Fitting Crown Moulding to a Bulging Wall

Woodwork installers discuss ways to trim a misshapen wall in an old house. October 2, 2006

I have to install some crown on a wall with a big bulge. The molding is too big to bend with the wall. Does anyone have and words of wisdom to make this look right?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor A:
Is the bulge intentional or a framing error?

From the original questioner:
It is a framing problem. It's a 100 year old home with framing and wall problems throughout. So, a perfect world, it is not.

From contributor B:
The worst crown molding job I have ever done was in a very old row house in the South End of Boston. Walking down the street you could actually see the front of the building curve outward. I had done some built-ins and trimwork so they wanted me to do their crown also. After explaining to them the problem with using a 7-1/2" tall crown which does not bend very easily in a room where the wall curved out approx 3-4" over 14', they said they wanted it anyway. I installed the crown with builder’s adhesive, approximately two thousand (slight exaggeration) nails, and a helper with a 2 x 4 pushing in at the middle to get it as tight as possible. Then we cut shims to fit all along the bottom of the crown to fill in the gap. After it was caulked and painted it looked pretty good. Your job would be the opposite but you could still install the same way. Paint has a funny way of making those oddities blend right in.

Another possibility, depending on your situation and how deep the bulge is, would be to add a detail to the molding – say, a piece of 1x stock you could scribe to the wall and wrap around the room first. It could drop just below the bottom of the crown and you could even add an easy detail with a quick router pass to really blend it in. You would then have a nice flat surface for your crown to sit on.

From contributor A:
You might try putting a sub piece against the wall (3/4 x 2) that is scribed to the contour, then install the crown on that. The scribe shows much less on the sub piece than if you scribe the crown. Another option is to shim the crown straight and float the wall texture to fill the gap. I've seen sheetrockers fill 1/2"gaps this way.

From contributor C:
Contributor A's idea will look nice with an added bit of detail while remaining true to the period. Can you use flex-moulding? Most of the traditional profiles are available in paint and stain grades.

From contributor D:
How about some more plaster? If it's an old house that’s probably what is there anyway. The flexible molding idea is a good one too.

From contributor E:
How about cutting the bulge out of the drywall or plaster at the bottom of the crown moulding? Is there enough meat on the detail at the bottom of the crown?

From the original questioner:
Thanks for all of the excellent thoughts and solutions. I think I will see if I can massage it into position the best I can then caulk the gap. I am doing the whole house and expect to run into similar issues everywhere. I got Cut-n-Crown's system to try to eliminate or reduce some of the headaches of having corners not square, etc.

From contributor F:
We often install a course of 3" x 3/4" edgebanded V.C. ply around the room for the crown to land on, usually revealing an inch or so below the bottom of the crown. Rather than cutting around the bend though, we shim it off the wall instead, leaving a nice straight rail for the crown to land on. We butt the inside corners and miter the outsides. This also eliminates the need to cope many of the joints as we can create a tight, square corner to work with. Finally we chase a course of small more pliable decorative molding (nose and cove etc.) below the 3/4' ply to hide the shims or gaps. While it might sound like more work, it really isn't. The extra detail is nice and the crown is always straight. These days I'm even able to sell it.

From Gary Katz, technical advisor, Architectural Woodworking Forum:
Ditto on the small band or soffitt under the crown. It’s easy to do and will add a very nice, crisp detail at the bottom for the crown. You could even install a small bed molding under the soffitt and create a real nice little cornice.

As for out of square corners, it doesn't matter if you cope the inside ones. As demonstrated, a good cope will compensate for a corner that's 3 degrees out, which translates to several inches over of the length of most walls. For outside corners or inside corners, no jig is better than a good continuous crown stop on your miter saw.