Archive for March, 2013

Crowning Achievement

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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Gimme Some Moore

Yes, that was a Busta Rhymes reference. Dude, that song was my junior year jam. And speaking of jams, our new nail gun is our latest. John’s totally ready to get his crown molding install on this weekend, assuming he can wrestle it out of my hands. Just gotta let these guys acclimate a little bit longer…

So while the crown molding gets to know our house a little better (and I dreamily gaze at it while whispering sweet nothings) we’re excited to share our 2013 Benjamin Moore paint picks! We’re a little tardy for the party with this – and a big thanks to everyone who has been asking about it! – but we just didn’t want to pull them out of a hat. So we took our sweet time finding the colors we wanted to marry. All 32 of them. It’s going to be the wedding of the century, guys.

We thought it would be fun to toss out some more specific ideas for using a few of our picks right in this post, so here’s one now:

And here’s another one (you’ll find four more peppered throughout the post).

Some of the colors in the collection are tried and true tones that we’ve already used, some are colors that we’ve eyed forever, and some are colors that we used for our book (so we’ve seen those in action as well). You can check out all of our colors here (if you told us five years ago that we’d end up on the Benjamin Moore website, we’d have laughed at you for five minutes, gained our composure, and laughed at you for five more). And you can pop over to view our collection whenever you’d like by following this little sidebar button of ours…

We’ve been using Benjamin Moore colors for around half a decade, and we’ve been buying their actual paint since 2011 (we first tried it out on our office built-ins), so when they invited us to curate a collection of our favorite colors last year, it was pretty much a dream of ours. And jumping back in to choose 32 new colors for 2013 was just as much fun. This partnership is just like any other side gig that helps pay the bills – like writing a magazine column or our book – except we get to play with paint chips for this one, so… yeah buddy.

Our process was pretty simple. If by simple you mean splaying out 561 paint swatches (you think I’m kidding) in order to choose our favorite 32 colors. It was beautiful chaos, I tell ya. And I loved every undertone-investigating minute of it.

The goal is simple too. We just hope anyone out there who’s overwhelmed by a giant wall full of swatches will find comfort in a smaller collection of favorites to peruse and potentially use in their home. And we hope that some of the suggestions spattered throughout this post get your motors running. You know, in that exciting I-want-to-paint-something-right-this-second way. Or in that I-want-to-paint-something-but-first-I-need-a-marshmallow way. Either one.

And since we’re on the subject of color, have you guys used any paint colors that you’ve loved lately? Do you keep a little folder of your favorite swatches? Or a pinterest board full of ‘em? How do you keep track of them all?

When we were choosing this collection we discovered that cutting out swatches individually and laying them all out on a neutral background (dark charcoal colored Karl, haha!) was a great way to see how they all worked together. And it helped us “balance” things by being sure we had enough dark choices, bold ones, neutrals, and soft and serene colors that weren’t too bright or too neutral. In short: if you have a few spare weekends and a neutral colored sofa, I highly recommend playing around with paint swatches instead of watching TV. Seriously, it’s right up there with a marathon of The Walking Dead (albeit a lot less bloody).

Psst- We picked a winner for this week’s giveaway, so you can find out if it’s you right here.

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