Tools & Materials
If you’re ready for a change—and a full-on renovation is out of your budget—a fresh coat of paint or new window treatments can go a long way. For a more dramatic impact, consider adding some architectural interest to the rooms in your home. Here, we transformed an ordinary rectangular cased opening into a beautiful elliptical archway featuring fluted columns, and an arched header with keystone accents. We used a prefabricated 4-foot Model B poplar elliptical-archway kit from CurveMakers. On day one, we prepped the existing opening. On day two, we completed the installation and painted.
Cover the floor with a drop cloth. Run a utility knife along the joints between the casing and the drywall on both sides of the opening. Use just enough pressure to slice through any paint or caulking. Don’t cut too deeply into the drywall. Loosen the casing with a flat pry bar, then pull the pieces off the wall.
Remove jambs and molding
Use a claw hammer to pry the existing doorjambs from the opening. Also, remove the baseboard molding from both sides of the opening. Be careful not to damage the walls.
Install nailing blocks
Cut four short 1x4s to serve as nailing blocks for the new drywall patch. Cut two pieces 8 inches long and two others equal to one-third the width of the opening. (For a 4-foot-wide opening, cut the 1x4s 16 inches long.) Nail the shorter 1x4s to the trimmer studs on each side of the opening and fasten the longer ones to the header above.
Install drywall extender for arch
Cut two pieces of drywall 15-inches-high and as wide as the opening. Be sure to use drywall that’s the same thickness as the existing drywall (typically ½-inch). Raise the drywall piece into place and secure it to the 1×4 blocking with 1 ½-inch drywall screws. Hang the second drywall piece on the opposite side of the opening.
Stencil in the arch shape
Carefully cut the cardboard out with a utility knife. The archway kit includes an elliptical template that’s part of the cardboard shipping carton. Then, slip the vertical columns into the opening and set the template on top. Use a pencil to scribe the elliptical shape onto the new drywall. Repeat this procedure to mark the drywall on the opposite side.
Cut out the arch
Remove the columns and cut the elliptical shapes from the drywall pieces using a drywall saw. Follow the pencil lines as closely as possible, but don’t worry if your cuts are a little crooked; the arch will hide them.
Tape and compound the seams
Conceal the new drywall patches with drywall tape and joint compound. Cover all the seams between the new and old drywall surfaces with either paper tape or adhesive-backed fiberglass-mesh tape. Then finish the joints with two or three coats of joint compound. Allow each coat to dry before applying the next. Lightly sand the patch smooth, then rolled on a coat of primer.
Secure the prefab arch
Start the final installation by first lifting the elliptical archway into place. Be sure that it’s pushed up as far as possible.
Secure prefab columns and complete installation
Stand the columns under the arch and slip them over the walls. Pull down on the arch so that it sits tight against the top of the columns. Before nailing the parts in place, be certain that the columns are perfectly plumb and parallel. Also, check to make sure that the ends of the archway are centered on top of the columns. Secure all of the parts with 2 ½-inch finishing nails; bore pilot holes first to prevent splitting.