The Cheater’s Guide to Crown Molding (No Skills Necessary)

Our crown molding project has been done for weeks, but it is almost as hard to write about it, as it was to install it.  I’ve been working on this post ever since, so I hope that makes the job easier for you!  Here I will share with you the tricks I learned and hopefully save you some grief.

Despite all of the headache this project initially caused, I have to say, I am THRILLED with the outcome.  So without further ado, here is the “before & after”:

CrownBeforeAfter

One of the initial problems I came across was not having the right tools.  Here is a list of tools I HIGHLY recommend having for this project:

CrownMoldingSupplies

Two things missing from this photo are the crown molding and a friend.  You should measure the length of your room and calculate how much crown molding you will need.  Crown molding comes in lengths of 8 ft (can fit in your car) to 16 ft (probably cannot fit in your car) so you will likely buy a little more than you need, which is great for making mistakes.  I bought 8 foot lengths that were pre-primed and painted them before putting them up.  I did have to touch up paint after, but it saved me a little time in the end.  DO NOT attempt to do this project alone.  A friend (or two or three) is a MUST HAVE resource for this project.

Another MUST HAVE tool for a beginner is a jig.  I purchased the Cut-N-Crown jig and am pretty happy with the results.  A jig will help you cut the crown in position which I explained in this previous post.  There are many types of jigs available on the market.  I selected the Cut-N-Crown over the rest because it allows you to cut without moving the miter position, which I will get to.  In any case, if you are a beginner, I recommend using a jig over not, because it is difficult to hold the crown in position while cutting without using one.

The hose, compressor and nail gun all work together to fasten the crown molding to the wall. I REALLY wish I had this when I was putting up the coffered ceiling.  It definitely would have moved things along a lot faster.  I purchased all three together in a kit from Home Depot for about $170. Not bad, considering I have a lot more crown molding to install (in other rooms) and will probably use this in a ton of other rooms too.  If you only have the one room to do, I would recommend renting one or borrowing one from a friend.

The remaining items are pretty standard tools and the uses will all be explained soon enough.

MarkStudsOnce you have all of your supplies ready to go, you need to mark the studs in your wall.  Like hanging a frame, you want to attach the crown molding in places where your wall has a stud.  Use a stud finder to go around the room and mark where all of the studs are so you know where to secure with the nail gun later.

CrownMoldingSuppliesThe next step is to create a level line where you can align the crown molding at the bottom when you install it.  My initial thought was to measure down from the ceiling the length of my crown’s height all around the wall, but I also assumed my ceiling was level.  It is slightly not.  The solution is then to make the crown molding level at the bottom, because that is what people see, and then fill in an small gaps at the top with caulking later. So you start by measuring down the height of the crown and then…

CrownMoldingSuppliesUse a level or a laser level to extend that line around the room.  I measured down at several places, just to keep it from getting too crazy.

CrownMoldingSuppliesHaving this line pre-drawn will make your installation a lot easier!  Now that your walls are all prepped and ready to go, you are ready to start cutting your molding!

MeasureCornerAngleIt is important to get an accurate angle of any corners you are cutting.  In a square or rectangular room without bump-outs or architectural details, you would think you’d be cutting for four 90 degree angles and be done with it.  You would think, after all those geometry classes that it is impossible to have a rectangular room that does NOT consist of four 90 degree angles, but you’d be wrong.  Because construction didn’t give you a perfectly rectangular room, unfortunately, you probably have more of a parallelogram!  My room had two 91 degree angles and two 90 degree angles.  This will drive you nuts.  Buy a miter protractor, measure your angles and just accept it.

CutCrown1

One of the things that drives everyone crazy when cutting crown molding is the weird angles.  Because it comes out from the wall it really is a 3D cut and it is enough to make your head spin.  One of the things I liked most about the Cut-N-Crown product, is that it has a clear diagram on the back of the jig of how to set up your cut, so you get it right the first time and save yourself the frustration of wasting material.  Above, you can see how we cut the piece for an inside right piece.  Now this is how you’d cut the inside right piece on just about any jig, but the reason why I chose the Cut-N-Crown jig over other models is for the next cut…

CutCrown2

Whereas in most cases, you would move your miter saw to the other side, in the case with the Cut-N-Crown, you simply flip the jig around and cut the adjacent piece.  This is good because it means your pieces will fit tightly together, since you never moved your saw.  Now my results were far from the perfect results I expected after watching this video, but it was probably more for my error in measuring the corner perfectly or setting my miter saw perfectly, than for the use of this jig.  I have to say, my pieces did match like bookends.

If you are using a different jig or are working with an outside corner your set up will be different from the above photos.  Your jig should come with diagrams of how to set up your cut, even if they are not conveniently on the back of your jig.  One other handy tip is to cut examples using scrap pieces and label them “inside right” and “inside left” and keep them near your cutting table.  This will make it more obvious when you have it set up incorrectly BEFORE you make a wrong cut.

CutEnd2

If you are able to purchase crown that is the length of your wall, you can “simply” cut the corners of each wall and nail it up.  If, like me, you have a room that is larger than 8 x 8 feet and you cannot fit crown molding longer than 8 feet, you will have to cut the ends at an angle where two boards will meet.

Because the corner cut is more difficult, I recommend doing that first.  That way, if you make a mistake, you still have more room to cut.  You want the joint where the two pieces meet to be where there is a stud in the wall.  That way, you can secure the pieces at the point where they meet.

