DIY Crown Moulding Basics 101

step by step crown moulding tutorial

Walk into a house with crown moulding, look up and think to yourself “damn, this is nice“. Go home, look at your wife and tell her one day you too will have crown moulding, then go to bed. You wake up the next day, your wife reminds you of your promise and then you tell her “not today, maybe next time“. Sound familiar? Heck I keep telling myself this even though I already did the install.

What a difference crown moulding makes though. I must say, this project may be the best bang for buck you can get through a weekend DIY. There are dangers though. Like high school tattoos or piercings – you convince yourself you’re just going to start small for you know, some individuality – but then one day you wake up, reflect and look back at your trim selection on every inch of your walls. Proceed with caution!

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  1. Trim of your choice
  2. Wood Glue
  3. Wood Filler
  4. Sanding Paper
  5. Trim Caulking


  1. Angle Finder
  2. Ogee Jig (Optional)
  3. Right Angle Ruler
  4. Mitre Saw
  5. Brad Nailer
  6. Paint Sprayer (Optional)


Prep Work

There are countless  ways to achieve the same outcome, however I found the following tips helped with getting the job done quickly and effectively. Unfortunately, with any type of trim project, planning and prep takes the most time. Just try to stay focused as some of the tasks can get mind numbing.

  1. Buy your crown. Measure your work space by adding together the length of all walls you will be installing on. Add an additional 5-10% depending how confident you feel. Mistakes will happen.
Laying out molding for prime and paint

2. Paint your crown. I laid mine down on some tarp and used a spray gun to save time. Honestly, you don’t need to over think it here – roller / brush combo will work just as well.

Verifying breadth of crown molding

3. Measure the height, width and breadth of your moulding on a right angle ruler. Mark the end points on the ruler for quick reference. Some hardware shops will just tell you these numbers, but if you are buying from a smaller shop, their service tends to be less than spectacular.

Angle Ruler

4. While the paint is drying map out the layout of your room on a scrap paper. Then go around each corner, use an angle finder and mark the angle of each corner wall (Tip – Take the angle around the base of the crown. My moulding height was about 5 1/8″, so the angle would be taken at this distance from the ceiling.)

Right Angle Ruler on ceiling edges

5. While doing step 4, I used the right angle ruler to mark the height of the crown along the wall. Note that since your walls and ceilings are not perfectly straight, these markings are not a definitive point. Instead, they act as guides to prevent severe cresting when it comes time to put up your long boards.

  1. Pre Calculate the angles for your cuts. You can do this one cut at a time as you go. I just had nothing better to do while the paint dried and it takes the thinking out of the installation. How to calculate: A normal mitre cut of 45 degrees on both sides yields a perfect 90 degree right angle (for a perfectly square corner). You’ll notice by now however, that none of your corners are actually 90 degrees. The way to fix this is to change the angle of your cut slightly on both cuts so that you accommodate for the variations in wall angle. To calculate, simply divide your angle by 2, then subtract that number from 90. Hence if you have a 88 degree angle wall (slightly acute), then you will make 2 x 46 degree cuts (88 / 2 = 44 degrees. 90 – 44 = 46 degree cut). A common misconception here is to make 2 x 44 degree cuts since on the surface that adds up to 88. However if you did this, you would immediately realize that you created a 92 degree angle with your working pieces, which would then ram your boards right into the wall. Thank goodness for the extra 10% material! If not confident, try it out on a scrap first and test to measure.
  1. Decide how you are going to make your cuts. There are a number of ways to cut crown moulding.  Here are a few of them:
    1. Laying the board flat. This is perhaps the most precise but in my opinion, it is also the most work considering it involves a mitre and a bevel for every cut to achieve the correct angle for your board. There are cheat sheets online that you can print out and keep beside you if you opt for this method. No thanks. The less thinking I have to do the better.
    2. Ogee – I originally intended to use this method as it by far involved the least amount of thinking. The Ogee tool allows you to hold your board in the same position as it is above you so you can make your cuts visually. Unfortunately my crown breadth size was 6 3/4 inch and I couldn’t make cuts with my 10 inch sliding mitre saw. For smaller crown, this would be the way to go in my opinion, but it was no bueno for me this time.
    3. Upside down against the rail. This is perhaps the most common method, and the method I ended up doing. If it’s your first time, make some test cuts as upside down means your right side is on now positioned to your left. Your ceiling is against the base, and your wall is against the fence. Easy. Oh yea, don’t forget, a right corner cut sits on the left side of an inside wall. Confusing? You’ll get the hang of it. The good news is if you made a wrong cut, you’ll know immediately when you mount it. Again, thank goodness for the extra material! Tip: Since my crown was large, the butt of the crown could not rest securely on the fence, so I created a quick jig to hold it in place with some scrap material. My main objective was to use the base of the crown as the level point (since your goal is to use your wall as reference point and not your ceiling). I added a vertical stop to the fence at the 5 1/8 inch point (height of the moulding) to hold each workpiece at the correct angle against the fence. Then all I did for each cut was push the moulding right up against the fence to ensure a consistent cut every time.
mitre saw setup with crown fence
Backboard Jig

