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Tips for Incorporating Crown Molding on Top of Kitchen Cabinets

If you are looking to give your kitchen a more polished and elegant flair, purchasing antique hardware and installing those bits alongside crown molding on top of the kitchen cabinets is sure to have the desired effect.

Crown molding is one of the best ways to elevate the sophistication of a space and help to give a refined appearance to ceilings and cabinetry.

Fortunately, with just a few tools and relatively basic woodworking skills, installing crown molding on top of kitchen cabinets is a job that you can complete yourself.

That said, there are some tips for installing crown molding on top of kitchen cabinets that you will want to keep in mind while planning the project and during the installation process.

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Before diving into those tips, let’s go ahead and gain a basic understanding of the purpose of crown molding.

Why Install Crown Molding?

Initially, crown molding was installed for practical reasons, helping to hide imperfections that were created between the ceiling and walls as a house settled.

Today, crown molding still serves this function. However, it has also become a highly sought-after design element that introduces a level of elegance and sophistication to a room.

why crown molding

Therefore, installing crown molding can add value to your home, particularly if it is already in a higher-priced tier of homes. However, the type of molding you opt to install will impact your return on investment as those made of cheaper materials might not produce the intended financial impact.

That said, let’s go ahead and take a look at some of the options you have when installing crown molding on top of kitchen cabinets.

Selecting the Right Style of Molding

When installing crown molding on top of kitchen cabinets in your home, there are a variety of types of crown molding for you to wade through and consider. Some of those options include:

Traditional Crown Molding

As far as kitchen cabinetry is concerned, traditional crown molding is considered the industry standard. Because empty space above cabinets is commonplace in houses, many opt to install crown molding on top of kitchen cabinets.

For those with an average eight-foot-high ceiling, three to six inches of crown molding will likely be sufficient to fill that space.

Moreover, this is usually the least expensive option for installing crown molding on top of kitchen cabinets, so if you are on a budget but still want to upgrade your kitchen in this way, then traditional crown molding is probably right for you.

Stepped Crown Molding

Some kitchens have cabinets at different heights to achieve a “stepped” appearance. In this situation, stepped crown molding is necessary to keep with that aesthetic.

However, given that the placement of the molding must be precise when installing stepped crown molding, it is wise to hire a professional to complete this job.

Stacked Crown Molding

If the cabinets are not stacked, but the ceiling is too high to place them all the way up, then stacked crown molding is likely the right call. Stacked crown molding is made up of many pieces of molding, all stacked perfectly on one another to achieve a uniform appearance.

However, do be aware that because this type of crown molding is a bit more elaborate, it will typically be more expensive as well, so be sure to take that into consideration when planning to install crown molding on top of kitchen cabinets.

Additionally, much like stepped molding, this style is also more likely to require an experienced installer.

right style of molding

Decorative or Ornamental Crown Molding

As far as decorative and ornamental crown molding is concerned, there are a wide array of styles to choose from, like geometric designs, braided ropes, dentil molding and a panoply of others.

Again, be aware that more elaborate designs will cost more to procure.

Interior Crown Molding

Interior crown molding is quite similar to traditional crown molding. However, this type of molding extends beyond the cabinets and around the entirety of the room.

If you want something relatively simple that creates continuity throughout the space, this is probably the right pick.

Take all of this information into consideration and shop for different kinds of crown molding to see what is out there before making your final decision.

That said, let’s go ahead and turn our attention to how to install crown molding on top of kitchen cabinets.

Installing Crown Molding on Top of Kitchen Cabinets

Before we discuss how to install crown molding on top of kitchen cabinets, a quick word about safety.

When undertaking this kind of project, many people will have a strong impulse to utilize the countertop in place of a ladder. Do not do this, as there is a significant risk of harm. Not only are countertops too high for most to use in this way, but they can also be slippery.

crown molding on top of kitchen cabinets

With that out of the way, here are the steps you will need to follow to install crown molding on top of kitchen cabinets.

Measure the Nailing Strips

Use a measuring tape to measure the width and depth of the cabinets in question. Each of these measurements is important as the crown molding will wrap around the cabinets at certain points. Total these two figures by adding the width and the depth for both sides of the cabinets.

Measure the Bottom Edge of the Molding

For the most refined and polished appearance, it is necessary for the bottom edge of the crown molding to sit flush with the face of the cabinets. Therefore, nailing strips will need to be stepped back on all sides equal to the thickness of the lower edge of the molding. This thickness is usually about one-eighth of an inch. However, you should still take the time to capture this measurement.