After you have made your corner cut, take the piece back to the wall and hold it up (this is where that friend comes in handy) and mark where the end of the trim is closest to a stud. This is where you will make your cut.

CutEnd1

This cut is a much simpler than the corners.  You don’t need a jig for this cut, you can make it laying flat.  You set the miter angle straight (0 degrees) and the bevel at 45 degrees.  The only thing you need to be careful about is that the end is cut at a bevel angle that lines up with the piece it will meet.  Your bevel only goes one direction, so you just need to hold it on one side or the other of the blade to get it right (or wrong for that matter).

After you have cut two pieces (that meet in a corner) you can start installing.  Line it up to the bottom line you previously marked and use the nail gun to fasten it in the middle of the board (leaving each end of the board un-nailed).  This will give you some “wiggle room” for a perfect fit at the corner.  Do this again for the adjacent corner piece.

FillGap

Now this is where the magic happens.  Using your two flathead screwdrivers, push them behind the crown to push the crown forward to meet.  This will fix any slight corner measurement issues you may have had.  Nail the corner in place while the screwdrivers are holding it in place and then remove the screwdrivers.  There is a great video, showing this technique here.

FastenBoardsTogether

After you have your corner nailed nicely, you can go back and nail the other end. After your first corner, you will be nailing the end to another board.

nailset

When all of your crown molding is installed, go back with a nail set and tap the nails in a little further, so when you cover them with spackle or wood putty they won’t show.

CaulkSeams

 

The last step is to go through and caulk all of your seams.  This really isn’t as tedious as I thought it would be and actually goes fairly quickly.  A staff member at a local paint store let me in on a trick to keep this job tidy: after you caulk the seam, dip your finger in a little cup of water and then wipe your finger along the seam to remove the excess caulking.  The water keeps the caulking from sticking to your finger!  Another good tip is to make sure to cut a VERY small whole in your caulking tube.  This will keep it from being a messy task!

I hope this helps make your project go smoothly.  It really is worth all of the trouble and once you get the right mix of tricks together it really does move quickly.  If any part is confusing or needs clarifying, please feel free to leave your questions below.  I’d be happy to answer them and revise my post to help others!

12 Comments on The Cheater’s Guide to Crown Molding (No Skills Necessary)

  1. Sharon
    May 9, 2013 at 7:50 am (12 months ago)

    Wouldn’t I just love to have molding done in my downstairs. This looks nice. Perhaps I will get around to it just yet. Or perhaps I will come back from summer vacation and it’s already done. I can dream about it.

    Reply
    • Dress This Nest
      May 9, 2013 at 9:51 am (12 months ago)

      It’s definitely a big project, but with the right tools it can be pretty painless. I highly recommend a nail gun and a jig. Good luck!

      Reply
  2. Karen J
    June 15, 2013 at 10:45 am (10 months ago)

    Great job! I thought your faux coffered ceiling looked good before but it looks great now with the added crown. Who’s your helper? Luckily we have crown in all of our house already, but I’m thinking about your coffered ceiling project. Are all your walls and ceiling smooth textured? Unfortunately our house was built in the 80′s and has orange peel textured walls and ceiling which don’t quite “fool the eye” as much.

    Reply
    • Dress This Nest
      June 18, 2013 at 9:03 am (10 months ago)

      My helper is my dad! I definitely recommend using two people on this project. Some of our ceilings are textured. We got lucky in this room that it is not. It looks as though the previous owners just attached some sort of smooth surface to the existing ceiling (drywall perhaps?) and painted over it. The material they used did not extend all the way to the corners, but luckily the crown covered that. When we paint our living room, I am going to try sanding the ceiling… I’ll let you know how that goes!

      Reply
  3. Paul
    August 24, 2013 at 2:02 am (8 months ago)

    Great job on the crown molding install! One more tip with regards to the screwdrivers in the inside corners. We cut 5 degree shims with the scrap pieces of crown molding. Then, we shove them into the gaps when the screwdrivers are pushing the pieces together. You get them tight, break off the excess and push the shims up into the crown a bit with the screwdriver or chisel. Once it’s caulked, you never see the shim again and the corner stays perfectly tight, even when you nail it real close.

    Reply
    • [email protected]
      September 10, 2013 at 5:51 am (8 months ago)

      Thanks for the tip Paul! I will give that trick a try next time!

      Reply
  4. betty benton
    November 10, 2013 at 10:53 am (5 months ago)

    do you put a nail on the top and bottom or one on the bottom or do you criss cross both nails (X) into the crown molding thank you

    Reply
    • [email protected]
      November 11, 2013 at 9:30 am (5 months ago)

      Great question Betty! I put a nail in the bottom and one in the top. The nail on the bottom goes straight into the wall (parallel to the floor/ceiling) and the nail on the top goes into the ceiling (perpendicular to the floor/ceiling). They do not criss cross inside the crown molding. I will try to go back and add a diagram of this later, because I think it is a very good point!

      Reply
  5. Amy
    March 1, 2014 at 9:58 am (2 months ago)

    Your screwdriver hint for the corners is genius! We have had that issue with an old house and I’ve never, with 1000′s of hours watching DIY shows, seen that solution!

    Reply
    • Yvonne King
      March 1, 2014 at 12:39 pm (2 months ago)

      Thank goodness for the internet! I literally tried EVER trick I could find and this one was by far the easiest. I hope it works for you!

      Reply

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