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Odd wall ends and different height walls can cause some confusion when it comes to crown molding. A great example of this is the end of your wall leading to the stairs. There isn't a perfect angle to continue the molding, so how should you end it? We've taken the time to look and find out for you.
Below we've listed the 7 general steps associated with the process of ending crown molding:
- You should cut the last board at 45-degree angles on each side
- Determine if you'll need a right or left end piece
- Cut the correct side in a straight line where the angle comes to a point
- Attach the main crown molding
- Attach the return cap with wood glue or finishing nails
- Caulk gaps and joints
Doing a few practice runs will help you get the hang of what exactly to do. Take your time and even write out your plans to make sure nothing is missing. Keep reading to learn more about each step and how to finish the project.
Steps to End Crown Molding at Stairs
While every project will have its own set of needs, these steps are the basics for most. The ending of crown molding is referred to as the return; you'll often hear this term in building how-to videos. The piece that is being cut out to hide the return gap is referred to as a cap.
The direction and degree in which each board end is cut on a miter saw are also known as its miter.
1. You should cut the last board at 45-degree angles on each side
Cutting the board at 45-degrees will give you a clean 90-degree angle when placed against the other board. When measuring the wall, keep in mind that one end will be losing some length to make the cap. Using your miter saw, program it to 45-degrees.
2. Determine if you'll need a right or left end piece
As you look at the end of your stairs, determine whether the edge will fall on the right or left. Knowing this will inform you which side of the molding to cut for the cap. Using a pencil, mark an 'X' on the ending side; this helps eliminate confusion when it's time to cut.
3. Cut the correct side in a straight line where the angle comes to a point
Once you've made the two end cuts, go back to the 'X' marked end. This is the side that dies out near the stairs and needs a cap. Placing the correct end back onto the saw, set the blade to a straight cut.
You'll cut where the miter comes to a point, and it will leave you with a triangle cap. The result is one edge at the same 45-degree angle of the board while the other is a straight edge touching the wall.
4. Attach the main crown molding
Now you're ready to put it all together. Since the molding board isn't fixated on the wall just yet, make sure your cap fits properly. You can use a molding jig to hold the molding in place with no glue, making it easy to move and make adjustments. Using a cordless nail gun, you'll attach the crown molding.
5. Attach the return cap with wood glue or finishing nails
There are two possible ways to attach the return cap. First, using wood glue and a clamp. Second, using finishing nails and a cordless nail gun.
If you have a very detailed or delicate crown molding design, gluing is a better way to go since it avoids any sort of cracking from pressure.
Alternatively, using a cordless nail gun, you'll attach the crown molding with 18-gauge nails, the preferred choice as they're smaller and leave a cleaner hole.
6. Caulk gaps and joints
We're into the home stretch. The next step is to take your paintable caulk and line the molding trim that meets the wall's surface. If you find any gaps while inspecting afterward, caulk can fill in these smaller spots.
Once the caulk is applied, it's time to smooth it out. To achieve a professional, smooth finish, use a caulking finishing tool. These tools are durable and designed to give you the best results. However, if that isn't your go-to choice, using your finger with warm water will also do the trick.
Last step! Now it's time to paint. You'll really only need to paint if you selected an unfinished molding or if you scuffed the original color of the molding during the installation process. For this step, you should tape off where the crown molding meets the wall and the ceiling.
Types of Crown Molding Return Styles
There are various styles in which you can end your crown molding, such as hanging return, dissolve return, and corbel return. Hanging returns are the classic cut-angle method.
The dissolve return is a flat end, best used if you happen to have a right corner before the stairs.
Then there is the corbel return, a larger decorative end for your molding.
How Do You Cut Crown Molding For Stairs?
No matter what type of molding you bought, you'll need a power miter saw. Having this power tool will give you the necessary pressure and accuracy needed for the edges. It can also be handy to have a coping tool nearby, such as a jigsaw.
- Measure the length of the wall
- Cut ends in a straight 90-degree angle
- Cut inside edge using a 45-degree angle
- Cope joint if needed for a tight fit
Check out these miter saw techniques, demonstrated in the YouTube video below. You might even want to practice a few before starting your project!
How Do You Hide Gaps In Crown Molding?
Gaps in crown molding happen, especially if it's your first time. Most of the gaps you encounter will be decently small, and you can easily fill them in with caulk. On the off chance you have a larger gap and cannot redo the molding, spackle has been used to fill out the missing area.
What Kind Of Caulk Should I Use For Crown Molding?
Silicone caulk is a popular choice due to its flexibility and moisture-resistant qualities. Acrylic latex is a close second for caulking trim. It has been around the longest, and certain brands have made acrylic caulk with silicone. Caulk is sold in white or clear finishes, but only some are paintable, check the label to confirm.
Do You Caulk Crown Molding Before Or After Painting?
You'll want to caulk before painting. If you paint beforehand, you'll run into some problems. First, the paint will go into gaps and can dry concave instead of firm and flat. Second, you'll still need to caulk, so you'll be doing the painting job twice. This way of finishing crown molding can end up looking splotched and quickly done.
Crown molding is an intermediate project and should be done with another person. Your home's walls aren't always going to have perfect corners, like near the stairs, and you'll need to know how to end the molding. Cutting with 45-degree angles and straight lines, you'll be able to create a cap to attach. Then it's the fun finishing touches of caulking the joints and painting if desired!