Crown Molding for Dummies

For The Tennessean

Some home improvement projects should be left to the experts, such as adding a sunroom or window, putting on a new roof.

But with the new prefabricated corners by East Coast Millwork Distributors, any able-bodied homeowner with a saw and tape measure can install crown molding.

Traditional crown molding requires somewhat complex geometric thinking and the dreaded precision miter cuts (45-degree angles) to accomplish the three-dimensional curve that softens the angle from wall to wall. And though the prefab crown may not be your grandmother’s crown molding, it’s an attractive and much less expensive alternative to it.

Why do it? Because decorative wall trim adds so much elegance to your home for relatively little time and money. And a home with crown molding is more valuable than one without it.

The East Coast Millwork system is made of panels and decorative corner blocks, as well as plain prefab corners that fit together without having to make miter cuts. Just last month, Lowe’s and Home Depot got in the concave and convex corners and universal extenders.

“It’s actually a very new product. We’ve only had it for a little while,” Luke Bullock said of the molded corners and extenders. Bullock is a millwork expert at Lowe’s in Hermitage. “Sales are doing really well.”

In lieu of the molded corners, and to add spice, select any of the decorative “no miter” blocks that fit flush against the trim. They take some precise measuring but no 45-degree angles are required.

If you are planning to use traditional crown molding, it’s best to hire a professional, as expertise and time consumption is intense. For a 12-foot-by-12-foot room, expect to spend $150 to $160 on just materials.

“That is just the crown itself,” said Loren Lindsay, a professional independent carpenter.

Though Lindsay is also a songwriter, he doesn’t, as with most good craftsmen, work for a song.

“You can just about take the cost of your materials and double it for labor,” he says.

The materials in the prefab system cost less (see chart on Page 1D). Given that you already have a hammer and a ladder, the job for the same size room will run less than half the cost just for crown for the traditional job.

For starters, stain or paint all corner pieces or decorative blocks and let them dry. Install with finishing nails, use wood putty to fill the nail holes and let dry. Make sure the nails reach into the framing of the wall.

If you want the look of natural wood, the stainable millwork is a little more expensive, but the look is luxurious. Stain twice for desired effect.

If you have elected to use corner blocks, measure precisely from block to block remembering the adage, “Measure twice, cut once.” Using a stud sensor or simply tapping the walls, locate the studs and mark. If you have measured well, there should be no need to putty any gaps.

The prefab corners are considerably more forgiving. Measure from molded corner lip to lip, then add 1 1/4 inch in cutting the panel for the panel to slip neatly into the corners.

If the wall is longer than the length of the molding, the extension should be placed in the middle of the panel using a universal extension, which also requires no precision cutting or puttying.

Hammer in nails at studs until they are just above the surface of the wood. Then use a finishing nail placed on top of the nail in the panel and tap a few times to recess the nail without damaging the wood. Apply wood putty or caulking to fill in the holes over the nail heads. Let dry. Sand and touch up with the stain or paint.

For the neophyte handyperson, a room of this size should take about three or four hours, excluding painting and staining.

“Some people get intimidated by it because they think it’s a real craftsman-type job, and in all fairness it is,” Lindsay says. “But something like this isn’t all that complicated, because it eliminates the need for a miter saw and it looks pretty good.”

What it’ll cost you

Cost of materials at Lowe’s for one 12×12 room:

1 quart of stain $9.87OR1 quart of paint $10.98

1 box of finishing nails $2.23

1 can wood putty $2.50

4 12-foot panelsstainable 2 3/4 trim $14.76 OR4 12-foor panels primedpaintable 2 3/4 trim $11.04

4 pre-made cornerblocks (per piece) $3.94 OR4 pre-made corners(per piece) $6.82

TOTAL

(without tax) from $75-$105

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