|Tip #1: DON'T!
If you are doing this as a lark, pick another
project as this one can potentially drive you absolutely batty
and leave you awfully frustrated. On the other hand, nothing
adds a nice touch to a room like crown molding ...
If you got this far and insist on proceeding, get
ahold of the May 1990 Family Handyman, it has a good article on
the ins and outs of crown molding. It is available through FH
NOTE: Remaining tips assume you've read article from tip #2:
Unless your house is newer (mine is about 70 years
old), don't plan on being able to reliably find studs or
joists. The only thing you can count on is the wall header.
Even with a good electronic stud finder, my walls had all kinds
of two and three layer drywall sections that threw the
readings off. Plan on using the canting block method all the
No matter how square and plumb the walls and ceiling
look, they are not even close. Just resign yourself to the
fact that it's a minor miracle if they are.
Unless you're really, really good at this stuff, plan
your decor so that you can paint your crown moldings instead of
staining. Spackling works wonders. See tip #4.
Buy one pint of spackling for every 100 feet or 50
years of age (the house, not you). Do some finger exercises
one week prior to actually spackling or check your workers comp
plan to see if there is coverage for "spackling finger". The
problem is not so much poor fit which needs to be spackled, but
that since crown molding only touches the wall and ceiling at
one spot each when you spackle it literally "disappears" behind
the molding unless you put on a few very light coats
(which is recommended of course, but not always followed).
Paint the walls, ceiling and molding prior to
installing the molding. This way you don't have to worry about
the wall/ceiling line being painted accurately. You'll have to
repaint or touch up later, but you might as well get one good
coat on so that the painting after assembly goes quicker.
NOTE: I used standard 52/38 degree molding with a 2-7/8" rise
over run. As well, my molding came to a "point" at the bottom
edge, which meant the coped section was VERY thin at this
point. If I did it over, I would select molding with more
substance at the bottom edge so that the coped section would
not be so thin.
To make the canting blocks, rip a six inch section of
a 2x3 stud at a 45 degree angle from one edge. Then rip the
other side so that from an end view about 3/4" of the result is
rectangular and then the 45 degree angle slopes to the edge.
Then cut the result into two 3" long blocks. Cutting a
completely triangular canting block from a 2 x 3 ended up too
far from the molding for comfortable nailing. The scraps make
nifty "keepers" for other projects.
Ceiling side Crown
| | | |
W | | / /
a | Canting / / /
l | Block / / /
l | / / /
| / / /
| / / /
|________/ / /
Note that the molding stays 1/2"+ away from the block. You
probably don't want it touching the block as that may throw off
Nail the canting blocks into the wall header about
every 12" along the wall/ceiling line with 6d finish nails.
The article in tip #2 calls for 10d or 16d or some such thing.
Unless you want to watch plaster crack, use the 6d's. Don't
worry, the molding ain't comin' down anytime soon. Make sure
you start about 3-4" in (or closer) from each wall edge. The
article in tip #2 states if you're coping you don't need
support of the mating piece in the last 18" -- baloney. The
wall/wall/ceiling meeting point is where all the plaster builds
up and chances of being square are ridiculously low -- you need
all the support you can get. Remember, it is much better
to put up a block you don't end up using than wishing you had a
block there after you've nailed the rest of the molding in place!
Mark the position of each canting block with the guide
jig detailed in article in tip #2 on the walls and ceiling. If
you use a normal to wide-bodied pencil, your marks will be
about 1/4" outside the edges of the crown (the picture in the
article shows the marks flush to the edge). You can compensate
to get marks flush to the edge (change jig or pencil) but I
left them 1/4" out -- they were easier to erase afterwards. I
marked the walls and ceiling just to the right of each block,
that way when nailing time came I knew I had 3" to the left of
each line for nailing.
Do not have your spouse help you. Pick an
independent third party, never, never your spouse. Putting
this stuff up is frustrating, and you probably want to take it
out on a friend instead of your spouse ...
Follow the cutting sequence mentioned in the
article. This is a great time to justify that compound mitre
saw you've always wanted. Get one with the angle markings for
crown molding so you can cut it flat, otherwise you must put
together a fence set up so that you can cut it upside down.
Build yourself some sort of support for the molding
during the cutting. It takes time but it'll be worth it.
Coping is relatively easy, don't be gun shy about
tackling it. I did use a Dremel to "clean up" the inside of
the coped edges so that the mating piece fit snugly -- it's
much quicker than abrasive paper. The article in tip #2 calls
for a 30 degree back cut, but my molding required more like a
70 degree back cut. Check your molding before assuming 30
degrees will do, although trial and error is the best way to
find out and it won't hurt to start small and increase the
"Nibble" the lengths as the article states, but don't
be hugely surprised if you nibble that last 1/16" off the length
and then the sucker is 1/4" short! Just watch the cussin' in
front of the kids. One thing to make sure of is that you file
the back edge at each end of each non-coped, non-mitered piece
so that it's not a sharp angle. Where your walls meet is more
than likely rounded over so you should make sure any non-coped
ends of your molding are rounded over likewise. A piece that
may appear to be too long might actually just need the back
edges filed off in order to fit.
Per the last section of molding you install, which is most
likely coped on both ends (or any other section coped on both
Don't assume the overall length (bottom, pointy end
of one cope to bottom, pointy end of other cope) will drive the
other dimensions. For that last section, measure the
top-to-top length and the bottom-to-bottom length needed, then
make your cuts.
If you have to spackle, quickly follow the
application of the spackle with a damp sponge. Your goal is
complete coverage with no sanding necessary later. You won't
hit that goal, but if you go in with that goal you'll have a lot
less sanding and painting touch up later. It helps if someone
can run sponges back and forth from cleaning at the sink while
you're on the ladder. The angles of the wall/molding/ceiling
end up being quite a pain to get leverage to do sanding, so be
as neat as possible during any spackling, you'll be glad you
Pre-drill your nailing holes in the molding
regardless of the material. The absolute last thing you want
is cracked molding after putting up a 16' section.
When pre-drilling and nailing the molding to the
canting blocks, pay attention to the resulting angle the nail
will take. Sometimes getting leverage to use the hammer on a
funny angle is impossible on one end of the molding, depending
on whether you're ambidexterous when it comes to using a
hammer. After the first few nails go in I'm sure you'll get
the hang of it.
All-in-all, putting up crown molding is alot like preparing a
10 course meal. The cook sees all the details and grunt work
and in-between (ugly) stages and by the time the meal is ready
the cook has lost interest in eating -- although others will
rave about the meal. Same thing here -- you'll know where the
extra nails and spackling are, but chances are no one else will
and they'll think you did a heck of a job ...
Good luck and happy nailing!