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Archive | Crown Molding

This category includes all posts that have anything to do with crown molding.

Example of Expensive Crown Molding Separating at Scarf Joints

The Willits

[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]

The Problem

Buildings are designed to expand and contract with changes in temperature and humidity. And because rooms breath over the seasons, the crown moldings — if not properly installed — will separate at the joints where two piece are spliced together.

For example, the room in the image above is the lobby of one of the most sought after addresses in Birmingham, Michigan. The moldings were all professionally installed back in 2002 when the building opened.

And yet once or twice every year, the crown moldings have to be re-caulked to hide the 1/8 inch gaps that appear at all of the splices.

crown molding scarf joint

Above  A crown molding scarf joint that’s been pushed up and over its mating piece.

Below  This scarf joint (along with all of the others in the building) was filled with caulk only four months ago and yet has already separated.

crown molding joint

Two Crown Molding Scarf Joint Tips

1. Install a three-piece crown molding instead of a single piece. Here are two posts I’ve already written that will help you get started: Why I Don’t Install One-Piece Crown Moldings and How to Install a Three-Piece Crown Molding Series.

2. Use a 45 degree miter for your scarf joint rather than a 22 degree miter. The example above shows a 22 degree miter. When glueing the two pieces together at the joint, the 45 degree miter gives you more surface area to hold the two pieces together. Also, a 45 degree scarf joint allows you to sink a few 23 gauge pins across the joint to help hold it in place.

Hope this helps you with your own crown molding installation!

Before & After: CROWN MOLDING-103 Installation

before crown molding

[This is part of my How to Install CROWN MOLDING-103 series.]

The traditional style crown molding I installed in this boy’s room, complete with these toy airplanes hanging from the ceiling, is a classic design that’s an appropriate style for the majority of homes in North America.

But I warn you, crown molding is the gateway drug to the permanent condition of wanting to upgrade all the moldings in your home, once you see a nice three-piece crown molding like this one installed in your very own home!

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Crown Molding Hanging Return in Historic Home

crown molding

[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]

In The Allen House, 1928

In my continuing effort to show you historic examples of the molding design and installation techniques I preach about here on The Joy of Moldings, I give you what I call a hanging crown molding.

This one I found recently while touring Birmingham, Michigan’s, historic Allen House.

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Crown Molding & Corner Blocks: Do This Not That

crown molding corner block

Photo courtesy of Greg Roth.

[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]

Warning, Offensive Molding Post Ahead. Sort Of.

You know those decorative little boxes with a piece of crown molding glued and stapled (poorly) to the bottom that you can buy at Home Depot or Lowes Home Improvement?

You know the ones, the ones you stick in the corner of your room so you don’t have to miter your crown molding corners?

Yep, those things.

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CROWN MOLDING-107: Another Flying Crown Molding Idea

flying crown molding

Photo courtesy of Greg Roth.

[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]

This room is a gallery in the Detroit Institute of Arts that has a vaulted ceiling. I chose to post this today because it’s such a beautiful example of what a few simple moldings can do for your great room.

Let’s Strip: A Visualization Exercise

You may think this dramatic example does not translate to a design that is applicable to your humble home. But it does.

Try this:

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Bathroom Crown Molding. Here? Really?

bathroom crown molding

[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]

When most rest area bathrooms are strictly utilitarian, this one, just outside Grand Rapids, Michigan, is graced with crown molding!

I was totally shocked.

A friend and I stopped here on our way to ArtPrize, and in my usual manner when entering any room, I looked up.

The checkered tile pattern is in no way complimentary to the traditional ogee crown molding they installed, but I still have to give the state an “A” for going to the effort at making this nice, clean rest area as nice as they could.

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Half Bathroom Renovation: Crown Molding Design Change

Covering My Mistake with This New (and Better!) Design

crown molding

The crown molding model I made based on design elements from our new light fixture.

[This is part of Our Molding Makeover series  and my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]

Find Inspiration in Your Furniture, Lamps and Other Decor

A good place to find design inspiration for your moldings is in the decorations you already own, or the ones you’re planning on buying for that room.

Look for details that you can repeat in your moldings like scrolls, scallops, and, in our case, a series of flat steps.

It was the flat steps on the base of this light fixture that solved the crown molding design issue I’ve been wrestling with for two months.

Ever since I made that fatal, yet fortunate, installation mistake.

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How to Terminate Flying Crown Molding on This Vaulted Ceiling

vaulted ceiling crown molding

Where should the flying crown molding terminate on this vaulted ceiling?

[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]

The Problem: How to Terminate the Crown Molding?

