Installing Crown Moldings
Careful layout and accurate miters make installing a two-part trim an easier process.
Synopsis: Crown molding is a classy trim addition, but its installation can be perplexing for the uninitiated. In this illustrated article, a Massachusetts builder shows how to lay out, cut, and install crown molding and offers a few pointers on designing a traditional cornice.
Crown molding has a royally painful reputation. Installation can be difficult: Unlike baseboard or casing, crown molding must sit at a consistent angle to the wall, making cutting and nailing more demanding. When the joints don’t fit properly, when the nails hit nothing but air, and when the design that looked great on paper ends up looking trivial on the ceiling, the process of installing crown molding can become extremely disagreeable. However, crown molding will yield to patience and to a few simple techniques that anticipate its frustrating behavior.
I’ve used some ceiling-trim designs repeatedly because they cover a range of stylistic options and because they’re easy to build. These styles are not formal, but they go beyond the one-molding solution and add a surprising level of interest. The common element here is a piece of flat stock that I call backing trim. I usually shape a simple profile on the exposed edge; a scotia is shown in the photos, but ogees and beads are other possibilities. The backing trim can be as wide or as narrow as preference dictates. A narrow exposure will look like an additional crown-molding element; a wide exposure becomes a design element in its own space. In the following pages, I’ll describe the techniques I use to lay out, cut, and install this simple two-piece molding.
Use chalklines as a reference
After I’ve decided on the design of the crown mold, my next job is layout. For practically any design, I snap chalklines on the wall as…