Ask a Carpenter: Is installing crown molding a good homeowner job?

KeanmoldingOur guest expert is Gary M. Katz, Reseda-based finish carpenter and author. He has produced a DVD called Mastering Crown Molding, and other DVDs on carpentry

QUESTION: I want to install crown moldings and wonder which is better: solid wood or these new composite moldings I see everywhere? Also, is this a good job for a homeowner to do?

ANSWER: The biggest difference between solid wood and composite crown molding is the cost. Moldings made of medium-density fiberboard have revolutionized the carpentry business, making crown molding affordable for almost every home, even with large expanses that would be pricey in solid wood.

On the other hand, solid wood usually gives a better profile. It has sharper corners and edges, which result in a more dramatic “shadow edge.” This is usually what people like about crown molding. But for most tastes, the added drama of sharp corners wouldn’t be worth the cost. So, unless you’re going to stain it, go with the fiberboard.

People always ask if installing crown molding is difficult. Like anything else, it’s not hard if you know how to do it. I suggest you hire a professional unless you have experience and the tools — a power miter saw on a good stand, nail guns, a chalk line, ladders, etc. If not, buying or renting them could get expensive.

As for your most likely problem? It will be cutting the miters. The trick is to place the molding upside down in your miter saw and at an angle, so that the top edge of the molding is sitting on the base of your saw and the bottom edge is up and resting against the fence of the saw.

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