Q: I am remodeling my living room and would like to install a wide cove molding at the ceiling, but I need help in mitering the corners. Do I cut them at a 45-degree angle? Do I cope them? Any information would be greatly appreciated. –Steve H.
A: Crown molding is one of the most attractive and interesting molding features you can add to a room. It is also, however, one of the more difficult finish carpentry tasks to undertake.
Crown molding sits at an angle to the wall, as opposed to a base molding that sits flat against it. Therefore, you have to deal with a compound miter — one that angles in two directions at once — as opposed to the standard miter used on a baseboard. You have several options open to you for how to do this, and I would recommend that you purchase some inexpensive, paint-grade crown molding to practice with until you get the hang of the techniques. Some of these techniques are also very difficult to explain in words, so your best bet is to purchase a book on finish carpentry (or get one from the library) that has illustrations of the various step-by-step procedures that follow:
- Compound miter saw: If you have access to one, the easiest way to cut crown molding is with a compound miter saw. These saws have the ability to be set at an angle relative to the back fence as well as having the head of the saw set at an angle, allowing you to cut both angles at the same time. Full instructions for the proper angle settings are included with the saw (they differ with the type of crown molding being installed). If you have a lot of molding work to do you may want to invest in one, or they can also be rented.
- Table or radial arm saw: You can also make compound miter cuts on a table saw by tilting the blade and then holding your molding against a miter gauge that’s set at an angle. Table saws, however, tend to be awkward for handling long pieces of molding. You can also use a radial arm saw by angling both the arm and the blade, but I’ve found the cuts on these to be somewhat rough.
- Standard miter saw and miter boxes: You can use a standard miter box or miter saw to cut crown molding. The trick is to cut the molding upside-down, and with both of the rear faces in perfect contact with the fence. In other words, the molding is upside-down and facing you, with the ceiling edge down and against the bottom of the miter box and the wall edge up and against the back of the box. You can then make the cut with the blade set at 45 degrees.
- Coping: This is done by first square cutting the end of one piece of molding and running it all the way into the corner, then cutting the end of the intersecting one in a pattern that matches the face of the first piece. This is not as difficult as it may seem, but it does require some patience and the use of a relatively inexpensive hand tool called a coping saw.
- Corner blocks: If you don’t want to mess with angles at all, you can install decorative corner blocks at each inside and outside corner, then simply square-cut the molding and butt it against the flat sides of the blocks. Corner blocks are not a stock item at most stores, so ask to see a molding catalog to find out what’s available.
By the way, with whatever technique you decide on, crown molding is considerably easier, safer and more accurate to install if you have the help of a second person.
Q: I own a small commercial building, which has a flat roof that was recently asphalted. However, there is a low spot where water still accumulates, and I don’t know how to correct the problem. Does this water accumulation pose a problem? How do I get rid of this constant puddling, and can a repair wait until summer? –Jon K.
A: No flat roof is truly flat, since it has to be sloped slightly to allow the rain water to run off, typically to a gutter or scupper where the water is collected and directed to a drain. In your particular case, there are a couple of things you’ll need to determine:
1. Is the low spot you mention right at a drain of some sort? If it is, it may have been intentional to have the roof slope to that point, but it may be that it was never constructed correctly in the first place. In other words, the design or construction of the roof isn’t allowing the water to get to where it was intended to go.
2. Did this low spot exist before the roof was redone recently? It’s possible that the roofer made a mistake during the asphalting process that actually created a low spot where one didn’t exist before.
3. When you step on this area, does it feel structurally solid? If there is “give” in the sheathing underneath the roofing at this point, there could be a structural problem — dryrot, broken or overspanned framing, etc. — that needs to be repaired in order to eliminate the low spot.
Whether this can wait until summer is dependent on what the problem is. If it’s simply a low spot in the asphalt but the roof is structurally solid and the roofing is not leaking, then you can wait for better weather. Structural problems or any situation where water is getting below the roofing — even if it isn’t entering the building — needs to be dealt with right away.
Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.