Posted on: 12.08.2022 Posted by: Редакция Comments: 0

Typically an afterthought in design or a background style element in the non-design world, crown molding is generally a quick, beautiful job that doesn’t require much fuss, though it is a very detail-oriented job.  

Crown molding offers a pretty simple way to finish off a room and make it look elegant, all while covering up any issues at a lesser cost. It’s not an essential part of a room, but it contributes significantly to giving a home class and value without putting too much strain on your budget.

It is also a strangely heatedly debated topic. Should it be in every room or just a few? What should it be made of and why? What stylistic options are available? Are there any rooms that should definitely not have crown molding?

Here are some of the answers to the most pressing questions on this controversial design detail.

What is Crown Molding?

Trimming as a term generally describes any trim pieces in a home, including baseboards and window casings. Crown molding, however, specifically refers to the decorative edge that lines the top seam between interior walls and the point where they meet the ceiling. This article from Home Advisor elegantly puts it as comparing the shape of a room to the frame of a painting, which is quite fitting. 

The main function of crown molding on a practical level is to cover up gaps and imperfections between wall and ceiling. It has been used since the days of ancient Greece, where it was used, according to this article by Hunker, to divide large spaces into smaller areas. Until the 1850s, all molding had to be made on-site by a carpenter or artist (for a more elaborate style), but after the invention of large planing machines, it became easier for more people to access cheaper, more uniform versions.

Crown molding should not be confused with cove molding. Cove molding is much thinner and concave, with a “scooped out” profile that curves toward the wall. It can be used on both the top and bottom edges of a room and has fewer sharp corners and edges. There are also fewer designs available, as cove moldings are specifically used to smooth out edges rather than fill or enhance them. While cove moldings are beautiful in and of themselves and provide the practical advantage of being thinner, they are not suitable for rooms where the goal is to enhance the design of the space.

This is why many older homes are fitted with such durable and impressive plaster moldings, as it was a standard from the start to preserve rooms for as long as possible, in a time when renovations were considerably more difficult and expensive.

However, crown molding is now used to add another aspect of personal style to a room or the overall impression of the house. It softens the edges of a room and makes it appear less clinical and more inviting.

Various Types of Crown Molding Materials

Generally, there are crown moldings in one of three material categories, each with its own pros and cons that you should consider before incorporating it into your home’s design. There are also smaller variations within these material choices that add more nuance to the decision.

Plaster is the most popular choice, as it is the easiest material to reproduce patterns and designs in and some of the most classic and elegant materials are made from it. It is lightweight but significantly more expensive than other options, as it is somewhat more difficult to shape and detail. Plaster is considered somewhat outdated material, as it is not as durable as newer plastics, and the older versions were often made from somewhat dangerous materials, but modern plasters are just as safe as these plastics, if a little more prone to wear and tear.

Wood is another popular crown molding material. It is more durable and easier to install than plaster, making it somewhat lower-maintenance, but also much more expensive, as the designs have to be carved into the wood and are more difficult to reliably reproduce. Moldings can be made from either hardwoods or softwoods, depending on your color and style preferences, though hardwood moldings are the most expensive option due to their rarity and the difficulty in working with them.

The third most popular option is a composite material. A composite molding is usually made from foam, polystyrene, PVC, or vinyl and is another option where designs are easily reproducible. Composite materials are the easiest to install and are the lightest and most durable option. They are often also the cheapest option, making them perfect for the more budget-conscious interior designer. They are sometimes preferred to wood or plaster, as composite materials do not react to environmental factors like moisture and temperature as quickly as the others.

Each style has its price point, but it’s important to evaluate quality as much as economy. It’s fairly easy to tell a cheap, weak, poorly made molding due to the simplicity of its construction, and therefore, it would be futile to use it in the design, as it will only distract and detract from achieving what you want it to achieve. There’s an excellent article by Inviting Home about various myths related to crown molding that you can read here.

One-Piece vs. Three-Piece Crown Molding

Before getting into the details of fitting and installing, it’s important to consider the actual mechanics of installation and the pros and cons of each type.

One-piece crown molding, as the name suggests, is a single piece of molding that is nailed to a backing between the wall and ceiling. It’s a much simpler, though more precise, installation, as all you have to do is cut and insert (literally:not-computer way). 

The problem with this type of molding is that it does not respond well to extreme temperature or moisture changes. If you live in a place with intense, humid summers or a long rainy season, you will almost certainly have issues with gaps between the top of the molding and the ceiling when it warps or swells from the water in the air or the heat of the day.

To solve this problem, opt for three-piece crown molding.A three-piece molding consists of a flat cornice (or upper detail) that is directly nailed or glued to the ceiling, a lower detail that is directly nailed to the studs in the wall, and the crown detail, which is nailed and fastened to the previous two pieces.This structure allows for more movement and adjustment of the material without as much obvious gaps and warping between each piece and the ceiling itself.

There are, of course, drawbacks to three-piece moldings. It’s not conducive to smaller styles, considering how its structure works. For that reason, it may not be suitable for a smaller, narrower space, as it may overshadow other design elements and draw attention in a way you don’t want.

You can read more about which structure to choose from this article by a long-time molding installation expert that is part of his series on moldings and their correct use as a design element in a room.