Allison recently discovered my No Crown Moldings on Vaulted Ceilings post, and is now a flying crown molding convert.

She asked if I have any suggestions for terminating the crown molding on this interior elevation.

I think I have just the thing for this, Allison — a simple, elegant solution!

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What Molding Do I Use for Flying Crown Molding Lower Detail?

crown molding on cathedral ceiling

An ogee molding is an excellent companion for this style crown molding.

[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]

Gina Asks:

My husband and I want to install a flying crown molding in our vaulted master bedroom.  We’ve already selected a 4″ crown. 

However, we’re unsure of what additional trim pieces to buy to finish the bottom part of the crown.

Will you tell us what pieces we need to purchase to complete this project?

Thanks, Gina

Ken’s Answer

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Dave’s Kitchen Crown Molding Challenge

stained kitchen crown moldings

Photo 1. Dave’s kitchen. Open floor plans present challenges transitioning moldings between rooms.

[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]

Other Posts in Dave’s Series

  1. Dave’s Kitchen Crown Molding Challenge
  2. Dave’s Foyer Moldings
  3. Corner Blocks for Dave’s Living Room & Foyer Archways


I’ve read most of your website and am grateful to both you and Jennifer for what you have shared.

I’ve completed much of the remodeling on the first level of our home, but we’re having difficulty in making decisions on moulding.

For the last 35 years we’ve had 2.25″/3″ stained pine/casing baseboard, and we now want to replace it with a variety of much larger, white-painted mouldings.

Your website helped convince us that painted white mouldings are the way to go!

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How to Install Crown Molding on Vaulted or Cathedral Ceilings

This Page Shows You Five Examples of Crown Moldings on Vaulted Ceilings

crown molding for cathedral ceilings

[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]

Making My Case for Flying Crown Moldings

It was the worst crown molding installation I’d ever seen.

And in a neighborhood that counted Eminem, Kid Rock and the guy that invented the bar code on its tax rolls, making the molding carnage seem that much more absurd.  It looked like scrap lumber hammered in place by unsupervised, sugared-up ten-year olds.  Carpentry more befitting a tree house than a million-dollar showplace.

“We normally build decks,” the carpenter said, as he led me through the garage and into the great room of the house next to the one I was working on.  As we walked I glanced down at the decrepit table saw they were using, and thought to myself that I’d better prepare my best, Jeepers-that-looks-swell! face, because this isn’t going to be pretty.

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How to Return a Crown Molding to the Wall

how to cut crown molding corners

Learn how to make a hanging crown molding return, step by step.

[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]

Chances are there’s at least one corner of your home that will need the crown molding returned to the wall.  If you don’t know how to return a crown to the wall, fear not, I’ll show you how.

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Four Ways to Terminate a Crown Molding

dentil crown molding buildup diy

A four-piece dentil crown molding buildup returned to the wall before a bay window.

[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]

There are four ways to terminate a crown molding in a room where you can’t simply finish the crown at its starting point.

  1. Hanging Return
  2. Molding Dissolve
  3. Corbel Return
  4. Finial Return

Here are examples of each.

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Why I Don’t Install One-Piece Crown Moldings

one single crown molding installation issues

Is this really what you want?

[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]

Most questions and comments I’m asked can be traced to the problems and frustrations people face when installing single-piece crown moldings.

And I totally feel your frustration.  Remember, I was the guy installing his fist single-piece crown molding with a plastic miter box, hammer and a lot of colorful language, too.  It’s only now — from the lofty perch of having done this sort of thing for myself and others since 1992 — that I present this perspective:

  1. The majority of popular tips for installing crown molding are for “quick and easy” projects, but are not necessarily the kind of tips that will result in a rock-solid installation with the best possible finish.
  2. We’ve had nearly one-hundred years of “quick and easy” molding installations, and most of us are not satisfied with the results.  We want something better, and that desire has led you to this page.

Before you read further, remember that you’re reading a blog written by a guy who considers moldings to be the most important part of decorating a home.

Never say Never.  Except For This One Thing

If you’ve read even a couple of my blog posts you’re probably not surprised that I have lots of self-imposed rules when it comes to designing, installing and painting moldings — especially crown moldings.

Problem is, I’ve been following some of my little rules for so long that I’ve forgotten why I’ve become so rigid on a particular point.  I’ve forgotten that moment long ago when I said to myself, “Well, I”m never doing that again.”

One of those things I’m never doing again is install a one-piece crown molding.  Here’s why.

Crown Molding Joint Separation

I was a brand new independent finish carpenter and had just installed what the customer wanted, a one-piece crown molding in her early 70s ranch home.

