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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tips for Installing Crown Moulding

I thought I'd share a couple tips to installing 'standard' crown moulding that may save you some time and improve your work as well. Let's start with some preparations.

Like most jobs, the prepwork is foundational to ending up with quality work. Crown can be a frustrating character, especially if you're working by yourself. The first thing I like to do is lay a piece of the trim against the fence of my miter saw (since I know it's square) and measure how far down the wall the trim will come. (See picture)

The particular crown came 3" down from the ceiling, so I went around the entire room and made a mark at 3", especially in the corners. If you want, you can even mark this with a chalk line. The purpose is to give you a reference point so that your crown doesn't twist or gradually rise or fall as you go along. Keeping it level is one key to having tight joints.

Cutting crown can be a real mystery to figure out. I used to have to think very hard and make lots of test cuts before I figured out the system. Well, I've gotten better at, but I've also discovered the triangle.

Most miter saws will have a triangle mark (or circle) on them, to use as a 'cheater' for cutting crown. You probably have two sets of them depending on the type of crown, depending on the angle that the crown is to the ceiling. I won't get too technical, but my crown was the 38/52 type which meant that I could use the triangles at miter angle of 31.6 degrees and a bevel of 33.9 degrees.

You don't have to know all the technical stuff to do this. Just put your saw at the two triangle marks and cut with the crown laying flat on the saw. You still have to think a little bit to make sure you're doing it the right way, but if you trust the triangle, your cuts will likely be more reliable.

NOTE: Another way to cut is to lean the crown, usually upside down, against the fence of your miter saw at the same angle that it will be against the ceiling. With this position you won't use the triangles, but the actual angles that you're working with for each dimension. This position may be helpful if you have non standard angles for corners or if your crown is non-standard angle to the corner.

I like to do the longest run first, because it can be cut square on each end. Then, I usually do the next one to the left because it will have a square cut on the left end of it and a coped cut (using the triangles and your handy coping saw) to join up to the previous piece. An outside corner will interrupt this pattern, but you can continue after the corner around the room.

Start nailing at the end that joins the previously installed piece. I usually work alone, so I have to make a jig or at least lean a 2x4 against the wall to support the other end until I get to it. Make sure to get those corners tight and keep the crown level along those lines you made on the wall.

Finally, this is the time to use a finish nailer with some long nails. I usually use 2 1/2" finish nails that I can shoot up through the middle of the crown into the plates at the top of the wall. You need to hit something solid or the crown will eventually sag and crack the caulk if it's painted. If you can't find a stud or anything solid, you can criss-cross two nails in the same spot that will hold the crown pretty good as long as you're hitting studs most of the time.

Crown can really transform a room which is what makes this project so fun. Hopefully, these tips help keep the fun from getting squashed for you!


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