I’ve never lived in a house with crown molding. We had plans to add it to our previous home, but assumed it was too expensive and time-consuming to add to our ever-growing to-do lists. After doing my research for this house, I discovered that we could have done the whole house for less than $500 (perhaps far less depending on size)—not exactly pocket change but not as earth-shattering as I had built it up in my mind. In fact, I was so intimidated by the idea of crown molding that I couldn’t fathom a price—only that it was out of our range. In hindsight, I might have been a little more open to installing crown—at least in key areas to add character.
In the farmhouse, we chose to install crown molding only downstairs because each room upstairs has at least one sloped ceiling that would make installation difficult (to say the least) for us beginners. We opted for 5-inch crown so the ceiling height wouldn’t dwarf the molding, causing it to virtually disappear. We also painted the trim white and the adjacent walls and ceilings in shades of gray to help set off the molding.
When it came time to install, our green horns started to show: We hadn’t accounted for the fact that we would need nailers in the ceiling, long spans of wall in the open floor plan left no margin for error, and we hadn’t considered how to transition the molding from ceiling to open stairwell. Oops!
The first of our blunders was a fairly easy fix—as most of the areas were accessible from the attic and could be easily installed there.
The other two issues? Well, not so easy it turns out. When you have a long run of wall and add crown to it, the moldings make any imperfections in drywall installation that much more noticeable, as was the case for the east wall in our dining area, which has the slightest bit of wave to it. (You might recall that we hired out the drywall installation, so we hadn’t even realized it happened until it came time to install the moldings.) You can often use paint to camouflage the imperfections, which a friend’s mom did in her 100-plus-year-old farmhouse. Instead, we decided to forgo crown molding in the main room, thereby saving a little money by returning the unused moldings for a credit at the mill.
Tip: Select a molding size and profile that your local mill keeps in stock to save money and make it easy to return any excess.
Photo by Stephanie Staton
The room that leads to the stairwell, aka my office, held its own set of challenges. A wall abruptly ends on one side for the stairs and another ends in an angled ceiling below the stairs—you know where I’m going with this, right? We also chopped this area from the crown list, which basically means that we put the moldings in a little more than half the downstairs area, restricting it to the bathrooms, laundry and bedrooms. (In case you’re scratching your head about the laundry, it’s also a main entry point to the house, so I want it to look inviting. Plus, as main laundry facilitator, I like having a pretty room in which to complete the never-ending washing duties—to each her own, I suppose.)
While I’d love to have crown molding throughout the house, I find that these areas offer the biggest bang for the buck and will serve well until we’re ready to tackle (or not) the larger areas down the road.
Confession: Because my husband and I were completely oblivious to the crown-molding installation process, he called in more-experienced friends, co-workers and friends of friend to help us. I highly recommend getting advice for cutting and measuring from someone with experience before you consider doing a project this yourself. If you’re not comfortable with DIY installation, consider hiring a pro—just be sure to add that to your overall budget. Your local mill can probably offer leads for professional installers in your area.
The crown adds to the period feel of the house, and I honestly find myself just staring at it in awe of the effect it can have on a space.
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