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Three-Piece Crown Molding: Three Common Mistakes

You’re never too old to build models.

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

You should always build a model of the crown molding you want to install before you nail anything to your walls.

And even though I’ve installed this pattern in a dozen rooms over the years, I still built a model before installing it in our kitchen.

While I was in model building mode, I thought I’d make examples of the most common mistakes people make when designing a three-piece crown.  I’ve made them all myself, so my critique comes from having installed each version in my own home (in my early years), standing back and saying to myself, there’s something not right about this crown!

Unfortunately you’ll find examples of all three of these crowns on large and small DIY sites all over the internet.

Model #1:  Detail Repetition and Weak Cornice

The main problem here is molding repetition from the lower anchor up in the cornice.  The second problem is this tapering pattern creates a weak cornice, and I know you don’t want a weak cornice.

Crown Molding Model 1

Model #2:  Drop Shows too Much Reveal

This lower detail reveal shows too much flat, white space.  If the lower molding on this design were thicker and had more detail, it would be an OK design.  The cornice flat-stock is good thought.

unbalanced crown molding buildup

This lower detail, the “drop,” is just too long.

Model #3:  Cornice Too Thin

The flat-stock for this cornice is a bit too thin for my taste, but the lower detail is just right.

Crown molding model 1

This crown design is the least offensive of the three.

Model #4:  A Balanced Crown Molding Buildup

Having made all the above mistakes myself, I can assure you that this crown molding pattern looks best.

A balanced crown molding

A balanced crown molding design.

And this is the pattern we’re going to install in our kitchen. The next step is to clear out the room and start the installation.

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CROWN MOLDING-103 Installation Series

1.  How to Install CROWN MOLDING-103 for About $3.00/ft

2.  Crown Molding Limiting Factors

3.  Kitchen Crown Molding: Materials from Lowes $211.75

4.  Building a Crown Molding Model

5.  Preparing the Cornice Molding

6.  My Crown Molding Layout Techniques

7.  How to Install the Crown Molding Lower Detail

8.  How to Install the Crown Molding Cornice

9.  How to Install the Last Piece of Crown Molding

10. Before & After: Another CROWN MOLDING-103 Installation

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

6 Responses to Three-Piece Crown Molding: Three Common Mistakes

  1. Dave June 25, 2012 at 8:14 PM #

    I built a very small model (using some free 3-1/2″ molding samples) which look very similar to the components in your example — 3/4″ ogee profile colonial base, 4″ long ogee crown and 3/4″ flat stock for the cornice. The problem is that the 3/4″ flat stock cornice just looks “too thick”. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but did you use 1/2″ or 3/4″ flat stock for the cornice? I’m planning to build a 24″ model of this as well as one with a stepped cornice ( 2 layers of 1/2″ or 3/4″ flat stock). Perhaps the proper proportions will become more apparent with a larger model.


  2. Ken June 26, 2012 at 7:03 AM #


    I used FS-001 from Lowes for the flat-stock cornice in Model #4. It is 11/16″ thick.

    Building a larger model will help you quite a bit. Even better, when you’re pretty happy with your longer model, fill the nail holes, give it a coat of primer and then just tack it up to the ceiling and live with it for a few days.

  3. Dave June 27, 2012 at 6:28 AM #

    I’ll give it a try!


  4. Brad February 19, 2013 at 12:47 PM #


    Can you tell me what the reveals or projection/drop dimensions you used? I have the pieces cut for my model but I’d like to double check with what you use. Otherwise I’m holding a scale up to the computer screen.


  5. Ken February 20, 2013 at 11:32 AM #

    Here you go Brad:

    Projection Drop Reveal (just the flat portion, not the detail at the bottom) = 3/8″

    Cornice Projection = 1-1/4″

  6. Brad February 25, 2013 at 9:44 AM #

    Thanks Ken!

    I sent you an email.

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