Cutting Crown Molding Without Losing your Mind
DEAR TIM: I am losing my mind trying to cut crown molding. So far, I have wasted four long lengths. The joints look good once cut but when held up in the corners of the room there are huge gaps. I have a high quality power miter box saw so the problem is obviously operator error. Once cut right, how do you easily and securely fasten the crown molding to the walls and ceiling? I do not want to mess up my new paint job. Chuck W., Port Huron, MI
DEAR CHUCK: I must admit that this is one area of finish carpentry that is very similar to a magic show. I can't tell you how many homeowners have watched me and a helper install crown molding easily and quickly. Then, several months later, I get a frantic call from them as they are trying to mimic my performance. They are stuck just like you. Just like with most magic tricks, the secret is simple and it just takes a little practice to master the illusion. Soon you will amaze your friends and neighbors with your skill.
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But, if you want to actually see me install crown molding in all the same places while watching an action-packed interactive DVD that was filmed in High Definition, then you may want my Crown Molding DVD.
You are having trouble because you are cutting the crown molding in the same fashion as you probably cut baseboard or window or door casing. I can see why this happens. Baseboard trim and window and door case moldings are flat pieces of wood stock with a profiled face. Crown molding looks nearly identical. But look a little closer. Crown molding has small angled faces as well as a large flat spot on the back of the profiled face. This is done by design.
The angled cuts on the back of the trim are actually oriented at 90 degrees to one another. One of these surfaces is supposed to rest on the wall and the other one is intended to rest up against the ceiling. Take one of your ruined pieces of molding and cut a one foot long piece. Use the inside corner of a framing square to simulate the junction of your wall and ceiling. Hold the cut piece of crown molding inside the square to see what I mean. Note how the back of the crown molding does not touch the wall surface, just the small angled parts of the trim touch the ceiling and wall. Once you understand this relationship, the rest of the job is easy.
When you cut baseboard and window and door casing, you hold the wood in the saw a certain way. Your miter box has a flat machined table area and a vertical fence that you use as a guide. The vertical fence happens to be oriented at 90 degrees to the flat table surface. When you cut window and door casing you typically place the back of the trim on the table surface. When you cut baseboard you place the back of the trim against the vertical fence. You use the saw surfaces to simulate the wall surfaces of your home.
Take your scrap piece of crown molding and turn it up side down. Hold it against the saw table and the vertical fence so that the small angled areas on the back of the molding are tightly against each surface. Positioning the molding this way in the saw creates a hollow spot behind the molding - the same hollow spot that exists when the crown molding is in place up on the wall.
Set your saw at a 45 degree angle and make a test cut. After the cut is complete you will see that the bottom edge of the crown molding is the longest part of the molding. This is exactly what you want since the bottom of the crown molding dives into each wall corner while the top of the molding is shorter because it touches the other crown molding on the ceiling surface away from the corner.
|Click here to watch a video on cutting crown molding the easy way.|
I always install an angled filler strip along the entire length of each wall that fills up the hollow spot created by the angled crown molding. This strip is nailed to the horizontal top wall plate that can almost always be found just below the ceiling level behind the drywall or plaster. Drive a test nail about one half inch below the ceiling at random locations to see if you can find this top plate. With this strip in place you can easily and quickly nail the crown molding in place without using a divining rod or mystic powers to locate wall studs or ceiling joists.
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