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Cutting and Applying Crown Molding and Cornice

Updated on September 23, 2017

Ceiling Feature using Cornice

Creating s double step down feature using cornice
Creating s double step down feature using cornice | Source

Measuring Marking and Cutting

Inside this article I show you the steps so you can attempt your own cornice or crown molding features to adorn your ceilings at home, in the simplest steps I use to carry out my own tasks.

It will also be required to have the help of another as each length of cornice, coving, is very long and 4 hands will make the job easier than 2 hands alone can manage.

There are no specialist tools required, such as a miter board or other such template, to cut interior and exterior cuts from cornice or crown moldings.

The adhesive I have been using since beginning my cornice / crown molding venture, may even surprise you also.

I have also included an instructional video at the base of this article, which shows you the entire process from start to completion.

Materials required are:

Enough cornice, molding, to complete the entire perimeter of the room.

A type of PVA sealer / primer that will diminish porosity before you begin fixing cornice or crown molding.

A bag of texture compound.

Tools required are:

An ordinary woodcutting jacksaw.

A pencil for marking out.

Some sandpaper.

A wide scraper and a caulking tool (such as a flat trowel kind of tool, whereas a caulker is made from wood and plastic and is used to apply material such as filler or texture, and used for smoothing and for feathering the material into the surface.)

A bucket to mix the texture and a mixing device to mix the texture from powder form.

A means for you to reach the ceiling / wall area.

Paintbrush and soft sponges for cleaning and blending.


Using your jacksaw cut a small length of cornice or coving about six inches long then get up onto a ladder or hop up and hold the piece directly up to the ceiling/wall edge, at the correct angle and directly right against the corner of the wall. (Set it right into and against the very corner.)

The correct angle to offer the cornice would be 50% against the wall and 50% against the ceiling, or use the dedicated ceiling - wall edges already etched out on the cornice, molding.

Take a pencil and now mark along the top of the cornice (make a pencil mark onto the ceiling directly from the corner, and about 6 inches long, and away from the edge as you hold the cornice at the correct angle.)

Now take the pencil and mark a six inch line onto the wall underneath the cornice.

Get down from the hop up or ladder and take the same length of cornice and step up to the adjoining wall directly next to the wall you just marked with the pencil.

Now make the same pencil line mark on the wall and the ceiling, immediately next to the first wall.

Get off your ladder and take a look at the 4 pencil marks. You will see you made a cross, right into the middle, on the ceiling. And underneath this, on the wall, you will notice a line on one wall where it immediately joins the line on the wall next to it.

These marks will be your guide for application.

As a side note, when completing cornice or crown molding, the pencil lines around the wall area (which can normally be around 4-5 inches, or more depending on the size of cornice, down from the ceiling) will act as a guide, ensuring each length of cornice, molding will meet and match each wall once fitted.

Now get a long piece of cornice for fixing. Hold this entire length against the first wall, and line it up with the ceiling wall marks in the corner.

Take your pencil and where the cross you made on the ceiling is, mark that meeting point, onto the length of cornice.

Now take another length of cornice and do the same holding up and marking for the other wall/ceiling edge on the cornice.

These points that you have pencil marked onto the 2 lengths of cornice are now ready for you to cut the interior miter at the correct angle, so when you butt the two pieces up together on each wall/ceiling, they will match next to each other.

A Single Step Featuring Plaster-based Cornice

Vital Steps Ensuring Cornice Does Not Fall Down

The vital step prior to fixing cornice or molding is to make sure that the ceiling and wall area is not porous. As you can imagine if you lay the adhesive compound (more about this later in the article) onto a porous surface, the adhesive would dry off too quickly, therefore forfeiting its ability for the cornice to adhere adequately.

So mix your PVA as per the instructions for porous surfaces, paint on and leave to dry completely prior to fixing.

To cut your length of cornice you have already marked with the pencil, lay the piece on its back, with the finished edge facing you.

Hold your jacksaw against the very end of the bottom (nearest you) of your cornice (which would be the lower wall section.) And slide the top half (nearest the top, ceiling edge) of your saw, so that it moves around 45% angle, and meets where the crossed ceiling mark was drawn onto the cornice.

Now, hold your saw steady, and tilt the saw over, so that it resembles a 45% angle.

So if you can imagine that you have now sliced of the end of cornice, then looked directly at it, there would be a 45% angled slice removed.

And when you take the next length of cornice and cut this in exactly the same way, lo and behold, once applied to the ceiling wall edge, they slot perfectly against each other. And of course keeping each length on the bottom guidelines you created onto the walls, ensures the cornice runs smoothly and joins next to the other, perfectly.

