When you decide to install crown molding in your home, it may surprise you with how easy it is. The sheer beauty and elegance it can add to any room in your home will astound you. From a simple bead strip around a room with a cove ceiling to the ornate and highly detailed molding found in old Victorian mansions, crown molding has long been used to enhance the appearance of any room.
When you install crown molding, the biggest tip anyone can give you is, "don't let yourself get overwhelmed." Selecting what look you want can be both confusing and satisfying. When you feel comfortable, you will be able to tackle any project with confidence.
Selecting and Purchasing Materials to Install Crown Molding
There are seven types of crown molding available. We will only be discussing the most commonly used when you install crown molding, which are Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF), natural wood, and polystyrene (foam-core).
In rooms where you intend to paint the trim, MDF is a good choice. MDF is available with a finished veneer that can be stained, and in a wide variety of stock profiles. Although it is easier to damage with light bumping or missed hammer strokes, this is a cost-effective alternative to real wood.
Natural wood is by far the most traditional crown molding material. Wood is available in many stock profiles and can be painted or stained. Downsides include that it is highly susceptible to changes in weather, which can cause shrinking and swelling. It can also be cost-prohibitive.
If you don't want to mess with saws, sawdust, or nails, then Polystyrene might be what the doctor ordered. It can be cut with a razor knife and installed with construction glue. While not as fancy as other alternatives, it is highly functional and inexpensive material to in.
Tools to Install Crown Molding
The easiest way to cut and install crown molding is by using a compound miter saw. The miter saw allows you to quickly calibrate the blade angle for precise cuts every time. Quick shifting from an inside cut to an outside cut is a simple turn of a knob and rotating the base around to the correct position. The base is designed with a backstop to support your boards at the top and at the bottom. You can cut crown molding by hand, with a regular crosscut saw and a mitering jig, but if you use a compound miter saw it will speed up your entire installation process.
A measuring tape is a must-have item to install crown molding. You need to measure your walls, then measure each piece of molding for installation. Any standard construction tape will do just fine. If you can afford a fancy laser measurement device, that does make measuring walls easier, but you'll still need an old-fashioned tape for your board measurements.
Having a brad nailing gun is also a nice, time-saving device. While it is possible to use a standard claw hammer and finishing nails with a small nail punch, using a brad nail gun will speed up the process. This tool will also cause less damage to the board with missed strikes (because it's hard to hit a tiny nail while balancing on a ladder and swinging over your head).
Your local home improvement warehouse rents miter saws, brad nailing guns, and compressors (for the nail gun). Rental fees for a day or two will be far less than the purchase cost of these items.
Extra tools that are nice to have
While you can easily use tape to mark the backstop and deck on your saw to make accurate cuts, it is much easier with a cutting jig. There are several cutting jigs made to assist you in making quick and accurate cuts in crown molding every time. The ease of use, adjustability, and cost vary widely. At Home Depot, reliable jigs are available between $25 and $40. When shopping, do not hesitate to ask questions.
A protractor could fit this list, or the required tools list, especially if you have oddly angled walls. Square walls are pretty simple with only 90-degree angles. Working to install crown molding around a bay window will be more challenging, but a protractor makes it easy.
If you don't have the luxury of working with a partner, a set of inexpensive crown hangers can act as that second set of hands. This simple tool is secured to the wall with a small nail and holds up the long end while you secure the other end. They remove easily (the nail stays in the wall behind the crown molding). Home Depot carries a Milescraft set of two that range from $10 - $15 and are effective in getting the job done.
Getting Ready to Install Crown Molding
You have all your tools, your crown molding, and you're ready to begin. You've got your friend Bob coming over to help, after having promised him beer, pizza, and an uninterrupted football game on TV after completion. Let's get started.
Measuring your room
If you have a square room, your measurements are pretty simple. The more features, angles, and corners you have, the more difficult measuring becomes. You should always make your wall measurements nearest to where the bottom of the molding will rest after installation. If you take a short scrap piece of the molding, you can quickly go around the room and make small pencil marks to guide you in your measurements. These marks will provide better consistency for your measurements.
Many professionals make a small (not necessarily to scale) outline drawing of the room. They write the measurements for each section of wall on the drawing for reference. This gives quick access to the measurements and whether the cut will be an inside cut or an outside cut.
