Using the theory of surface elasticity, we investigate the mechanical properties of nanoporous materials. The classical theory of porous materials is modified to account for surface effects, which become increasingly important as the characteristic sizes of microstructures shrink to nanometers. First, a refined Timoshenko beam model is presented to predict the effective elastic modulus of nanoporous materials. Then the surface effects on the elastic microstructural buckling behavior of nanoporous materials are examined. In particular, nanoporous gold is taken as an example to illustrate the application of the proposed model. The results reveal that both the elastic modulus and the critical buckling behavior of nanoporous materials exhibit a distinct dependence on the characteristic sizes of microstructures, e.g. the average ligament width.