This Design Shows Cornice Over a Step Down Ceiling Feature

Cornice fixed onto a stepped down ceiling feature
Cornice fixed onto a stepped down ceiling feature

Exterior Outer Miter Cuts Angles and Butting

On the other end of each piece of cornice, it is not so good to just butt one end directly to the another end of cornice, as this will look untidy, and the finished joint may show.

One way to overcome this is by setting your saw at an angle on the end, and slightly tilting the saw prior to cutting. Then when you apply another fresh piece next to this, once fixed up, you may also cut the piece so it matches in perfectly.

So far we have covered interior miters and butting a piece of cornice next to another piece of cornice.

Let us take a look at the exterior miters cuts.

Exterior, outer miter cuts are used for when you cornice around an obstacle, such a a fire breast of similar obstacles.

The principal applies as for when using a small piece of cornice as a guide to make your measurements.

Take a small piece of cornice, go to the outer obstacle, and offer the piece to the ceiling / wall, making sure you are keeping the piece onto the bottom (wall) pencil marks you created ensuring the cornice runs smoothly around the finished room.

Hold the piece so that it overruns the edge of the obstacle, around 4-6 inches. Take a pencil and mark a line on the ceiling. Now hold the piece against the other part of the obstacle and draw a pencil mark.

When you take a look, you should have made a cross on the ceiling, and which would be around a few inches from the edges of both wall ceiling edges of the obstacle. Basically there will be a penciled cross present there.

Now get an entire length of cornice so that it is around 5-6 inches longer than the actual area you intend to cornice, and hold this piece up against the corner of the wall / ceiling, at the correct angle and mark on your cornice where the 2 pencil marks on the ceiling meet.

Take a fresh pace of cornice for the other wall / ceiling edge, and mark this in the same manner.

You now have 2 longer than needed pieces with a pencil mark on each one.

Commence and cut the interior miter, as previously explained, then hold up the cornice and make sure the pencil marks are still in line and correct, and if not, make adjustments as necessary.

Now using the same angles and titling methods, commence to cut away the exterior miters.

Fixing - Adhesive for Cornice

So far you have cornice cut at the correct angles and ready to hang.

Also the area has been sealed to remedy porosity, and left to dry prior to fitting.

Now it is time to apply adhesive.

Texture, with PVA added makes ideal plaster-based cornice and coving adhesive. Although as there are propriety adhesives on the market specifically manufactured for these purposes.

I have been using texture for many many years and have not experienced any fall downs in my works.

Mix the texture with water to a thick consistency applying a generous amount of PVA to aid bonding.

Lay the first piece of cornice onto its front and use your scraper to lay a generous amount of the compound onto the adhering section present on the cornice.

Go fix this piece up where it belongs.

Use the scraper / caulker combination and scrape off any residue material that squeezes from the edges.

Take a wet paintbrush or sponge and clean off the cornice, the wall and the ceiling.

More Essential Tips for Success

Now these steps are important for your job to run smooth and the finish to be professional to the eye of the beholder.

Get the first piece of cornice fixed up there.

Now, even though you have cut the second piece earlier, sometimes the next piece may not match perfectly. In other words, the angle cut may be slightly out.

This is the opportunity for you to hold the next piece in place, and then visually, you will see more needs to be cut away of the new piece so that it will fit in once fixed adhered.

Do this test prior to fitting any next pieces up.

Also, do make sure that your adhesive has been mixed up thick enough that it wall take the weight of the plaster-based cornice, molding. The video below shows the correct consistency to use.

Another aspect of the thick mixed texture material is, used for filling joints, butts and especially corners, where necessary.

Clean up each piece fitted, not forgetting the wall and ceiling area where you may have residual adhesive present.

There is not much more I can share in this article, but please do make sure to watch the video, also comment in the box here and let me know your thoughts.

Video Showing Steps Of Cutting Fixing Plaster Cornice Features


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    • Inspired to write profile image

      Dale J Ovenstone 4 years ago from Wales UK

      You are right DDE. To learn how to cut cornice, or coving, is a little tricky for the novice, once it all clicks in, everything is fine.

      Thank you for commenting, and don't forget to download the book for amazing ceiling ideas.

      Regards. Dale

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      How to EASILY fix and Apply Cornice Coving Molding-Cutting Corners Angles and Miters Step by Step Instructions a great idea and is helpful to many readers. Cutting corners if not approached skillfully can leave a damaged appearance.