How to Incorporate Molding into a House’s Design

Your molding should reflect the style you choose for your home. There are as many types of moldings as there are decoration aesthetics for houses, so it’s worth looking at several different styles before making the final choice. If your style is somewhat simpler, you might consider a more modern, blocky molding style. If you’re basing your style on antique pieces and French constructions, you might consider a Louis XV style to crown the peaks of your rooms. 

Again, there are hundreds of styles to choose from, all depending on those same few factors:

  • Your budget: How much are you willing to spend from the start of the project? on the molding itself? How much are you willing to set aside for installation costs? The average cost of installing crown molding ranges from $500 to $1600, but can go up to around $3000 for more elaborate hardwoods.
  • The dimensions of your home: Are your rooms larger and more open? Or are they smaller and closer together? Is it more open-concept or are the rooms more individual? Some home designs may not lend themselves well to molding installation, making it more cumbersome than meaningful.
  • Your style: Do you want the molding to be purely functional, or do you want it to be a design feature? Do you want to draw attention to it or have it be a subtle piece in the room? Certain design aesthetics will be dramatically enhanced by molding, while others will completely ignore it.

You should also think about your installation team. If you are detail-oriented and capable of doing basic home renovation work, you might be able to install it yourself. Installing molding is not particularly difficult, except for making sure each piece is flush with the wall and the adjoining piece. This article is an excellent guide on how to install your crown molding yourself.

However, if you don’t want to get your hands dirty on a project like this, it’s worth looking into local contracting companies to get a decent quote for the job.

Should You Put Crown Molding in Every Room?

There’s a strong case for the functional ideal to have molding in every room. It spares having to fix aesthetic imperfections when they become visible later on (though the molding itself doesn’t contribute to preventing structural imperfections from causing issues and can even make it more difficult to spot them), and it can serve to enhance style flow from one room to another further.

However, in general, designers agree that the focus for crown molding should be in the main rooms of the house. Putting crown molding in other secondary rooms is purely an aesthetic choice and not necessary, though it may increase the initial cost of designing the space, as it is more difficult to cover gaps between wall and ceiling without crown molding, and finishing will take a bit more time.

It is also possible to forego crown molding altogether. This is often done in homes with a more modern, sleek aesthetic based on sharp lines. It is somewhat more difficult to maintain this style, as it again means detailing all edges in your house to take into account gaps or inconsistencies in painting, and it can be difficult to pull off, as it requires such specific room design not to look unfinished or odd.

That being said, crown molding can bring charm and a sense of completion to rooms that would otherwise be plain or uninteresting on their own. If you decide to install ceiling moldings, there are a few things to consider before starting the final installation.

Deciding Which Rooms Need Crown Molding

The rooms that need crown molding are the most heavily traded. This includes living rooms, family rooms, dining rooms, and kitchens, and can even extend to bathrooms and bedrooms if you want to keep things consistent. It’s often a matter of budget, as installing elaborate moldings throughout the house can be expensive and time-consuming.

One type of room that people often worry about whether or not to install molding in is a child’s room or a playroom. They have valid concerns about the structural durability of the molding in a room that will have so much activity and don’t want to install anything that could potentially harm the child. That being said, there are certain high-density materials made specifically for this type of situation that provide long-lasting protection for the room that may save later issues. (You might also consider adding a chair rail (or about hip-height molding) to provide additional protection to your walls.)

To decide if molding is sensible in a room, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will it enhance the room? Will adding crown molding appeal to your eye and make the room look larger, airier, or more elegant, or will it make the room feel cramped or overdone?
  • Does it fit the budget? Can you afford the intricately carved wood molding that would be perfect for your bedroom, or would it be better suited for the main gathering areas of the house and keep the secondary rooms with simpler, more economical moldings?
  • Does it fit the schedule? Do you have the time and talent to properly install the type of molding you’ve chosen? Have you worked with your contractors to decide how much time they will allocate to this project in relation to the overall renovation time?
  • Will it make you happy? Will you kick yourself in six months when the paint flaws inevitably start showing through at the upper edges of the wall or there are noticeable gaps? 

If you have any no’s, you should find another option or reevaluate what you need to do to change your response. If your answers are all yes, it’s time to think about what type and color of molding to incorporate into the room’s design. 

Deciding What Type of Molding to Use

In general, the molding style throughout the house should be in the same design family, but the details of each individual trim set will largely depend on the style of the individual room. It is, of course, a design feature, and that design is mostly to serve a purpose.

Crown molding can be used to trick the eye in specific situations by drawing the eye up and outwards to make a smaller room appear larger or to make a room with a somewhat more elaborate design appear more elevated or noble. 

For example, in a small room with low ceilings, using a slightly projecting molding with a simple design will draw the eye up and away from the wall, making it look larger than it is. It’s possible to use the wrong style in this situation, by using a more complex design that hugs the wall rather than the ceiling, thus accentuating how short it is, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from using any molding at all. Again, it’s all about considering the space in style.

It can also be used to complement another design feature, usually the central lighting fixtures of a room. A simple set of recessed lights may require a more elaborate molding or a molding that creates a recess that it can shine from, while a centerpiece chandelier is best suited with a simple, elegant molding that doesn’t distract from it. Consider what is the focal point in your room and go from there.

Deciding How to Finish Your Crown Molding

Finishing off a molding is the technical term for stopping it at the edges of a room where it doesn’t make sense to continue it continuously. Problem areas include points where different ceiling heights meet, recessed doors, arches, and window settings.

There are four main methods of finishing off a piece of molding:

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