Cope Joints vs Mitre Joints – Last but not least, if you did your research you would find a bunch of tutorials talking about cope joints as well. Cope Joints involve shaving the back of one side of the moulding so that you can visually create an inside corner. The benefit of this is that you don’t have to mitre one side of an inside corner. You simply straight cut one side and butt it up against the wall. You mitre the second corner cut at your 45 degrees and then cope the back of it to leave the front side facade. At this point it’s a matter of just sliding the front piece into place. Personally this was too much work for me, and way too dusty – but it can definitely come in handy when dealing with long boards or very short inside cuts since it eliminates the need for exact measurements. Coped joints are more forgiving when you have trouble making ends meet perfectly.

Mounting Time

  1. Now that the paint is dry, start with one inside corner and work your way around the room one piece at a time. The biggest tip here is to measure precisely. Exact measurements between each wall (from the base of your moulding at the point it touches the wall), correct wall angle and using the markings you made on the wall for the base of your mouldings is the trifecta to a beautiful installation. Use the cheat sheet below for the direction of cut, which I found on the Home Depot site. Remember, an inside corner left side is actually the right side of the board (it sits on the left side of the corner).
crown molding cut aid
  1. Mounting the boards. Tip here is not to start at the ends. Ensure the ends of the board are tight to each corner, then reach over approximately 2 ft, alter the angle of your moulding until the base lines up with your markings and secure it to the wall with V shape nailing pattern. This basically means nailing 2 shots in opposite directions to create a V. Move down the board, securing the base to your markings until you are 2ft from the other end. For visual context, if you were mounting a 10ft board, 2ft on each side would be left hanging, while the center 6ft would be secured to the wall. This will give you enough room to play with the ends to ensure you have a clean connect.
  2. When Placing the next board up, follow the same steps as above, then go back to the connecting inside corner and adjust the ends slightly to create the perfect connection. Secure both ends of the inside corner with V shape nailing pattern. Take a step back, smile, cause it’s smooth sailing from here on out.
  3. When you get to an outer edge, the best practice is to glue the two faces together before putting it up, this will ensure a very tight and clean visual connection. For longer pieces, I found this was much more challenging so I just used the same method in steps 2 & 3. Again, use the base line as reference as there are only slight adjustments from there. Your goal is to align the base of the moulding (to the wall) then allow the rest of the moulding to come into place.
  4. When you’ve completed your room, the process is the same as any other DIY project
    1. Fill your holes w/ wood filler (I used drywall compound because it’s less gummy and you have a bit more play time before it hardens)
    2. Wait until it dries
    3. Light sand,
    4. Touch up prime and paint.
  5. Caulk, wipe clean and post on Instagram. Since this isn’t a caulking tutorial, I won’t go into too much detail here but if you are new to this, start with a small hole so that you can learn to control the outflow of caulk. Cut the tip at a angle and make sure you position that angle into the area you want to fill. This will ensure the outflow of caulk is directed into the gaps and prevents leakage. As you get the hang of this, keep a wet rag handy so you can wipe off excess. It’s much easier than it looks!

Last Minute Tips

  1. Do your best to get a tight fit all around, but if you have small gaps from ceiling, or edges don’t sweat it. That’s what the caulking is for.
Blending crown molding boards
  1. Fortunately the boards I got were 14ft long, and I only had 1 wall that required a joint. To do this I cut the two opposite ends of the board at a 22.5 degree cut in the same direction to increase the contact space between the two boards. Use wood glue to bond the two together. Once I put it up, I just used some wood filler to cover any holes, waited til dry and then sanded flat, primed and then finally painted. I know, it’s a pain but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Good luck with this project if you decide to give it a go! If you have any questions, feel free to drop a line in the comments.

If you are looking for more weekend projects, hit up our weekend project category for more ideas. Hope you enjoyed this project!

Here’s a look at the final results.

Cove Lighting

If you are interested in adding cove lighting around a bulk head in your dining room, check out our 102 Tutorial.

One response to “DIY Crown Moulding Basics 101”

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    […] converted my garage to storage, and then reconverted it again to a workspace, painted the house, put trim in, etc etc. Given the state of our current pandemic, I was literally out of […]


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