Crown molding is one of the most multi-faceted elements of interior decor. Traditionally, it was used to line the top of the wall and offer a smooth link to the ceiling. As different designs to fit crown molding onto the wall arose, so did the versatility of crown molding itself.

Today, crown molding is making its mark in homes in creative ways, such as picture or wall-art frames. While this may sound rather complex, a crown molding frame is actually super easy and fun to make. 

Wondering how else to play with crown molding? Check these ideas out. 

Crown molding shelves are one such stroke of genius that is becoming increasingly popular for displaying trinkets, photographs or holding up books. The beauty of interior decor is that you get to display your unique tastes and with such a shelf, this is no different. It makes for a great DIY project, with the right material and tools, and a few handy tips. 

But first, what are the types of crown molding material?

Wood

Wood is available in a variety of simple stock profiles, while more intricate reliefs can be made by embossing wood composites onto solid wood. Natural wood, like mahogany, provides a sense of warmth to a space.

MDF (Medium Density Fireboard)

MDF is a low-cost and stable substitute to solid wood. It is available in a variety of stock profiles, some of which include a natural wood veneer that can be stained, while others can be painted without veneers.

PVC

PVC is good for bathrooms, house exteriors, and anywhere else that moisture is a concern. The plastic polymers do not warp or rot, no matter how wet it gets. Bearing its plastic sheen, however, it may not offer the coveted wood effect that crown molding is famed for.

Flex

Flex crown molding is used with curved walls and window bays. The rubbery material comes in an array of styles that can bend around a curved wall without the need for relief cuts. It is less expensive than a custom carpentry job, but may be costlier than other materials like polyurethane and needs to be special-ordered.

Polystyrene

Polystyrene crown molding is usually used for quick room redesigns. It can be cut with scissors or a knife and goes up with construction adhesive. While it will get the job done, there is the obvious limitation of quality and thus durability.

Polyurethane

Polyurethane packs a great combination of both aesthetics and durability. Coming in numerous sizes and styles, ranging from simple to elaborate motifs, it tends to mimic wood, in appearance and warmth. 

It is moisture and insect repellent and will not rot or grow mold even if it is installed in rooms such as the bathroom. Also, it will not warp or crack as temperature changes. All these perks come at a budget, as polyurethane is one of the most affordable crown molding materials. 

See our enormous portfolio for inspiration on the molding to get for the shelf project.

Now, let us make a shelf!

The first tips while setting out

This is a low-cost project, but it requires some time and effort. Set aside a few hours for the project. If possible, give it the weekend if you are busy during the week.

Shelves look excellent when made in varied lengths and staggered on a wall. If you are confident in your work, have one or two more to use in different rooms or to create an accent wall. 

Do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Get an expert to assist, especially with the cuts or at the very least, have some assistance when putting up the shelf.


  1. Get the materials and tools.

You will need;

  • The crown molding

  • A miter saw

  • Nails

  • A hammer/ nail gun

  • Glue

  • Caulk

  • Sanding material

  • Paint (if necessary)

  • Measuring tape and pencil

  1. Make the measurements

Decide on where you want the shelf to rest and how long you want it to be. Different designs could include installing the shelf at a wall corner and having the lengths extend on the two walls, having a small series of shelves along one wall, or having one simple shelf, say above the mantel.

Whichever the case, measure the length of wall where the shelf will go, measure it again, and note this measurement.

  1. Cut the pieces

Begin by measuring the 1*2 piece of board that will support the crown molding. This one needs no angled corners and will simply bear 90-degree cuts at the desired length.

With the backer board helping to ascertain the crown molding measurement needed, proceed to make the crown molding cuts.

Often, this is the part that is a bit of a conundrum. For a beginner, especially, there will likely be confusion around how to set the molding against the saw, how to set the angle for corners, etc.

Dan Luxmor from Dunn Lumber recommends using the “cutting in position” or the “upside-down and backwards” method. Here, place the molding upside down while leaning against the miter saw fence. This will keep the crown molding in position, and it will not need to be flipped. 

How do you hold the molding upside down and backwards? Easy. Picture the crown molding as it would rest on the wall. Now, flip it over and put it directly on the saw. 

Pro-tip: Make a few sample cuts using spare pieces of molding. These templates will help guide you when making the actual molding cuts for the shelf.

When you’re ready, make 45 degree cuts on each end of the length of molding you’re working with. Depending on the shelf layout, you will need to know whether to make inside or outside corners. Label each corner beforehand, so you’re aware of where what will go. Dan recommends these easy hacks for making corners. 

Make a few end-pieces that will cover the ends of the crown molding and add a fluid quality to our project. These will be small crown molding cuts that fit into the space between the crown molding and the wall at the sides. 

Pro-tip: To have some wiggle room, add a fraction of an inch, say ¼- ½, to your measurements. This will allow you to trim the edges slightly in the endeavor to make the corners match.

Remember to sand down the edges of the cut pieces to smooth them over.

  1. Assemble the pieces

Depending on the use the shelf will be put to, the pieces can be brought together using wood glue, or with the addition of a few nails to secure it in place. 

Affix the backer board to the wall using adhesive and allow it to hold. Then, apply a bead of glue to the seam along the crown molding where the latter will be joined to the board. Bring the molding to the board and gently press them together. Use a few nails to secure them to the wall.

Glue the end pieces to each end of the set-up and use nails to fasten them to the backer board.  

  1. Cut the top, sand it smooth, then assemble it.

To have a flat surface at the top of the shelf, measure a flat piece of board whose width will match the distance between the wall and the upper edge of the crown molding. Measure it’s length and match it against the length of the backer board or the top edge of the crown molding.

To have a little overhang, extend the measurement slightly, say by ¼- ½ inch.

When laying it, make sure that the edges of the board are properly aligned with the crown molding edges before securing with glue or nails. 

  1. Don’t forget to caulk!

Even for the pros, a few errors are likely to occur in any project. By this time, and despite your best effort, there may be teeny gaps where the pieces come together, or the nails may seem to have dented the flawless molding and just cannot be ignored.

This is where caulk comes in handy. Add a bit of caulk to the gaps and to fill the nail holes and allow it to dry.

Pro-tip: Do not use too much caulk, lest it spills over or forms a ghastly lump.

  1. Adorn your work of art

There are no rules stating that the shelf must be a certain color. White will certainly be easy and direct, but there are innumerable options. Pick out a color that calls out to you; Try pink in a little girl’s room, a floral color pattern in a play room, a subtle gray in the den, or a solid black above the mantel. 

Decorate the shelf such that it stands out while complementing the rest of the room. Did I mention that our crown molding comes already pre-primed and ready to paint?

Bonus step: Finally, set up the display

When all is said and done, when the molding is set and the paint is dry, finish the set-up by assembling the books, trinkets, or photographs, that were intended for the shelf. What would first go to it? For me, it is definitely all 7 Harry Potter books.

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