Daniel: 1, Crown Molding: 0

crown1

After I wrote the post last week about the extensive wall repair and skim-coating in the little upstairs office, I couldn’t stop thinking about removing the crappy little crown molding bordering the top of the room. I hesitate to really even call it crown molding because it was actually a mix of a very slightly ornamental molding and even smaller pieces of plain curved molding, depending on the wall. It’s definitely not original—it was installed whenever a previous owner put up a drywall ceiling in this room. The ceiling was installed right on top of acoustic tiles, which are nailed into furring strips over the original plaster ceiling, and instead of nicely finishing off the edges where the new ceiling met the original walls, they just covered the gap with some scrap molding they had around. It’s definitely not the way I would have done things, but the drywall is in good enough condition and there’s definitely no rational reason to rip it all down.

crownbefore

Despite that the molding was very ugly and mis-matched and dumb, for some reason I really thought I’d be OK with it once the walls were repaired and everything was caulked and painted. It was so small, after all, and this room is hardly a public space (we’re using it as an office, but it’s probably been used mostly as a closet for the past century, if I had to guess!), and I could totally just be zen about it and let it go and not care at all.

Once again, I have misjudged and underestimated the power of my own anal retentiveness. It made me crazy.

The options as I saw them were these:

1. Take down this molding, and then put up new, bigger molding that coordinates better with the original moldings around the door and window in the room.

2. Don’t even worry about taking down this molding; just slap some bigger molding on top of it and call it a day! That seems like it would work, right?

3. Take down the crown, survey the damage lurking beneath, weep, then begin the long and arduous process of repairing and taping and mudding all over again to reconstruct the upper edges of the room, like some kind of a goddamn masochist. It would take the skill of an artist and the precision of a surgeon and the patience of a nun and the heart of a lion.

Naturally, I chose option 3.

While purchasing and installing new crown molding was an attractive option for the lazier side of me (not that installing crown is any kind of cakewalk, but I bet I could have banged it out in a few hours), it didn’t satisfy my innate desire to self-inflict emotional and physical pain in the service of renovating this house. Additionally, it just felt wrong for this room. We don’t have crown molding elsewhere in the house (or any evidence that there ever was any), and this room has always been a modest one by nature. It’s the only room where the original tongue and groove subfloor wasn’t covered over by nicer oak hardwood, and the door and window moldings are among the least substantial in the house. I just felt like installing a better-proportioned (and consistent) crown molding would ultimately just look totally wrong because of this, and really…faux? Which is kind of worse, in my mind.

crown5

yayyyyyyyyyyyyy. I just love a project that’s one step forward, two steps back. It definitely makes me feel like I’m great at planning and thinking about stuff and doing stuff right.

crown2

Naturally, the crown had been covering up a delicious amount of plaster damage and all-around excitement. That chunk of bare plaster you can see on the chimney is where a previous skim-coat effort (NOT MINE) chipped off in the process of removing the crown—I did end up leaving some old paint on the walls where it was particularly stubborn, and I felt like I was causing more harm than good in trying to remove it. Anyway, now I get to build that area back up with joint compound/mesh. It’s just non-stop fun!

Particularly big gaps and voids I filled first with small pieces of drywall. I noticed while removing the trim that the drywall ceiling was a little springy (it was NAILED up, not screwed, which seems very wrong to me?), so I also took the opportunity to go around the edge of the ceiling and screw in 3″ drywall screws about every 8 inches to secure it back in position. That helped.

crown4

Then I taped and mudded, mudded and taped! My basic strategy was to spread a fairly thick layer of joint compound onto both sides of the edge with a 6″ knife, then lay the fiberglass mesh tape (half on the wall, half on the ceiling), then embed it and get a clean corner with a corner trowel. This first pass seems to leave a fair amount of the mesh tape still exposed, and some areas looking pretty rough, but subsequent layers and sanding in between clear that up.

crown3

Even though I’ve only done 2 of 3 layers of joint compound so far and in it’s still drying in these pictures and it took a couple days and pushed this project back even further and I had to buy more joint compound and it wasn’t fun at all, I’m really glad I went ahead and did it. I’ve been working on these walls on and off (mostly off, to be fair) for literally months at this point, and now I don’t feel like I compromised on a dumb finishing detail. It’s going to look just as it should (provided I didn’t totally screw something up and it all falls apart in 6 months), and there won’t be anything to detract from the nice elements in the room.

SO. GOALS BY THE END OF THIS COMING WEEKEND. I’M PUTTING THEM OUT THERE:

1. Sand the second coat of joint compound and apply the third. Let dry. Sand again. Be done with joint compound, finally, forever (in this room). 
2. Prep the floor for paint (sand, fill, caulk, vacuum, etc).
3. Prep the moldings for paint (sand, fill, caulk, etc). 
4. Install base shoe molding, fill and sand nail holes and caulk all gaps.
5. Prime walls, ceiling, moldings, and floor.
6. Paint walls, ceiling, and moldings. Paint wallpaper primer on wall that will be wallpapered. 
7. WALLPAPER?!?!?!(!!!!)

OK, this seems maybe unrealistic. But that’s kind of my thing.

Also, my friend Emily is planning to come up over the weekend, and despite that her foot was impaled by a nail last time she was here, she sustained no lasting injuries and as such I plan to make her help me. So maybe it’s possible.


58 Comments

  1. Of course you would pick choice #3. Obviously. You do know there is another snow storm coming there this weekend, right?

