Project Guide

How to Install Crown Moulding

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Plan Your Installation
Person installing a piece of crown moulding flush with the wall and ceiling
  • Start on the wall opposite the door (wall 1 in diagram) and install a piece that’s square at both ends. This presents the best (and easiest to cut) side of the joint to anyone entering the room.
  • The moulding on the second wall (2) is coped where it meets the installed moulding, and square where it meets the other wall.
  • The third wall (3) is treated the same way, and the fourth wall (4) is coped at both ends.
Measure the Room and Mark the Stud Locations
Person marking wall with a pencil for crown moulding installation

Locate the studs with a stud finder and make faint pencil marks high on the wall (where they won't be covered by moulding) to guide you as you nail.

Put the Moulding Against a Framing Square
Person putting moulding against a framing square for crown moulding installation
  • Put the moulding against a framing square noting the distance between the face of the moulding edge and the corner.
  • Cut a scrap of lumber to the correct dimension and draw layout lines on the wall and ceiling.
  • When you install the moulding, align it with the layout lines.
Begin at the Wall Opposite the Door
Person drilling holes to nail crown moulding in place
  • Begin at the wall opposite the door and cut moulding to that length.
  • Mark the locations of the studs by holding the moulding in place and transferring the marks onto the moulding.
  • To prevent splitting, drill pilot holes the diameter of the finishing nails.
  • Drill holes at each mark at the top and bottom of the moulding and nail in place.
Lay out the Cope Joint
Person marking measurements with a pencil to lay out a cope joint
  • Lay out the cope joint on a second piece of moulding and start with a piece that’s a few inches longer than the finished length and flex it in place.
  • At the end that you'll cope, draw a line in the general direction you'll cut at roughly a 45-degree angle.
Set up the Miter Saw
A miter saw used to install crown moulding
  • When first learning how to cut crown moulding, position the moulding so that the ceiling edge is flat on the bottom of the miter box and the wall edge is tight against the fence.
  • Set the saw to cut at 45 degrees in the general direction of the line you drew in Step 5. (If the blade and line won't come close to aligning, turn the moulding upside down and try again.)
  • Cut a miter close to the end.
Undercut along the Profile with a Coping Saw
Person using a coping saw to undercut along the profile of a piece of crown moulding
  • Look at the face of the moulding. The miter cut exposed the profile of the moulding, outlined in this picture in pencil. Cutting away the excess wood beneath the profile creates an outline that can nest against the adjacent moulding.
  • Tilt the coping saw back at a 45-degree angle to create a razor-thin edge where the two mouldings will meet.
Test-Fit the Cut
A person test-fitting a crown moulding joint with a cutoff piece of crown moulding
  • Check the joint by fitting it against a cutoff.
  • Be prepared for an imperfect fit; even experienced carpenters may have to fine-tune the joint until it fits.
Sand and File
A person sanding and filing a piece of crown moulding
  • Sand and file any high spots to create a tight fit.
  • When the joint fits, measure the wall.
  • Cut the moulding 1/8” longer than measured (usually by making a square cut on the uncoped end).
  • Flex the moulding in place. The extra length will help push the cope joint closed.
Nail the Moulding in Place
A person nailing a piece of crown moulding to the wall with a nailer
  • When the moulding fits together without any gaps, nail the moulding to the wall and ceiling. 
  • Putty the nail holes.
  • If you're painting the moulding, run a bead of caulk in the seam and wipe it smooth with a wet finger. 

Don't be afraid to try out different crown moulding ideas - use crown moulding to create a picture frame or border a built-in bookshelf.