Plan to purchase at least 10 percent more material than your measurements call for. This will account for the fact that your cuts will be based on the bottom of the board, but the board length at the top will be greater because of the angle of outside cuts.
If you misjudge and have to go back for additional supplies, do yourself a favor and take a small scrap piece to make sure you are buying the identical product. Many of the available crown molding profiles are similar and having a small sample piece with you will ensure that you get the right match.
Sawdust makes a horrendous mess
The best place to do your cutting is in the same room you are hanging your crown molding in. But this may not be possible because the saw makes noise and a huge mess. To compensate, you can work with the door to the room closed and a towel placed over the gap at the bottom. That will keep most of the sawdust from escaping. Most saws also have a vacuum hose attachment that can be connected to a shop vac. Contractors will often spread a painter's cloth or plastic on the floor (especially in a carpeted room) to contain the bulk of the sawdust mess.
If none of those options work, you should set up your cutting station outside or in a garage as close as possible to your installation area. And wear your Fitbit, because you will definitely make all your steps on installation day.
Safety first, and second, and always
The tools you will be working with can be dangerous if not handled correctly. Read all applicable safety instructions that came with your equipment prior to starting. Familiarize yourself with the cutoff switch (if installed) on your saw. You only get the two sets of fingers, so be careful with that saw.
Make sure to lock the legs on any ladders or scaffolding that you are using. If you are using a gas-powered generator or air compressor, make sure that it is properly vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Test the safety mechanism on your nail gun to make sure it is functioning correctly.
And last, but certainly not least, wear safety goggles or glasses. You only get one set of eyes. Flying sawdust or a nail can wreck your day and possibly much more.
Making the First Cut
You're ready to go. Everything is in place. You have decided where you want to begin and you're ready to make that first cut. We found a short video that gives a concise look at making accurate cuts, first time, every time:
Measure twice, cut once
Every carpenter will tell you "Measure twice, cut once." What that means is that if you verify your measurements, you will never make a bad cut. Making the wrong cuts costs money, time, and effort. It is frustrating to have to redo a cut. You can often reuse the material on a shorter section of wall, but it still cuts into your budget. By simply verifying all your measurements, you can get the job done quicker, with fewer headaches, and more efficiently.
Unless you are working in the most finely crafted and perfect building on the planet, there is no such thing as a perfect corner. Newer buildings might have slight incongruencies due to construction. Older buildings might be skewed due to settling and shifting. Making perfect corners with your crown molding simply means working with the building structure and making it fit.
This is where that protractor is a handy tool to have. It can give you the exact angle of both inside and outside corners that may not be quite 90 degrees. This will allow you to adjust your saw angles slightly to account for the building shifts in order to make more perfect corners during your installation. A protractor also helps when installing molding around corners that are at odd angles, such as when working around a bay window.
You have installed crown molding around the entire room. It looks great, but now you want to make it look even more awesome. With a few finishing touches, your do-it-yourself project will look like a professionally completed job.
Fill the nail holes. Using a wood putty and your finger, press a small amount of putty in each recess where there is a nail. Smooth it using your finger. It might be handy to keep a damp, lint-free cloth close to wipe your fingers occasionally. Use a nail punch and hammer to sink nails that didn't go in deep enough. Once you have worked your way around the room, give the putty ample time to dry and cure. The directions on the packaging should tell you recommended periods of time for this.
You are almost totally done. Because there are no "perfect" corners or perfectly straight walls, you might need to add a bit of filler or a paintable caulk to some of the corners, or along the top and bottom seams of your molding. Smooth the caulk using the tip of a finger, and wipe them frequently on a damp cloth to keep your fingers clean.
One more trip around the room to touch up the finish or paint where you filled the nail holes or corrected gaps in corners or on the edges. NOW you're done. Step back and admire your work.
Now Install Crown Molding for Your Mother-in-law
Wow, you're done! Great job. Your room looks awesome. Carpentry skills are something that will last a lifetime and allow you to make home improvements and upgrades to turn your place into a showroom. You will be the envy of your neighbors.
And then there is the mother-in-law. She came over last night to visit to visit the grandbabies and just gushed over your new crown molding. By the end of the night, she had you talked into going to her house to install crown molding while she watches the kids. It's your own fault for doing such a great job. Have fun!