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Molding: Instant Elegance

The simplest way to put an end to 'problem' rooms is through the use of decorative molding. When properly used, molding creates an optical illusion of space and height and adds new visual reference points to an otherwise plain room. Molding can accentuate a pleasing feature of a room, such as a bay window or fireplace, or conversely draw the eye away from problem areas, such as low ceilings or narrow hallways.

The key to molding placement lies in the color, size, and shape of your room. Spatial problems are generally present in an empty white room because the walls appear larger and closer than they really are. A few strips of creatively placed molding can visually 'pull' the walls apart, giving the illusion of added floor space and wall height. A strip of crown molding softens sharp lines at the wall and ceiling junction and adds an architectural lift to your room.

In this article, we're focusing on ceiling moldings, although the basic ideas mentioned here can apply to other types of moldings, such as baseboard or chair rail. Just a couple of molding knives can cut an intricate pattern for virtually any type of molding. You might want to try a few 'test' strips of wood, combining different knife cuts to achieve the results you desire. After all, half the fun of owning your own equipment is creative experimentation. Why limit yourself to what's readily available in the lumberyard or homecenter?

There are basically three kinds of ceiling molding: crown, bead, and cove. Crown and cove moldings are 'sprung' which means they have beveled edges that span the ceiling/wall joint (versus a molding that snugs in a 90 degree angle), thereby resting on the ceiling and wall surfaces. The molding adjusts to minor irregularities and creates a clean, soft line where the ceiling and wall meets. Bead molding can be sprung, like crown and cove molding, or it can be plain, meaning it fits snugly into the ceiling/wall joint. Unless this joint is as close to square as possible, sprung moldings offer the greatest coverage for irregularities in your ceiling or walls.

Select and prepare stock
Select your stock according to your budget and decorating scheme. The best molding comes from straight, clear stock, free of knots and warpage. Clear pine is the least expensive, but oak, walnut or cherry are naturally richer and will show more grain. Rip the stock to required widths, and be sure to prepare extra stock (about 20% more than you think you'll use) to allow for cutting errors.

Cut the profiles
As mentioned before, just a couple of molding knives will cut an intricate, appealing profile. Standard crown and bed molding requires the use of only two knives; cove molding, on the other hand, can be made entirely on a table saw. Arrange the molding knives to create the profile you want, and make the profile cuts. Be sure to use push blocks, push sticks, feather boards and roller stand for safety.

Bevel molding
After you've cut the profiles, tilt the table 45 degrees, mount the rip fence below the blade and use a feather board to guide the stock.

Drilling and finishing
Once you've cut the bevels on the molding, drill 7/64" pilot holes for 8d finish nails. If your ceiling joists can be located and marked on your molding, drill at least one pilot hole where the molding will cross the joist. Or, you can wait until you're actually installing the molding to locate the joist, whichever is more convenient.

Unless you plan to paint the molding to match or complement the exact color of your wall, it's best to apply stain or paint to your molding prior to installation. The same rule applies for the wall itself, it's easier to paint or paper the wall before you hang the molding. Select the stain or paint you prefer and apply it to your molding with straight, even strokes.

Install the molding
A rule of thumb for ciling molding installation is to start on the longest wall first. Cut the lengths a tad long so they can be lightly sprung into position. Place a 8d nail through the pilot holes and nail through the drywall or plaster into the upper wall plate. If your molding is large, nail through each ceiling joist that the molding crosses. Countersink the nails and fill the holes with putty that matches the finish of your molding.

You'll be amazed how a small investment in decorative molding greatly enhances the appearance of your once plain room.

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