installing kitchen cabinet crown molding
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How to Install Kitchen Cabinet Crown Molding with a Hardwood Frame

By mounting the crown to a hardwood frame, you can install the whole assembly in one go

Q: I want to install crown molding on my kitchen cabinets. What's the best way to go about it?
—Brian Spears, St. Louis

A: A lot of upper kitchen cabinets these days don't have enough material above the doors on which to mount crown molding. To get around that shortcoming, I build a hardwood frame that sits on top of the cabinets and use it as a base for fastening the crown.

Using a frame allows me to do the detail work on a bench—much easier than from a ladder—and I can attach the crown from the back side, so there are no nail holes to fill. Once the frame and crown are attached, you install the whole assembly in one go.

If the ceiling isn't level, as was the case here, then you have two options above the crown: Leave a gap or scribe-fit a filler strip that follows the contours of the ceiling. Whatever you do, avoid scribing the crown itself or leaving a small gap of ½ inch or less. Either one will draw attention to the ceiling's unevenness and undermine all your careful work with the molding.

Pictured: Here's a clever way to add crown to cabinets: Mount the molding on a frame and install it as a single unit.


Steps // How to Install Kitchen Cabinet Crown Molding with a Hardwood Frame
1 ×

Make the Frame.

 
Step One // How to Install Kitchen Cabinet Crown Molding with a Hardwood Frame

Make the Frame.

assembling a hardwood frame for kitchen cabinet crown molding
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Measure each leg of the cabinets' run from wall to wall. Cut and screw together an L-shaped 14 frame that follows the cabinets' top edges, but leave each end ⅛ inch shy of the wall. Butt and overlap the corners and countersink the screws. Screw reinforcing blocks to the back of the frame, as shown, then check to make sure it sits flush with the cabinets' faces.

 
2 ×

Cut and Attach the Crown.

 
Step Two // How to Install Kitchen Cabinet Crown Molding with a Hardwood Frame

Cut and Attach the Crown.

attaching crown molding to a hardwood frame for kitchen cabinet crown molding
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Take the frame back to the workbench and shim it up by ⅛ inch to create a slight overhang for the crown. Miter and trim the crown to match the cabinets' run—the crown's ends will extend past the frame's ends by ⅛ inch. Rest the crown's bottom edge on the bench, glue the joints, and fasten the frame to the crown's back side, as shown, using 1¼-inch screws.

 
3 ×

Reinforce the Outside Miters.

 
Step Three // How to Install Kitchen Cabinet Crown Molding with a Hardwood Frame

Reinforce the Outside Miters.

attaching reinforcing block to an outside miter for kitchen cabinet crown molding
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

To prevent the outside miters from coming open, glue and screw small reinforcing blocks to the backs of the crown at each joint. In this case, the faces of each block are cut at a 22½-degree angle so that it sits flat against the moldings' sloped backs. To pull each side of the joint together, offset two screws and drive them through the block perpendicular to each other.

 
4 ×

Mount the Assembly.

 
Step Four // How to Install Kitchen Cabinet Crown Molding with a Hardwood Frame

Mount the Assembly.

mounting the hardwood frame with crown molding attached to the top of a kitchen cabinet
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

With a helper, lift the finished assembly into place atop the cabinets. Check that the crown's overhanging bottom lip—created by shimming the frame in Step 2—fits tightly against the cabinets' faces and doesn't interfere with the doors. Also make sure that the joints are tight and both ends are snug against the wall.

 
5 ×

Attach It to the Cabinets.

 
Step Five // How to Install Kitchen Cabinet Crown Molding with a Hardwood Frame

Attach It to the Cabinets.

attaching the hardwood frame with crown molding to the kitchen cabinets
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Drive 2½-inch screws up through the cabinets' top panels and into the bottom of the L-shaped frame. Place them close behind the cabinets' face frames. If there's a gap of an inch or more between the crown and the ceiling, you're finished with the install. For gaps narrower than 1 inch, find a strip wide enough to fill the widest gap and proceed to Step 6.

 
6 ×

Scribe-Fit the Filler Strips.

 
Step Six // How to Install Kitchen Cabinet Crown Molding with a Hardwood Frame

Scribe-Fit the Filler Strips.

scribing the gap between a kitchen cabinet with crown molding and the ceiling
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

For each run, have a helper hold the strip level and touching the ceiling's lowest point. Set a compass to the widest gap and scribe the ceiling contour on the strip, as shown. Trim the strip with a jigsaw, check the fit, and miter-cut the ends to length. Take the frame down and glue and nail the strips to the top edge of the crown. Reinstall the assembly and caulk it along the ceiling.

 
 
 

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