How to Install Crown Molding: Cut, Cope & Hang

Project details

Skill

3 out of 5 Moderate Will occasionally make you groan in frustration, but ultimately can be mastered

Cost

$100 to $150 for an average room

Estimated Time

6 to 8 hours

American new-home buyers have been conditioned to settle for the stripped-down model of Home, Sweet Home—houses lacking in crafted detail, missing, among other things, the gracious moldings that bring a timeless sophistication to any room. Primary among these is crown molding. The good news: Crown molding can be added without a big bill from the lumberyard or clouds of drywall dust.

Crown Molding Overview

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

There are some basic rules for installing crown molding that you can pick up anywhere, but the best way to master them is to watch a pro. When we asked Tom Silva to show us how he puts up crown, his 40 years of experience became evident right away. For one thing, he seldom picks up a tape measure, marking his cuts in place whenever possible. "Measuring leaves you open to miscalculations," he says.

He also doesn't lay the molding flat to cut it. Cutting crown flat, though it might seem easier, requires a saw that lets you tilt the blade (for the bevel) and rotate it (for the miter angle). You also need a set of tables to know the correct angles for the cuts.

Instead, Tom uses a simple power miter saw and arranges the material so it sits against the saw fence at the same angle it will be nailed to the wall.

Although the molding has to be upside down in this method, a simple downward cut of the blade set at 45 degrees produces the perfect bevel and miter at once, as you'll see.

Steps for Installing Crown Molding

Installing crown molding, however, is a task that strikes fear in the heart of every amateur carpenter—and even some pros. Because it sits at an angle on the wall, each joint is made of compound angles. Getting it right requires a lot of patience, an aptitude for spatial relations, and a few tricks from an experienced pro.

Step 1: Make the First Scarf Cut

Photo by Kolin Smith

Step 2: Complete the Scarf Joint

Photo by Kolin Smith

Step 3: Determine Angle of Outside Corner

Photo by Kolin Smith

Step 4: Test the Angle Cuts

Photo by Kolin Smith

Step 5: Cut the Outside Miter

Photo by Kolin Smith

Step 6: Install the Molding on the Corner

Photo by Kolin Smith

Step 7: Make a 45-Degree Cut

Photo by Kolin Smith

Step 8: Cope the Edge

Photo by Kolin Smith

Step 9: Check the Fit

Photo by Kolin Smith

Step 10: Cut the Return

Photo by Kolin Smith

Step 11: Complete the Return

Photo by Kolin Smith

Tools:

Tools & Materials

  • Miter saw
  • Coping saw
  • Chalk line
  • hot glue gun
  • Rasp
  • Drill/driver
  • Hammer
  • Nailset
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