How To Install Crown Molding: Step-by-Step Guide

by Joanna Stewart

Sun, Nov 25, 2018

living room with crown molding Photo via Sutton Suzuki Architects

New homes are often built without many of the details that imbue them with lasting charm. Crown molding is one such feature. You can save a lot of money by installing molding yourself, but many novice carpenters are hesitant. Getting it right requires some skill and patience.

You’ll want to arm yourself with a few basic tools and a little preparation work. Depending on your experience level, set aside a weekend per room.

Tools You’ll Need to Install Crown Molding:

Miter saw Coping saw Hammer Tape measure
Clamps Stud finder Drill 4-foot Level
Finishing nailer Safety Goggles

Required Materials:

Moulding Nails Caulk gun Caulk
Wood putty

Step 1: Purchase more moulding than you need so you can make a few practice cuts. Keep the good practice pieces to use as a template for later on. Then prime, paint, or stain all sides of the molding. (Be sure to wear safety goggles when cutting the wood.)

Step 2: Starting on the wall opposite the door, install a piece of moulding that’s square at both ends. This is the best (and easiest to cut) side of the joint and will be most apparent to anyone walking into the room. Choose your second wall. The moulding there will be coped where it meets the already installed moulding, and it will be square where it meets the third wall. The fourth wall will be coped at both ends.

Step 3: Using your stud finder, locate the studs on the wall and mark them with a pencil in an area outside of where you’ll hang the moulding so you can easily locate them.

Step 4: Put the moulding against a framing square so you can discern the distance between the face of the moulding edge and the corner. Next, cut a piece of lumber to the appropriate dimension, and draw lines on the wall and ceiling corresponding to the cut piece. To install the moulding, simply line it up with the layout lines.

Step 5: Beginning at the wall opposite the door, cut the moulding to the appropriate length and with a pencil mark the locations of the studs onto the moulding. Next, drill pilot holes into the moulding where you’ve made the marks. This will help prevent splitting. Next, nail in place both the top and bottom of the moulding.

Step 6: Lay out the cope joint on a second piece of moulding. You want to start with a piece that is a few inches longer than the finished length and flex it in place. At the end that you’ll cope, draw a line in the general direction you’ll cut at roughly a 45-degree angle. If the line isn’t perfectly straight, that’s fine.

Step 7: Position the moulding so that the ceiling edge is flat on the bottom of the miter box and the wall edge is tight against the fence. Set the saw to cut at 45 degrees in the general direction of the line you drew. If you have difficulty aligning the blade to the line you drew, turn the moulding piece upside down and try cutting it that way. Cut a miter close to the end.

Step 8: Cut away the excess wood beneath the profile of the piece you just cut. It should nest against the adjacent moulding. Take a coping saw and tilt it back at a 45-degree angle to create a very thin edge where the two mouldings will meet.

Step 9: If the two pieces don’t fit perfectly, don’t be alarmed. Even experienced carpenters have to work with the wood to get them to line up perfectly. You may have to sand and file any high spots to get the joints to fit.

Step 10: Once the joint fits well, measure the wall and cut the moulding 18 inch longer than what you’ve just measured. That bit of extra length will help push the cope joint closed.

Step 11: Now nail the moulding into place and putty the nail holes.

Putting up moulding is one of those tasks that gets easier as you go along. Don’t be surprised if you have to go back to your saw several times to get the corners to fit.

That’s why cutting them longer than necessary is the best way to approach the project. It’s better to have them too long rather than not long enough. Keeping the saw in the same room with you will saw you time on this project.

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