How To Install Crown Molding Yourself

We’ve successfully added crown molding to Clara’s bedroom and I’m feeling quite proud. *pats self on back*

My last attempt at installing crown was a bit of a rough ride. It still turned out just fine, but a combination of factors (being tired from book shoots, being short on materials, it being my first time, etc, etc) nearly made me swear off installing crown molding ever again. But I’m glad I didn’t because this time it went much more smoothly and the results are well worth the effort.

So let me back up, tell you how I did it, and explain why crown molding went from one of my most dreaded projects to one I’ll surely be doing again.

First, I purchased my materials and let them sit in our house for a week so the wood could acclimate to our home (the key is letting it expand or contract before it’s on the wall, since if you nail it in and then it contracts or expands on the wall you’re left with cracked or bowed molding). I bought the standard 3 5/8″ crown from Lowe’s because it appears to be what the previous owners installed in our other rooms (every room except for the guest bedroom, playroom, and Clara’s room have crown already – so we thought finishing off those spaces would make the whole house feel equally upgraded).

Each 8ft, pre-primed piece was about $9.50 so, including a couple of extras to cover my butt, my total material cost was $72 (I ended up getting to return some, but I’ll get to that soon enough).

The other thing I bought at Lowe’s was the Kreg Crown-Pro. I had read great reviews of it and considering my love of the Kreg Jig, I figured it was worth the $30 price tag to give it a go. Spoiler alert: I love this thing (perhaps it and my Jig can be sister wives or something). And no, they haven’t twisted my arm to say this. They don’t even know I bought it yet.

Once assembled (which takes all of five minutes) it looks like this. It’s basically a platform on an adjustable angle so you can cut your crown molding at the same angle that it will sit against the wall. Sounds simple, and it is, but this is a huge help when it comes to cutting crown (it was getting my wood to stay at this angle while cutting it last time that gave me hours of trouble).

To find the angle the cutting guide should be set at Kreg includes an Angle-Finder tool so you can determine the “spring angle” – or the angle at which the crown tips away from your wall. Apparently most moldings sit at either 38°, 45° or 52°. Mine was 38°.

Then you just use the red guide on the underside of the Crown Pro to match. Now the cutting guide is ready to help you cut.

But to get my saw ready to cut, I had to figure out the angles on my walls because – as anyone who has looked carefully at their walls before knows – not every corner is exactly 90°. And these not-quite-right angles can mess you up if you’re not careful. Thankfully the Kreg kit also comes with a handy little Angle-Finder tool.

So after measuring and recording every angle, I could figure out how my miter saw should be turned to give me the right cuts. Luckily most of my corners were very close to 90°, so I could set my saw at 45° (half of 90°) for pretty much everything. For the non-so-perfect corners there was a bit of extra math involved that I won’t get into here because it depends on how your particular saw is labeled, but the instruction booklet that came with the Kreg has a great illustration for this.

And while I was on a roll, Sherry helped me take precise length measurements from corner-to-corner along each wall of the room using a tape measure (this went MUCH faster with an extra set of hands, btw). So definitely try to recruit someone else to help you measure from corner to corner along the ceiling line (as opposed to measuring along the floor and assuming the ceiling’s the same, since often times it’s not).

Another thing that I was constantly getting mixed up last time I tried to tackle crown molding was exactly which direction I should be cutting the wood. Which way does my saw go? Which side of the blade do I put the wood on? For some reason my brain doesn’t visualize it very well, especially when having to mentally toggle between cutting inside corners and outside corners (of which Clara’s room has both, gah!).

Luckily, the Kreg tool helped me out there too. Right on the guide there are some little stickers that show how your blade should be angled and where you should place your wood to get each of the four most popular cuts. Life saver.

The other important thing I was reminded from the Kreg instruction book is that when cutting a piece of crown molding you have to turn it upside down, so that the bottom (the part that sits against the wall) faces up. I totally would’ve forgotten this had I not read the instructions.

So with my measurements all taken, my Crown Pro all set up, and my saw blade angled I was finally ready to get cracking, er, crowning (er, nevermind, that sounds like I was giving birth – and I’m pretty sure birth doesn’t involve this much sawdust).

In addition to my Kreg taking the guess work out of cutting, the other thing that made this crown project ten billion times easier was having my nail gun (the one we bought to install board & batten last week). I can’t even begin to describe how long it took me to hammer in all of the nails by hand for our last crown installation adventure, so just going pop-pop-pop with the nail gun was the best feeling in the world.

I think it took me just about 2 hours to get all of the molding cut and nailed in place this time. Which is a miracle considering last time it took me two hours just to figure out how to make my first cut. And all-in-all, things turned out quite nicely in my opinion. Here’s an un-caulked corner for your viewing pleasure.

One shortcoming of the Kreg tool is that it doesn’t really address scarf joints – the ones where two pieces of crown meet along a straightaway, not at a corner. This happens when your wall is longer than your piece of molding and – since I could only fit eight foot pieces in my car – I had three of these joints in the room. Luckily I was able to figure it out on my own pretty quickly, but I did screw up a couple of pieces because the Kreg guides hadn’t made that part as dummy-proof as the rest of it.

Since the actual installation didn’t take me nearly as long as I thought, we even had time before Clara needed her room back (for the ever-important nap) that we could get our caulking done. We just used white paintable Dap caulk (made for windows, doors, and moldings) to fill all of the seams (like those pictured above) along with nail holes. We also ended up caulking the line where the molding meets the ceiling (even if though there wasn’t a noticeable gap, it made it look a lot more seamless to do that around the entire room).

See, much better. And the stuff isn’t even painted yet!

So yeah, I do still have to paint it – since there are some parts where the primer is pretty scuffed up – but even still, we’re very happy with the results and, as Clara would say after she uses the potty successfully, “I’m so proud.”

Oh yeah, and since I didn’t need all eight of the pieces that I purchased (I only had to cut into one of my back-up pieces for that confusing-at-first scarf joint) our material cost ended up being $67. Add the cost of the Kreg Crown Pro ($30) put my total project cost at just $97. Not bad! We’ve seen enough house listings that say “crown molding throughout” to know that it’s a nice selling point – and now we’re one room closer to a fully crowned house.

With my new found crown-fidence (see what I did there?) I’m gonna tackle Clara’s big girl room, the guest room, and even our freshly board & battened hallway so that every room in the house (except for closets, bathrooms, and our little laundry nook) will have crown molding. And who knows, I might just go crazy and do those at some point if I’m craving some quality nail gun time. Well, probably not the closets…

Does anyone have any tricks to their crown molding installations that they’d like to pass on? Or have you had a similarly discouraging first experience with crown, only to crack the crown molding code on your second attempt?

 

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