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Crown molding adds dimension and character to a plain wall -- and it can increase the value of your home, too.

Crown molding comes in an array of materials, from pricey plaster (which is custom-made and tricky to install) to traditional wood (which requires carpentry skills) to low-cost polystyrene foam (which is so lightweight, it can be cut with a simple handsaw-or even a pair of scissors).

Unlike many home improvement projects, installing crown molding doesn't require much special equipment. But it does take ample amounts of patience and precision; perfect measurements are the key to great results.

Is this a project best left to the pros? Or do you think you're ready to take on the task yourself? To decide, let's take a look at the logistics and costs of each option.

compound miter joints, crown moldingOuter and inner compound miter joints. Photo: tornatore, Flickr

HIRE-IT-OUT APPROACH


Although installing crown molding doesn't require any technical expertise or unusual equipment, solid spatial reasoning skills are essential, as is a calm attitude. But that's not all: Pieces of crown molding have to be fitted together at angles for perfect compound miter joints. This is even more challenging if your walls and ceilings don't happen to meet at perfect 90 degree angles (most don't). The right -- or wrong -- angles can make or break the project. Unfortunately, this aspect alone is enough to intimidate many homeowners into hiring a professional. Confidence using a miter saw -- which is necessary to cut the correct miter joints -- is also necessary.

Contractors typically charge per linear foot of molding, although some may offer a flat rate per room. Expect to spend anywhere from $4 to $20 per foot depending on the type of molding you've selected (it's far less complicated to hang simple foam molding than an ornate wooden design). On average, a 10x10 room will run you about $500 for labor alone -- this doesn't include the cost of the molding itself. Contractors may charge additional fees to paint the molding or do cleanup.

DO-IT-YOURSELF APPROACH

Regardless of any hesitation you might have, you absolutely can install your own crown molding -- even if you're not super handy.


Getting pieces of molding to fit together tightly may require doing a few practice cuts until you get the angle of the miter joints just right (a protractor is your tool of choice for achieving the proper angles). If your molding is made of solid wood, medium density fiberboard (MDF), or another dense material, you'll need to cut it on a miter saw -- and most experts think the easiest way to make cuts is to place the molding upside down on the saw. If you're not meticulous, it's easy to lose track of which end is up.

It also takes a practiced eye to select molding that's the appropriate width for the height of your walls; otherwise, you can throw off the proportions of the room.

Here's what you'll need to DIY this project:

miter saw, crown moldingHome Depot

Tool Rentals:


Miter saw: Depending on the type of molding you select, the one big tool you'll need is a miter saw, which makes precision cuts. You can rent a miter saw from a home improvement store like The Home Depot for about $45/day. An avid woodworking friend may also have one you can borrow. If you're not comfortable using a power saw, stick to a material like polystyrene foam that can be cut with a hand saw (some can even be cut with scissors).

Tool & Material Purchases:

Coping saw (optional): If you know what you're doing and want to add curves or other decorative touches to your moulding, you'll need one of these woodworking essentials, which will run you between $5-$15 or so at a hardware store.

The rest of what you need you may already have:

Hammer: A quality one will be about $25 to $35.

Finishing nails: $5 for a package of 320 nails.

Sandpaper: About $3 to $11 depending on grit.

Protractor: Use this to get actual measurements of corner angles. $5 to $25.

Power drill: Use this to make pilot holes before pounding in the nails; this protects molding from splitting. About $100 to $200 -- or you could borrow one from a friend.

Stud finder: You want to nail molding into wall studs, and this tool will help you locate them. Best to invest in a good one for $20 to $40.

Putty: Use DAP white putty to fill nail holes. $5.50 per tub.

Putty knife: $3 to $7.

Joint compound: This is only needed if you'll be installing lightweight foam moulding. You'll use the joint compound to adhere the pieces of molding together. $7 to $15 per tub.

Primer and paint: If you'll be painting the molding. Price will vary by brand.

So...are you ready to do it yourself -- and save?



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