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Install Crown Moulding

An image of a home living and dining room with crown moulding and a chair rail.

Updated February 10, 2022

Brian G.

By Brian G.

Installing crown moulding, wall moulding or any other type of moulding is a great way to refresh or redefine a room. You'll need a miter-cutting saw, basic carpentry tools and some basic woodworking skills.

Note

Product costs, availability and item numbers may vary online or by market.

Note

Product costs, availability and item numbers may vary online or by market.

The Beauty of Crown and Decorative Moulding

Crown moulding is a wonderful way to transform any room. It adds instant character and a finishing touch to plain spaces. As a decorative element, you can use it not only on walls but on mantels, as chair rails, on top of cabinets, and over entryways and archways.

Locating, Cutting and Fitting Decorative Moulding

A miter saw set at a 45-degree angle to cut moulding.

General Tips

  • Start by cutting your décor moulding pieces a little long — you can always trim a little off, but once a piece is too short it can't be fixed.
  • Predrill holes for nails to avoid splitting the moulding.
  • If you use a power miter saw, use at least a 60-tooth blade.
  • In order to establish a level line for a chair rail, measure up from the floor to where the bottom of the chair rail will be and make a mark. Use a level as a straight edge and lightly draw a line around the room. As you install the chair rail, make sure it is even with this line.

Base and Chair Rail Corners

Lay the moulding with its back flat against the bottom of the miter box or the bed of the power miter saw. For inside corners, cut through the face at 45° so the edge of the cut is visible from the front. For outside corners, cut through the face at 45° so the edge of the cut is hidden from the front. Cut the pieces as mirrors to each other.

Crown Corners

For outside corners, use a power miter saw and set it as indicated in our crown moulding adjustment table below. For inside corners, you can either miter cut the pieces or cope them.

To miter the pieces, place the moulding so its top (the part that goes against the ceiling) is flat against the bottom of the miter box or bed of the power miter saw. The bottom (the part that goes against the wall) should be flat against the side of the miter box or the power miter saw's fence. Cut the pieces as mirrors to each other on 45° angles.

To cope the pieces, butt one piece tight against the wall and nail it in place. Place the second piece in your miter box or power miter saw as described above and cut the piece at 45° so the edge of the cut is visible from the front. Use a coping saw to cut a slight back angle following the contour of the exposed moulding profile. Test fit the coped cut and trim as necessary.

Splicing All Types of Moulding

When you are covering a span that is longer than your moulding, splice two pieces together with a scarf joint. Lay the moulding with its back flat against the bottom of the miter box or the bed of the power miter saw. On one piece, cut through the face at 45° so the edge of the cut is visible from the front. On the second piece, cut through the face at 45° so the edge of the cut is hidden from the front. The joint should meet over a wall stud or some other point where it can be nailed.

Tip

Decorative hardwood moulding can be installed in two ways. You can use the traditional installation method requiring miter, cope and scarf cuts or use the corner block installation method which allows you to install the moulding using only straight cuts.

Good to Know

Polyvinylchloride or PVC moulding can be used in place of wood moulding. This material can be cut and trimmed and modified just like wood moulding. However, it lasts longer and is waterproof, making it a top choice for bathroom wall moulding.

Determine How Much Moulding You Need

 An image of a living room with ivory walls, white crown moulding and baseboard moulding.

Measure the room at the height where each moulding goes to determine the number and length of the pieces you’ll need. Write these measurements down.

Architectural, prefinished, MDF and décor moulding usually come in 8-foot lengths. Divide your footage by eight and multiply that number by 1.1. The result is the total footage of moulding you need plus 10% waste. Complete this step separately for each type of moulding, base, chair rail and crown.

Standard unfinished wood moulding usually comes in 8-, 10- and 12-foot lengths. Looking at your list, calculate what lengths of moulding cover the area with the least waste. For example, if you have one wall that’s 6 feet and another that’s 5 feet, using a 12-foot piece of moulding yields both the 6-foot and 5-foot pieces, leaving only 1 foot of scrap moulding. However, if you use an 8-foot piece for the 6-foot wall and an 8-foot piece for the 5-foot wall, you’ll be left with 5 feet of scrap.

Apply Finish to Moulding

An image of a dark gray room with white crown moulding, chair rail moulding and baseboard moulding.

Apply the finish to decorative hardwood moulding before installing it. You'll save time because you can apply the finish faster. Find a dry, well-ventilated and dust-free area to apply the finish to your moulding.

Put down a dropcloth and apply the finish according to the manufacturers' instructions. Apply the finish to the moulding in the same order you intend to install the pieces. Then you won't have to spend as much time waiting for pieces to dry.

Good to Know

Set aside a small amount of the finish to touch up any raw edges.

Install the Moulding

Follow these steps to install moulding.

Instructions

Install Moulding With Corner Blocks

Corner blocks.

To make installing moulding even easier, there are corner blocks and divider blocks. These blocks eliminate the need to cope, miter or splice when installing your moulding. Installing MDF moulding using corner blocks is very similar to installing decorative hardwood moulding using corner blocks.

Instructions

Building Up Moulding

Built-up moulding is usually associated with intricate crown mouldings on vaulted ceilings or the ornate mantels of colonial mansions. Although those patterns may overpower the average home today, you can use the same techniques to design your own personalized moulding. Gather several sample profiles. Experiment with them until you find a profile you like.

Once you decide on the profile for your built-up moulding, determine which piece should go up first. Select the most rigid piece or a piece that butts to a rigid surface like the floor or ceiling. Starting with the most rigid piece ensures straight lines and eliminates the flex that smaller mouldings can have. Next, determine the order for installing the rest of the pieces.

Install the first piece as you would a single profile. Install each subsequent profile in its entirety before going on to the next.

How to Cut Crown Moulding

Here are the compound miter saw adjustments for cutting crown moulding.

Crown Moulding with 52° and 38° Edges Crown Moulding with 45° and 45° Edges
Wall Intersection Angle Miter Adjustment Bevel Adjustment Wall Intersection Angle Miter Adjustment Bevel Adjustment
85° 33.9 35.52 85° 37.66 31.42
86° 33.43 35.19 86° 37.17 31.14
87° 32.97 34.86 87° 36.69 30.86
88° 32.52 34.53 88° 36.21 30.57
89° 32.07 34.2 89° 35.74 30.29
90° 31.62 33.86 90° 35.26 30.00
91° 31.17 33.53 91° 34.79 29.71
92° 30.73 33.19 92° 34.33 29.42
93° 30.3 32.85 93° 33.86 29.13
94° 29.86 32.51 94° 33.40 28.83
95° 29.43 32.17 95° 32.94 28.54
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