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All About Crown Moulding: Styles, Uses, and Materials for Trim in a Home

Everyday we spend hours surrounded by trim. It borders ceilings, floors, doors, and windows, but how familiar with it are we? There are several different types of trim that all serve a unique aesthetic and functional purposes. One of the main types of moulding is crown moulding, which is a category all of its own.  

Usually installed at an angle, crown moulding is used to disguise the transition between walls and ceilings. It is a decorative moulding that does more than covering the right angle where the wall meets the ceiling. It adds architectural character to a room; it can draw the eye up, giving height; or it can even become its own focal point, if it is intricately designed. 

Crown mouldings are made in a variety of materials, come in many different design styles, and can be used in a multitude of ways.  

6 Common uses for moulding in a home

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The traditional use of crown moulding is to transition the wall to the ceiling. It serves the functional purpose of hiding gaps and irregularities in a buildings structure while also adding an aesthetic appeal and consistency. 

Crown moulding is not limited to the wall and ceiling joint. Its ornate and intricate designs combined with its functionality give it versatility. Here are seven other moulding ideas and uses for trim:

  1. Chair railing. This moulding is used both for aesthetics and protection. Originally, this moulding was placed at chair height to shield the walls from furniture scuffing. It can also be used only for cosmetic purposes, helping to transition from two different types of wall surfaces.   
  2. Batten. Batten molding is rectangular trim used to hide the bridge between two wall panels. It can be used horizontally or vertically and is typically spaced one to two feet apart. 
  3. Panel. Panel molding serves the same function as batten, but is more decorative. It comes in various styles and designs. 
  4. Picture rail and framing. Moulding can be used to create a picture rail to allow artwork to hang with hooks instead of damaging the walls with nails. It can also be used to add ornate and detailed framework to canvases or further define a focal point on a wall.
  5. Casing. Casing is trim used on door or window frames to hide wall gaps. Crown casing can be used to have a dramatic effect on a room feel and more detailed designs can help signify a transition in room aesthetic. 
  6. Wire hiding. The angled application of crown moulding makes it a natural place to hide wires and clean up a room with a lot of electronics or appliances. 
  7. Shelving and cabinetry. Moulding can also be applied as accents to help finish off the top space of cabinets or continue a motif through bookshelves and mantels. If shelves and cabinets feel plain, the addition of detailed moulding can improve the design. 

Styles of crown moulding

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There are many different styles or types of crown mouldings. These profiles range from simple to elaborate and ornate. Different moulding styles can also be mixed and stacked together to complete a design. 

Some common crown moulding styles include:

  • Egg and dart: An oval-shaped form bounded by alternating angular darts.
  • Dentil: A repeating pattern of tooth-shaped blocks.
  • Beads: Decorative small spheres in a row that can be single or stacked into multiple layers. These designs are often paired with other elements like darts and leaves. 
  • Cove: A modest version of crown that concaves inward at a curve.
  • Fluted: Grooved vertical rectangles or “flutes” that are evenly spaced and run the length of the moulding.
  • Ogee: An s-shaped curve of two equal semi-circles. 
  • Leafy: Decorative leaf moulding comes in a variety of different foliage bands.
  • Reed: Simple ridged horizontal lines carved into the trim.
  • Step: A series of flat surfaces at varying heights

Crown moulding materials

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Plaster and wood are traditional crown moulding materials. They are still widely used today, and the more contemporary materials usually mimic their style and texture. 

Here are 7 materials commonly used to make crown moulding: 

  1. Wood. Wood is a very traditional crown moulding material. Wood comes in many different stock designs or can be custom-milled for a more ornate feel. Hardwoods stain well and their various grains add warmth and charm. Softwoods often come pre primed, making them easy to match with existing colors.
  2. Plaster. Often used for more opulent interiors, plaster is a heavy material and usually custom-molded. Unlike other trim materials, the custom nature of plaster means you will not find it at your local Home Depot or other big box store—and it will be more expensive. 
  3. Medium-density fiberboard (MDF). MDF is an engineered wood, making it an economical alternative to solid wood. MDF comes in a myriad of different profiles that can be easily painted. Some MDF designs are even finished in a thin veneer that can be stained. The utility of MDF to match cabinets or flooring make it equally useful for a dining room or living room.
  4. Polyurethane (PU and PUR). Polyurethane crown moulding  is a lightweight combination of rubber and plastic. Its unique structure makes it bendable but firm. PU is more resistant to moisture and rotting than wood making it a great option for bathrooms. It is less expensive than its counterparts and installed with adhesive, but will require multiple coats of paint and can dent easily. 
  5. PVC. PVC is a plastic polymer very similar to polyurethane. It is budget friendly and moisture resilient but design profiles are limited and tend to the simpler side.
  6. Flex. A flexible rubber material used on curved rooms or structures. Its workability allows it to be installed over a curved door or window without relief cuts. Its rubber sheen is hard to cover in a single coat of paint and its flexibility makes it susceptible to knicks and cuts.
  7. Polystyrene. Polystyrene is a foam-based, lower-priced crown moulding material. Polystyrene requires minimal tools to install but is a delicate material. Adhesive and a sharp knife or scissors are the only tools needed making it easy installation crown moulding. 

MT Copeland offers video-based online classes that give you a foundation in construction fundamentals with real-world applications, like coping crown moulding. Classes include professionally produced videos taught by practicing craftspeople, and supplementary downloads like quizzes, blueprints, and other materials to help you master the skills. 

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Featured Instructor

Aaron Butt

Aaron Butt has been in the trades for over 20 years, primarily in the custom, high end architect driven building market on the north shore of Boston Massachusetts. He is passionate about excellence and the craft of custom residential building. Having also spent time teaching a full-time carpentry program at the North Bennet Street School in Boston, Aaron fully embraces his desire to continue teaching what he knows and learning from others who have gone before him.

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