Installing crown molding for the first time can be intimidating. You probably don’t know how to cut crown molding and don’t have much experience with coping and measuring walls for trim or molding.
Even if you’ve placed trim before, crown molding can be a bit confusing. Coping the corners isn’t exactly the same, and will take some extra preparation steps before you can jump right in.
Thankfully, we’ve compiled a step-by-step guide for installing crown molding. We’ve listed some of the materials you’ll need, some preparations steps, and finally, a walkthrough of the process. If you don’t like the idea of coping the pieces on your own, you can purchase corner blocks for the inside and outside corners of your walls.
What You’ll Need
You’re going to need a fair amount of materials to complete a DIY crown molding installation project. It’s best to come prepared, so you don’t have to stop what you’re doing and run to the store. Here’s a brief list of some of the tools and materials you should gather before starting the job:
Before the Job
The room in which you’re installing the crown molding isn’t going to look very nice while you’re completing the job. It’s a good idea to remove all of the furniture or anything else that might be in your way before you start the process.
Couches and chairs will get dusty, and you’ll be happy they were out of the way - even if it was a hassle to move them.
The floor is going to take a bit of a beating as well, and minimizing cleanup starts with covering carpet or hardwood before you start cutting and painting. Cover the carpet with drop cloths or use a tougher material on hardwood floors. Cardboard works well here, and you can usually find some laying around in your garage.
Another pro tip we can give you is to use a couple of stepladders. This will save time as you move around from wall to wall, measuring spaces and checking to see if each piece will fit properly.
Step 1: Preparation
Take the time to measure your walls and make an outline of the room where you’re going to install the crown molding. Piecing smaller sections together can be a headache, so it’s best to opt for crown molding pieces that will fit the length of your walls. You can always use your miter saw to cut the parts if they’re a bit too big.
You will likely also have to find the studs in your wall so you can nail the bottom edge of the crown molding into place. This will take some time, and it’s better to complete this step before getting underway. Finding studs throughout the process will take you longer and will disrupt your flow.
Use your chalk to mark the studs and ceiling joists for reference later. If you want to save yourself some painting work, you can put down a layer of masking tape beforehand. Put one layer on the ceiling and one on the wall, where a little over half of the tape will stick out beyond the crown molding.
You can remove the masking tape once you’re finished, and won’t have to worry about painting over your marks on the wall. Of course, if you’re already planning on painting the room, you won’t need to take this precaution.
Step 2: Install the Rails
Begin the installation of the rails by starting with the largest piece first. This is usually the hardest piece to deal with, so it’s smart to get it out of the way early. A lot of the smaller pieces rely on accurate cuts of the largest wall, so you need to set this piece in place first.
Use construction adhesive to hold them in place on the wall after you measure and cut your rail pieces. Using adhesive here will minimize the nail holes you’ll have to fill later. The few nails you end up using will hold the adhesive in place long enough for it to dry.
Use your miter saw to cut the trim at 45-degree angles for the corners. You’ll have to use a gauge price for this, since your walls likely aren’t completely square.
Step 3: Make a Gauge
A Gauge is one of the best ways to give yourself an understanding of how the crown molding will fit on the trim. Measure your crown molding at an angle, then cut two pieces of wood that you’ll use for your gauge. Nail them together so they represent the accurate size of the molding you’ll eventually use.
Next, use the gauge to mark the trim where the crown molding will sit. Use your carpenter’s pencil to make accurate markings, so you can refer to them later when you’re installing the finished product.
Step 4: Start Cutting
Measure the rail trim and cut a square piece of crown molding that will fit. This will be the first piece you install, and the one that dictates the rest of the crown molding placement.
You will cut your first piece square at both ends. All of the subsequent pieces you cut will be square on one end and coped on the other. Nail your first piece into place on the rail trim of your first wall. This should almost always be the longest wall in your room.
Step 5: Cutting Corners
The corners are always going to be the most difficult part of installing crown molding. Learning how to cut crown molding isn’t too tricky if you have a miter saw, but the corners are always going to be a bit of a pain. They aren’t like the pieces of trim you’ve already laid and require more precision and experience to cut accurately.
You’ll begin coping the corners by placing the crown molding face-down on your miter saw and cutting at a 45-degree angle. You can use the miter attachments that come with your saw or create your own to hold it in place. There’s a lot less room for error if you fasten your crown molding ahead of time.
After you’ve cut an outline of the corner, use your coping saw to finish the job. It might take a couple of tries if this is your first time laying crown molding, so don’t get discouraged. After some practice, it should come quite easily to you.
Once you’ve coped the proper end of the molding, put it in place on the wall and measure where you need to make your next cut. Mark this with a slash on the end with your carpenter’s pencil.
When you’re making your final cuts, make sure you cut until it’s a bit too long. You never want to cut too short, since you can always shave some off later but can’t add any back on.
Use your miter saw to shave tiny pieces off of the molding until it fits perfectly. You can use the edge of a utility knife to cut the pieces near the edges that are a hair too long.
Step 6: Finish the Job
Now that your crown molding fits snugly into place it’s time to finish the job. Sand-down the nail holes and paint the crown molding as you desire. Keep the tape there while you paint. But take care not to keep it on for too long. If the tape stays there for a long period, it will eventually pull away at the paint underneath.
Once you’ve finished everything, use a utility knife to carefully and gently cut along the crown molding. Then, you can pull the tape away without too much resistance.
Corner blocks are one of the ways to avoid using the miter saw and dealing with coping on the edges. You won’t have to worry about learning how to cut crown molding very much since these corner blocks take much of the skill out of the equation.
If you purchase corner blocks in the same place as your crown molding, you shouldn’t have an issue finding a match. These corner pieces look almost the same as an accurately cut piece of crown molding, but they’re a lot easier to work with.
It’s Not as Difficult as You Might Think
Cutting and placing crown molding in your home isn’t as difficult as you might think. There’s no need to hire professionals to complete this job when you can save some money and do it yourself.
The job will take some time - especially if it’s your first time cutting and placing molding - but the whole project shouldn’t take you more than a day or two. Once you’ve finished, your room will look a whole lot better, and you’ll realize that DIY tasks aren’t as difficult as you might think.
Check out some of our other DIY articles for tips on how to renovate your home while saving some money!