went about it and how it turned out.
Thanks for any advice.
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Peabody wrote:

There are epoxy products such as "Git-Rot" sold to treat rotted wood. They also seem to work well to seal it against water penetration. You might investigate such products.
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*I have been using Minwax wood filler for a few years now for outdoor wood repairs. It is sandable and paintable. It is basically auto dent filler repackaged. The working time is only a few minutes. I also use Minwax wood hardener before the filler and let that cure overnight. It is very thin and is absorbed into the wood very quickly. You should experiment on a small section that is not readily visible before doing all of the beams.
I'm guessing that to finish, an oil base primer would be the best to start with. Then paint, but follow manufacturer's instructions for drying times in between coats. Go to a paint store and consult with them.
I suggest an electric sander for the amount of work that it sounds like you must do. I have a Ridgid 5" orbital that I love and is popular with family members as well. A seven in one painter's tool is also handy. A wood chisel or two might be needed as well.
If you were to cover them up you should work on them before hand otherwise the dry wood could make a nice home for insects.
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Peabody wrote the following:

Bondo Auto Body filler (2 part) works well for filling holes or replacing rotted wood with a hard surface. As long as you intend to paint it, you won't see the repair. I've used it on wooden fences.
--

Bill
In Hamptonburgh, NY
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www.abatron.com
WoodEpox and LiquidWood, I've used both very successfully since 1986. The stuff is not cheap but the "kits" get you a break on the price.
For larger volume repairs you can use a "combo method"; some wood member sistering AND epoxy. This technique will reduce the volume of epoxy needed but sistering is generally only doable if the wood pieces are of a decent size.
Pre-drill (pilot & clearance holes) for screws and only use SS screws.......dont mess up this exterior repair by using cheap fasteners. Do a dry fit with you wood sister pieces and then slather the mating surfaces with LiquidWood & WoodEpox (both are the same chemical and completely compatible)
Final result can be drilled, sawn, screwed, painted
If you want to save the beam ends, use these products, prime & paint when you're done and have some copper beam covers fabbed.
A quick & cheap repair; bondo & paint
cheers Bob
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Peabody wrote:

Go see an architect.
--

dadiOH
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I would do what boat builders do. Fiber glass them and then paint with auto body paint. ww
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I used a minwax liqued that hardens rot, you drill in a bunch of holes and pour in the liqued and it turn it to hard plastic. I know someonne that did a whole 35ft boat but he used a marine product of same nature. For gallons look to a Marine supply it will be cheaper by the gallon. Then I have used bondo to build out the bad stuff I removed. An old fasioned oil primer penetrates more than latex because of molicule size. I would use a quality oil primer like from Ben Moore then finish with oil as oil is more water resistant than latexes, but the latex oil is debatable on the finish coat. Google and call Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams tech support and talk to the real pros for the best options they have, forget your local box store on this one and also find a local paint store that sells the good stuff.
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