Friday, July 23, 2010

Turn that Crown Upside Down

I know what you are thinking......since I enjoy spirited drinks......turn that Crown Royal upside down....right?  Well, not exactly.

This past weekend I put up crown molding at a family member's house.  About a month ago, this family member steamed the 1980's wall paper off, scraped the textured ceiling, sanded, and began the process of painting.  For the finishing touch I was recruited for to do some trim work because I was told I have a lot of patience.  As an added bonus I only charge for the materials, so the labor was free.  

Let me say that prior to this, my only true experience with molding was quarter round which I put down in my own house after I laid laminate flooring. I say crown molding, but it was actually called a bed mold, which isn't quite as wide as a true crown mold.  The molding was to be put up in a bathroom.  The bathroom was separated into two parts.  One part of the bathroom houses a closet and the vanity area, the other contains another small vanity and the shower/toilet.

My only conditions for doing the job was that the family members let me do the work when they were going to be out of town.  I work better when I'm by myself (no backseat drivers so-to-speak). This is because my so-called patience works best when I can yell and curse with nobody else around.  There is always at least one atomic meltdown with any project I work on........society and my family members are best served if they don't have to experience an event like this.

After measuring the room, I visited our local big box hardware store where I purchased a quantity of eight, 8' sections of primed bed mold strips.  I also bought a box of 2" finishing nails, two tubes of multi-purpose white caulk (paintable), and a small container of wood filler. Total out-of-pocket expense: $68.00 with tax.  I will note that I already had a miter saw, hammer, nail set, stud finder, cordless 18v drill, measuring tape, caulk gun, and sanding sponge.

Anyone who has done crown molding will tell you that the toughest part of the job is the cuts.  As I learned from the internet, when you cut the molding you have to pretend that the base of the miter saw is the ceiling and the fence of the saw is the wall.  Essentially, you are "turning that crown upside down" when you make the cuts.  I don't remember seeing that phrase, but it seems clever enough.  The cuts are 45 degree angles.  The longest part of the strip should be the bottom of the mold. So when you use your wall measurements you will be measuring the longest part of the molding (the top if you already have your crown turned upside down).

The old saying with woodworking goes, measure twice, cut once.  For this project, I measured twice and cut a bunch of times.  I always left the strip longer than my measurement showed and gently shaved down the edge  with the miter saw until it is a perfect fit.  This is time consuming, but well worth it when it comes to the final product.  You want to leave very little in terms of gap where you joints are going to come together.  In fact you want them to fit together in a tight seam......if possible.  My only rule from here is to cut your strips to length as you get to them.......don't pre-cut all of the material to length.  Go one-piece at a time.

In the room, I found studs in the wall using a stud finder and lightly marked them with a pencil. I would then bring in the strip, cut to length (the molding strip should be trimmed as needed for the perfect fit).  I put the strip up on the wall and used my light marks on the wall as a guide where I should put some light marks on the molding.  Note: don't worry about the light marks, it is nothing that some Soft-Scrub and a damp cloth or paper towel can't handle.  Once I had those marks on the molding strip, I used a drill bit (slightly smaller than the finishing nail) to drill holes in the molding.  This keeps the molding from splitting when you start hammering in the nails.

I started at the left of each corner, firmly pressing the molding against the wall and ceiling.  Start hammering in your first nail until it bites and holds the molding in place.  Then hammer in the next nail until the same point.  You have to be careful when hammering that you don't miss the nail and damage the ceiling, wall, or molding.  I continue all the way down the strip to my last nail.  When finished, I then return to each nail with a tool called a nail set.  This tool allows you to finish driving the finishing nail into the molding without damaging the molding itself.  Also, when the nail becomes flush with the molding, you can continue driving the nail into the molding until it goes below the surface.  These tiny holes can be covered up using wood filler later.  Also, the molding is going to get dirty from your hands which have been touching the nails or from grease.  That Soft-Scrub and damp cloth will get it right off.  Soft-Scrub is actually one of my FAVORITE cleaners to use on paint that gets dirty.

After I had each room done, I then went back and used a dab of wood filler on each nail hole and in the corners to seal any gap between the joints (in the angles).  While that dries, I moved to caulk the top of the molding (along the ceiling) and the bottom (along the wall). Let me say that I probably hate caulking more than anything.  I can't make beautiful seams and I'm messy.  Well, the key here is that I use two old tee shirts.  I wet one, keep the other dry and over my shoulder.  I use one to wipe excess caulk off the tip of the tube and the wet one to wipe caulk off my fingers which builds up when I run my fingers down the seams I just caulked.  Sometimes I even find that it doesn't hurt to go wash your hands several times in the process either to get the excess off.  This may keep you from smudging up your

The next step is to take the sanding sponge back to each nail hole and sand the wood filler down the the surface. The same goes for any wood filler you may have used in the corners....sand it down.  In the end you will have shavings EVERYWHERE........on any ledges, shelves, carpet, etc..... No worries that is why vacuums exist, right?  I went back into the corners with caulk after sanding and applied caulking to the seams so that it matched the rest of the caulking job.

Finishing touches......I left it up to the family member to touch up the paint between the wall and molding.  In hind-sight I should have recommended me putting up the molding before they put on their final coat.  However, they will just have to touch up the blue paint at the top up to the caulk seam where some caulk smeared.  I also left applying the final coat of bright white paint on the molding up to them.  

Just a few final thoughts.  Not ever corner in a room is square and not every ceiling is flat.  This can change the angles slightly from that 45 degrees we talked about earlier.  In fact, most are far from perfect 90 degree angles that can be split into perfect 45's.  These imperfect angles and ceilings can also leave your joints shorter than you like leaving small gaps between in the corners where the joints (angles meet). You may have to adjust your angles.  But with wood filler, and caulk that can be painted, those imperfections can be covered up and no one with an untrained eye will ever know.

Let me know if you have any questions, suggestions, or tips for next time.

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