My favorite view of the completed project: I like how the molding wraps around the columns; the faux beams and my coffered ceiling project in the background.

My custom crown molding project is finished!

I just walked into our home office to sit down at the computer; straight from the dining room where I have been renovating the ceiling there. A project that began on February 18, 2011 and even though the paint is still wet, I’m calling this one finished!

Why do I have to tackle such large projects? At least they are large for me, a weekend woodworker. I have not worked on my dining room ceiling continuously since early 2011. It came to a stop for six months while I built a queen size bed. I also launched two woodworking plans (here and here) during that time and I did some extensive writing on SketchUp. But it has been a long project none the less.

Here I paint the ceiling using a flat color.
Here I paint the ceiling using a flat color.

Even though other things derailed my ceiling reno, it was always going to be a slow-moving project; ceiling work is simply no fun. I think most projects which involve the frequent use of a ladder should be automatically categorized as no fun. Even though I did get a little enjoyment from seeing the project coming to completion, I had long ago become tired of looking at my progress.

What I have created though looks sooooo much better than what it once was: a typical popcorn textured ceiling minus crown molding. I never liked the original crown and had taken it down sometime in 2008. We don’t use our dining room much so no crown molding wasn’t a big deal. However it was an unfinished project which I wanted to put behind me. And so it is…

My favorite view of the completed project: I like how the molding wraps around the columns; the faux beams and my coffered ceiling project in the background.
My favorite view of the completed project: I like how the molding wraps around the columns; the faux beams and my coffered ceiling project in the background.
In this photo: the long run of molding along the opposite wall. Nice, crisp paint.
In this photo: the long run of molding along the opposite wall. Nice, crisp paint.
A view showing the molding heading into a corner.
A view showing the molding heading into a corner.

It will look even better when I get the dining room cleaned up; the floor vacuumed and all the furniture moved back in. The adjacent living room has served as storage space for our dining room furniture, so it is a wreck as well.

A review of a long project
Since this project began more than a year ago I thought I would dust off some of those early photos…

The process: mist the ceiling with a spray bottle and then scrape the texture off.
The process: mist the ceiling with a spray bottle and then scrape the texture off.
After scraping and sanding, the ceiling looks like this.
After scraping and sanding, the ceiling looks like this.
And the floor looks like this.
And the floor looks like this.

The process of removing the popcorn ceiling ranks as the single messiest home improvement job I have ever tackled (and I am no stranger to sanding sheet rock mud). It is worse than sheet rock work because taking down a textured ceiling requires scraping the stuff off and sheet rock work: sanding the original mud smooth.

I have decided that the real reason popcorn texture was ever used in home construction was to hide all the sheet rock mud which was never properly sanded in the first place.

Once the ceiling was smooth, I added a primer coat of paint and began the second phase of the project: adding faux beams.

An illustration of the beam layout.
An illustration of the beam layout.
Forming a lap joint.
Forming a lap joint.
The lap joints were utilized where the beams intersect.
The lap joints were utilized where the beams intersect.
I added quarter round molding to dress up the edges of the beams and to hide any gaps where the beams did not fit tight against the ceiling.
I added quarter round molding to dress up the edges of the beams and to hide any gaps where the beams did not fit tight against the ceiling.

Most recently, I added the custom crown molding which was a chore unto itself. For the crown, I replicated a cornice molding found on an awesome breakfront piece shown in Fine Woodworking magazine more than twenty years ago (see it by clicking here). I selected extra dusty MDF for this part of the project and formed the crown mostly from built-up 1x stock.

After altering the crown profile about a million times, I settled in on what I called a “router friendly” design.
After altering the crown profile about a million times, I settled in on what I called a “router friendly” design.
I then began the long and dusty process of forming the various layers of molding.
I then began the long and dusty process of forming the various layers of molding.
With some of the profile created, I began adding the moldings to the dining room.
With some of the profile created, I began adding the moldings to the dining room.
Little by little, the crown molding comes to life.
Little by little, the crown molding comes to life.

Today
Bringing this project to completion has involved some fussing with both imperfections from the scraping process as well as inconsistent coverage of paint. The paint is a low luster satin, but even with such a slight sheen, I have had a hard time getting the ceiling to look good when light hits it from outside.

This was not an issue when all I had on the ceiling was flat primer. So, I bought some flat paint for the ceiling the same color as all the trim (Sherwin Williams 1102 Chenille White) and applied a coat, leaving the beams and molding satin (see the photo at the top of this post). Then at long last, I determined the project was finished!

On a side note; one aspect of the project that made me nervous was where the first and second row molding came together. These two boards needed to be flush where the routed edges met up. See below…

The red arrow shows where the two boards meet and it all went remarkably well. You really can't tell the sweep of molding is built up from two boards.
The red arrow shows where the two boards meet and it all went remarkably well. You really can’t tell the sweep of molding is built up from two boards.

Getting the long lengths of routed MDF to line up properly was critical to the success of the project. I used a pry bar to pull them into alignment in a few instances, but I was surprised how little I had to call on the pry bar for help. I used only a little joint compound to ensure a smooth transition between the two layers. No big deal really.

Thanks for following along with this project. It was long and at times a ton of work. I hope I did not gripe too much about ladder work, etc. Time now to begin thinking about my next project – I guarantee it will be something smaller.

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9 thoughts on “My custom crown molding project is finished!”

  1. I’m almost speechless!! I’m absolutely in awe with your work on your ceiling!!
    I keep going back to look at it. Well study it is more like it. I can totally see how much work it was but WOW, so worth it Jeff!! One of a kind!! Thank you for sharing this with us.

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