For structural and aesthetic reasons only, not because of the higher price, I had suggested a three-piece crown for her living room.  I told her that the temperature and humidity changes causes a house to expand and contract, and that will mean the joints in the crown would eventually open up and need to be re-caulked.

This will be ongoing, I said, annual molding maintenance.  But she wanted the small crown, and so got what she wanted.

Crown Molding Nailers

I installed her crown by the book: a beveled 2×4 nailer behind the crown glued and nailed to the studs; bottom of crown nailed to the studs and, my own addition, glue all molding contact surfaces and joints with Liquid Nails molding adhesive.

My Moment of Zen

The call came quicker than I thought.  Within a month she was beside herself, because, as you may have guessed, changing temperatures caused faint separation at some of the joints in her crown.

I returned to the home, caulked and repainted the joints, and all the while I was telling myself, “I’m never going to install another one-piece crown again.”

So that was the last single-piece crown molding I was going to install without a signed waiver acknowledging the joint separation issue.  And during a good economy, rather than deal with the issue at all, I simply stopped installing single-piece crowns, three-pieces became my starter crown.

And you know what?  None of the joints in all of the three-piece crowns I’ve installed since have ever came apart.

My Defense of Three-Piece Crowns


Let’s be honest here, properly designed three-piece crowns are just nicer to look at.  They are powerful.  Complete.  It’s not that a single-piece of crown is inherently wrong in any way.  Single-piece ogee crowns are common in the practical, frontier simplicity of Colonial/Georgian style American homes.

But my own taste in historic homes comes from the grandure of post-Colonial architecture.  I love the elaborate townhouses of Boston, Manhattan, Chicago, London and Paris; I love the Victorian mansions of rural North America, and especially the south’s Greek Revival mansions.

For simple interiors, I much prefer Craftsman style moldings over Colonial.


It takes almost as much work and costs almost as much money to properly install a one-piece crown molding as it does to properly install a three-piece crown molding.  (See Kitchen Crown Molding: Materials from Lowes)

For instance, the 8′ 2 x 4 you’ll need for nailers are not cheap any more, they cost nearly as much as an 8′ long pre-primed mdf baseboard molding that can be used for your lower crown detail.

The lower detail need only be glued and nailed to the wall.  Whereas the 2 x 4 you’ll have to rummage through the stack at the lumber yard to find some that are reasonably straight, then you’ll have to rip them on your table saw so they have the right spring angle bevel, then you’ll have to install them with screws and heavy-duty construction adhesive, and only then can you layer the single crown molding on top.

Then you hope and pray the joints don’t open up when the seasons change.

With all that work, cost and joint uncertainty, why not just go with a nice three-piece crown?

Anatomy of a Three-Piece Crown

stacked crown molding in kitchen

  1. Lower detail is glued and nailed to the room studs
  2. Cornice is glued and nailed to the ceiling
  3. Crown molding detail has an even, rigid surface between ceiling and wall to be glued and nailed to

I think the force of an expanding and contracting house is distributed more evenly through all three pieces of moldings, rather than being expressed at just a few weak spots that can cause your crown to separate.

I’ve installed a lot of three-piece and larger crown moldings over the years, and they have not separated at the joints, even under the stress of large, tall expanding and contracting great rooms.

How to Install a Three-Piece Crown Molding

We recently installed a nice, traditional style crown molding buildup in our kitchen, so if you want to review some very detailed step by step instructions on how to install a three-piece crown, there’s no more complete set of instructions on the web.

Our Kitchen Molding Makeover

Homework Assignment

Between now and the time you make your final decision, take special notice of the crown moldings you encounter in model homes, older homes for sale, B&Bs, hotels, grocery stores, banks — you’ll see them everywhere — and ask yourself:

  • Is the crown large and detailed enough to make a real contribution to the room?
  • Are the inside corner joints separating?
  • Are the outside corner joints separating?
  • Can you see where two pieces of crown were spliced together in the middle?
  • Does it look like the joints have been caulked and re-caulked for years on end?
  • Is the crown molding bowing away from the wall?
  • What’s the finish like?
  • Can you see unfilled nail holes through the paint?
  • Are there heavy beads of caulk where the crown meets the ceiling and wall?

The Most Important Thing: It’s All About You

What I really want is for you to be supper-happy with whatever crown you install, large or small.

Installing a single-piece crown the right way is a lot of work, and installing a three-piece crown is a little more.  And in my experience people are happier with their home when they install a larger crown.

Not once has someone said they wish they’d gone with the smaller crown.  In fact, only the opposite is true.

[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]


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