Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Living Room: DIY Crown Molding Before & After

We did it!  We've been thinking about installing crown molding, talking about it, saying we'll get to it ever since we bought this house, and now we've officially finished a whole room.  

Before I delve into the details of this project, just for fun, let's take a look back at the way this space used to look back when we first bought the house.  Be sure to notice the psychedelic textured ceilings and no fireplace!

Here's what the living room looked like just a few months ago.  We were all settled in and loving the space, but knew at some point we would want to install some crown molding.  At first we had grand visions of covering the whole first floor with three piece, built up trim, but thankfully we decided to start with one room, reassess and see how our motivation level was doing.  As with any home project, it's important to balance the cost, the outcome and the amount of time you have to invest to figure out if tackling something is really worth it to you.  So I'm glad we started with one contained space we could complete before deciding how much of the rest of the house really "needs" crown molding.

Before beginning, I picked up a few short sections of trim from Home Depot and created a three piece, built up style of crown molding that I thought we might like in a one foot section as a mock up.  That way we could get a sense of what the finished product would look like and check the proportions before diving in.  Here's a cross section of the design we chose, except we went with a wider, 5 1/4" section of crown, since our ceilings are so high:

The first step involved cutting and nailing the baseboard sections of trim into the walls with our pneumatic finish nailer, which was pretty straightforward with simple 45 degree cuts for the corners.  

Next I cut and nailed up the baseboard sections into the ceiling, piecing them together like you would a picture frame.  This part of the project proved to be somewhat tricky, since the ceiling joists only cooperate as anchors for the molding running in one direction.  So nailing into the joists is only possible for two of the sides of the room, which makes attaching the molding to the ceiling on the other sections much more difficult.  The nails will only hold the wood in place temporarily, but they're not enough to support the weight of the finished product.  So we drilled through the baseboard sections into the drywall above and attached them with huge anchors that splay out to distribute the weight.

(I got the idea for attaching the top pieces with toggle bolts here.)

 For instructions I referred to a book we own on woodworking and trim, but the Family Handyman website also offers a great tutorial on how to install a built up three piece trim like this one.  In fact, if you follow their instructions, you're doing much better than I am-- I definitely cheated some on this project!  Coping is a technique that professional trim installers use to create tighter joints between pieces of wood and keep the corners from gaping when the wood contracts... and I just couldn't be bothered to take the time to learn how to do it!  Don't try this at home...  :)  

Instead of coping the corner pieces, I mitered the corners to match as closely as possible, filling in sections too wide with tiny slivers of extra crown that I cut to fit.  Then I filled in any extra gaps with copious amounts of caulk and called it a day.  Honestly, I'm sure I'll have to get up there on the ladder and re-caulk the seams at some point, but that's the price I was willing to pay for (more) immediate satisfaction on this project, and I can live with it.  

Once the trim was all in place, I started the tedious but critical work of filling all of the nail holes with wood putty and any gaps with caulk.  I'm pretty sure this old house doesn't have a single straight wall, floor or ceiling in it, which meant I had some serious gaps to fill!  But once those little spaces between the woodwork and the walls or ceiling have been filled in and the whole thing painted over, it's amazing how the imperfections disappear.  Sure, if you look closely you might see a lumpy section or two, but overall I'm thrilled with the outcome.  I'm proud of us!  And happy to think of all of the money we saved by our DIY efforts.

Now we'll have to see if we can ever motivate to attempt another room... :)




  1. Amazing!! I love it and looks well worth the effort!

  2. I like wood. The information good for me. I like décor my home by wood. I have problem with cutting board 45 and 90 degree. Do you sharing tips? I want to décor crib for my daughter next week


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