How to add “crown molding installer” to your repertoire

How to add “crown molding installer” to your repertoire

How to add “crown molding installer” to your repertoire

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What is it about crown molding that makes a room look complete? My husband and I had been asking ourselves that question on a monthly basis since the day we moved into our house three years ago. But it wasn’t until now that we got up the courage to actually try installing it ourselves.

With the upcoming arrival of our third baby girl (insert sweat on brow), we thought, what better time to try our hand at this thing called crown than in her new nursery? Full disclosure: her nursery is the smallest room in the house, so that had a lot to do with our decision to start there. And what could possibly go wrong, right?!

That’s funny.

Take it from me: Installing crown isn’t easy, but it makes a big impact, so in my opinion, it’s totally worth it. That’s why I’m writing this. So you can learn from our mistakes. And let me tell you, we had a lot of them. So here goes nothin…




AFTER CROWN (This room is obviously still a work-in-progress, so these aren’t great pics, but once the nursery is complete, I will be sure to update with better “after” shots. You can also see in the last two photos that we ended up painting the whole room, but again, it’s a work-in-progress 🙂  But check out that purdy crown molding!):


I also assure you, photos do not do crown molding justice. The in-person impression is much stronger, but since we don’t have that luxury, I guess you’ll have to take my word for it. And now for the fun part…


Step 1: Pick a product

There are a few options for the type of molding you can buy. We initially went with real wood. Pine boards, to be specific. But we found out the hard way that they are really rigid, and with our 1950s ranch, that meant really difficult to install due to ceilings and walls being not-at-ALL flush. We didn’t realize this until AFTER installing a few lengths of pine, which we then had to turn around and rip right out (a feat in and of itself with plaster walls). Which brings me to this:

Crown molding: 1
Morgan & Andy: 0

Using MDF was a lot easier. We chose a product that was pre-primed and coated in PVC because we felt it would hold up better. You can also save a few bucks if you want to prime yourself.

And my BIGGEST, MOST UBER IMPORTANT TIP OF ALL when purchasing your product: Buy way more molding than you need, because you will surely make mistakes. You can also return any unused and uncut pieces, so save yourself a trip to Home Depot, and buy extra!


Step 2: Measure & cut

We used a standard miter saw for most cuts, and a coping saw for one really tough corner. For most corners, cutting opposing 45-degree angles is the trick. (If I lost you at “miter saw” or “coping saw,” fret not, I’m also in the process of a more detailed post that will fill in some of the blanks, as well as show visual references.)

Two helpful tips on this:

  1. With a standard miter saw, you cannot cut the molding flat on the saw. You need to hold it up so that the side that goes on the ceiling is flat (that is because the molding sits on the wall at an angle).
  2. The cuts should be made so that the “bottom” of the piece ends up being “pointy” to ensure they fit together best.

Step 3: Hang

Be sure to have a nail gun, and a willing partner helping you out. Nail into your studs (use your stud finder to mark them off with painter’s tape – trust me, you’ll thank me for this tip) on the top and the bottom.

When hanging, we found it was best to level the bottom of the piece, and start in the corner, using the flexibility of the MDF to keep the bottom level and align with the next piece. I would also say to try and use pieces that are as long as possible, but not so long that a single piece has two “corners” on it. Since the corners are hard to cut and align, one corner per piece is best so you can make some progress.


The coped corner was the hardest. However, for our house, and this particularly tricky corner, we had no choice but to cut it this way. Otherwise, our two pieces were simply not aligning = big headache!

Again, if I’m losing you with “coped,” stay tuned for a more technical post. The process basically involves running one piece of the molding all the way to the adjacent wall and cutting out the pattern of the molding on the other piece using a coping saw. It’s really more art than anything, so don’t get frustrated if you mess up a time or two. Or 10. We found that using files to round out parts that were difficult to cope really helped, too. NOTE: PVC is a little hard to cut with the coping saw as it gets stuck a lot, but it’s still easier (in our humble opinion) than dealing with real wood because of its flexibility.


Step 4: Fill & sand nail holes

Since our walls are made of plaster, a few of our nails didn’t drive all the way in. They were also too stubborn to be pounded in with a nail set, so instead, my husband carefully cut the tips with a dremel tool (using a metal saw attachment). Problem solved.


From there, get your wood filler (or “fake wood” filler – it’s a thing) out and start fillin’. You may need to do two rounds of this, but if you’re careful to apply enough the first round, then you should be set. Allow plenty of dry time, then use a fine grade sand paper to sand all the filled holes down.

This step is really important, albeit, pretty simple. That’s because imperfections are not covered up by paint, but rather, amplified by paint. So make sure your surface is smooth after sanding.

Next, it’s caulking time, along the top and bottom edges, as well as the seams. If you’ve never caulked trim, get yourself some paper towel, a ladder and caffeine : ) It’s not difficult, but it takes a steady hand and lots of patience. After all, you’re dealing with gaps that can be pretty large at times.


Make sure you choose caulk that is paintable, and cut the tip at a 45-ish degree angle. Just don’t cut it too large, or you won’t be able to control the flow.


Here’s a visual of what it looks like when you first apply:


And then use your finger to smooth it out. I also always find it easier to only caulk smaller, manageable lengths at a time:


Step 5: Paint

Last, but certainly not least, it’s time to paint. Since I knew we would soon be painting our walls, I only needed to tape off the ceiling (yay!). Two coats of paint is all I needed using a quality angled brush, and voila… CROWN MOLDING COMPLETE:


Step 6: Admit your mistakes

Don’t get me wrong, we love how our crown turned out. But we had a bunch of contractors working on another part of our house, and one day they noticed our handiwork and complimented the result. But then they added, “Looks great, but why’d you hang it upside down?”


Yes, you heard it here. We apparently hung it upside down. Now, mind you, some tutorials we watched (and we watched a lot of them) mentioned that crown can technically be hung whichever way you want. It’s more your aesthetic taste. HOWEVER, not one, but two, contractors mentioned that the type of crown we chose is usually hung the other way.

Does that bother me? Yes. Will we take it down and redo it? No. Do we still love how it looks? Yes. Have you learned anything from us kooks? I hope so.

Happy DIY’ing!

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Morgan Hanson

360-degrees of DIY-bliss. Read about my kooky ideas, creations, kids and general chaotically beautiful life. Get inspired. Learn from my mistakes. Steal my ideas. Be merry :)
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