The lack of proper maintenance of roof beams is one of the leading causes of serious decay problems. Of course, it is best to avoid any degree of roof beam deterioration, and fortunately there are preventative measures that can be taken. The most crucial of these is ironically the least complicated: painting. It is often said that 90% of successful painting is in the preparation work, and this couldn't be truer when it comes to roof beams.
It is essential that roof-beam painting be preceded by meticulous surface detailing (sanding, scraping, mildew and dust removal, etc.), filling of all cracks with a high grade paintable caulking (one with elastic properties), and one to two coats of a premium primer sealer as needed. Give this careful attention to the area of the beam with the greatest exposure to the elements (from the outer end, to at least 1 foot back in from the roof edge framing), being sure not to forget the top of the beam, which often gets overlooked or neglected. Generally, one should exercise a maintenance regime that revolves around first-rate prepping and painting methods.