Ask a finish carpenter: What kind of molding for a cove ceiling?

Three cove ceilings with moldings.Question: My daughter, who lives in Westchester, has a house with coved ceilings and wants to paint the rooms but is wondering if there is a crown molding that breaks up the ceiling and accommodates the rounded ceiling and corners? — Greg

Answer: From Reseda licensed general contractor and author Gary M. Katz:

There isn’t a manufactured crown profile that fits a cove ceiling. However, there are still two ways of doing it.

First, you could install a crown molding with a small shelf above. I’ve done this before and have seen the detail in historic homes,too, though I’m not always thrilled with the design. The shelf doesn’t really hold much, because of the coved ceiling, so it becomes a dust shelf.

Another choice is to cut a new top "shoulder" on a standard crown molding, so that the crown will fit against the ceiling, but often the cove is too large a radius and a small shelf is still needed.

Probably the best alternative is to skip the crown and install a picture rail molding. Picture rail is the architecturally authentic way to terminate a cove ceiling; it provides a termination line for the ceiling color.

You can mount the picture rail at the beginning of the cove or even a few inches lower.

Gary M. Katz is the author of many carpentry books and DVDs. His newest DVD, with Jed Dixon, is on wainscoting and paneling and is the sixth in a series called "Mastering Finish Carpentry."

(Photos: From top: HGTV, HGTV, Kathy Price-Robinson)