Cut the Nailing Strips

From here, cut the nail strips to fit the cabinet’s perimeter, subtracting the thickness of the lower edge of the molding. This means that, assuming that your molding’s lower edge is 1/8th of an inch thick, the front strip needs to span the width of the cabinet, minus ¼ inch (1/8th inch on each side).

As for the side strip, the length of this piece should be measured by taking the cabinet depth (which is typically 12 inches) and subtracting 1 ½ inch width of the front strip, then 1/8th of an inch setback created by the front strip, with another 1/8th of an inch gap between the wall and the end of the side strip.

This means that for a 12-inch deep kitchen cabinet, the side nailing strip would come out to be 10 ¼ inches.

Place the Nailing Strips

Next, lay the front strip on the top of the cabinet and set it back by the thickness of the molding’s lower edge. Next, (sticking with the example used above) center it so that there is 1/8th of an inch on each side of the cabinet.

Then, repeat this process for the two side strips, making sure to set them back by 1/8th of an inch.

Fasten the Nailing Strips

Before securing your nailing strips, double-check the placement of each strip. When satisfied with the accuracy, use a nail gun to nail the strips into the top of the cabinet.

installing crown molding steps

Measure and Cut the Front Section of Molding

Next, measure and mark the front portion of the molding to match the cabinet width. Get a miter saw and set it to cut at a 45-degree angle. Then, place the portion of molding upside-down, resting at a 45-degree angle against the safety fence.

From here, cut at the first mark and then move the molding to the next mark. Adjust the saw to the opposite 45-degree angle and then cut the other side of the crown molding.

When completing this step, do be aware that the angled ends will stick out further than the cabinet width. That's okay, as this is necessary for them to connect with the two side sections of molding.

Affix the Front Portion of Crown Molding

Take the front section of the molding and press it up against the front nailing strip and position it precisely. Using a nail gun, drive several nails through the lower edge of the molding and into the nailing strip. Be aware that the crown molding is likely to droop at this point. This is normal and will be fixed by adding on the side sections.

Measure and Cut the Side Portions

Next, get the two pieces of side molding and prepare to cut them to match the front section of crown molding. Be aware that these two pieces will only require one angled cut each as the other side needs to be at a 90-degree angle to sit against the wall. However, just as you left a 1/8th of an inch gap for the side portions of the nailing strip, be sure to do this with the crown molding as well.

Just like you did with the front section of the crown molding, cut the right side section to complement the front portion's 45-degree angle and then repeat the process on the left side section.

installing crown molding

Affix the Front Portion of Crown Molding

This step will be much easier to complete if you have an extra set of hands to lift the front section of the molding so that it is not drooping. From here, place one side section of the crown molding precisely against the nailing strip and ensure that the two 45-degree angles of the side section and the front section meet completely. With everything in place, hold the two 45-degree angles together firmly and nail the side section into place. Repeat the process on the other side.

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Finish and Paint the Molding

The final thing to do is to finish the molding and paint it accordingly. However, before getting started on this step, be sure to cover the cabinets with plastic sheeting to prevent any paint from dripping onto them.

Depending on the size of the nail holes, it may be necessary to fill them in with wood putty. However, if the holes are small enough, interior paint can end up filling them adequately.

Finally, coat the crown molding with a minimum of two layers of paint. Allow the paint to dry for at least four hours before you remove the plastic from the cabinets.

Additional Things to Keep in Mind

When installing crown molding on top of kitchen cabinets, there are a few things that you will want to keep in mind.

First, it is critical to position the wood nailing strips perfectly. If these are positioned too far in either direction, a visible line will end up scarring the appearance of the molding.

Additionally, when procuring lumber for the nailing strips, it is best to avoid furring strips as they tend to have rough edges. Instead, opt to get fir, pine or another softwood with straight edges.

Finally, it is wise to use an electric nail gun for this project as it will allow you to drive thin brad nails into the wood, thereby preventing splitting and leaving smaller holes that can be filled with interior paint. Moreover, an electric nail gun will be valuable for reaching into certain areas where it can be difficult to use a hammer.

Installing Crown Molding on Top of Kitchen Cabinets Yourself

home kitchen with crown molding

We hope that these tips help you to better understand the project ahead and how to successfully complete it yourself. While installing crown molding on top of kitchen cabinets can be achieved by most DIY craftsmen, it does require a bit of planning and forethought.

Go through this piece again, pick out the right crown molding for your kitchen cabinets, prep the materials ready for the job and get to work upgrading your home’s kitchen.

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