  2. As soon as you mentioned the crown moldings in that last post, I knew this one would be inevitable. It really does look better without that dinky crown molding.

  3. I think old houses make everyone feel like bad planners. We were in the middle of redoing our hall and about to repaint the ceiling but have stopped to completely demo the upstairs bathroom because of a cracked cast iron pipe. If the plumber can’t do his thing through the ripped up floor of the bathroom, we’ll have to cut away a piece of the hall ceiling.

  4. Well, the end result is looking lovely so far. What are you thinking for paint colors?

  5. Nice! It will look much better in the long run and you won’t be kicking yourself for the next 20 years whenever you go into the room.

  6. You are a special kind of crazy. Actually,I think you’re AMAZING. Thanks for sharing all this – it must be therapeutic? And you know that the house will repay you for all this one day.

  7. Good Job! Done the way it should be done – pat yourself on the back for that. You didn’t skimp, didn’t skip, didn’t cheap out. I still think there are times and things that just need to wait when other things Loom. But you did what YOU needed to be done. That’s really all that matters! And it looks so much better, doesn’t it!

    I think all DIY in all forms makes one feel like a complete idiot most of the time. I spent months planning, thinking, drawing, figuring, sourcing for a re-do in my laundry room. The minute, seriously the first second I looked at it with the new w/d installed, I asked outloud…Why didn’t we xxx, and why did we xxx. Why didn’t we think of that?!?! Who knows. DIY brain.

  8. It’s looking so much better already! Good job kiddo :)

  9. Love it! Looks like you’re doing a great job!

  10. OMG, is that really your mom?! Love it! My mom has no idea what’s going on in my life, let alone that I have a blog… Can’t wait to see the outcome of all this madness! Especially the wallpaper choice. Happy weekend!

    xx/ http://www.hometohem.com

  11. That list is batshit crazy! Just the sort of list I would make.

  12. In the long run you will be so glad that you did it the right way the first time. The room is going to be gorgeous. I just know it.

  13. You’re making stunning progress, even though it probably doesn’t seem like it, given the infinite list of house to-dos scrolling behind your eyeballs 24/7. This little room will be finished soon, and it will be beautiful.

  14. Sooooo good. And clearly done not even stoned a little bit!

  15. No one is surprised, including you, right? No. 3 was unquestionably The Right Thing To Do; the house spoke as loudly as Daniel’s inner voice. It’s nicest all around, though, when reading about your adventures is as fun for us as living through them is for you. Hang in there for the fun stuff!

  16. Very well done! I agree that option 3 was screaming out to be done. You’ll thank yourself, in the long run.

    I also wanted to thank you for not making any of this look like it’s dead-easy and you’re a complete numbskull if you can’t get it right or do it in a day. :)

  17. So glad to see you skipped the crown molding. Crown molding is the boob job of (most) renovations. :D

  18. If you don’t do every project twice then you’re doing your DIY all wrong. :) At least that’s how it’s been in our 3 1/2 year adventure on our house. And FWIW in our 70’s ranch all the original drywall is nailed – ceiling and walls. I’m guessing that was the standard before cordless drills?

    BTW – I watched hours of videos on youtube to learn how to mud and tape and by far “drywallgall” was the best resource. Maybe give it a gander. Your first coat is supposed to expose a lot of the tape, in fact, I prefer paper tape and there isn’t any mud on the outside at all in the first coat. All that sanding between coats – I don’t do it. The third coat is the finish coat. Just knock down the high points and the mud will fill the low spots. Then sand after the finish coat. I kinda love mudding now and find it pretty relaxing. The mud does what I tell it to.

    Anyway, love seeing the progress and your passion for this house is wonderful. It will all be worth it in the end!

    • Thanks, Bobbie! I’ll check that out. I’ve watched a lot of those videos too, but not sure if I stumbled upon that yet…

      In my experience with fixing all the past repair efforts, it seems like paper tape and plaster just do NOT play well together…all the paper tape was peeling and separating from the plaster, even from under a solid layer of joint compound. I’ve read all sorts of good things about using fiberglass mesh tape/screening materials for plaster repair, though, so I’m sticking with that for now!

      I think I’m starting to maybe enjoy it a little now, too. It was so overwhelming at first, but now that I feel like I have a handle on the tools I like using and the consistencies I like working at, I feel more in charge!

  19. You made the right choice. The room is already looking great – your doing a fine job of it!

  20. “Maybe it’s possible…” OF COURSE it’s possible! I just finished repainting our upstairs bath, replumbing a sink, and making our vanity a new color (twice, because we should have just gone with black the first time; don’t ask). In 1.5 days (hey, I had conference calls too!). A snow day is a work on the house day, right? We got almost a foot here in VT today and I was delighted to be forced to stay in with my tools. (Of course, since the roads are probably a death trap, naturally we’re planning to drive to IKEA for bathroom accessories tomorrow…that would be IKEA in Canada.)

    So no, you’re not the only crazy one.

    Also: Yay no crown! Crown is the equivalent of deep baseboards over a
    badly installed floor.

  21. I really like the crown-less look and I can’t wait for the next installment to see what you tackle next!

  22. Thank you! I am in the process of fixing up an old house in Corner Brook Newfoundland and your blog keeps me inspired in times of depression and regret. You are doing great!

  23. Hi Daniel! I found your blog last weekend and subsequently went back and read every single post since the beginning of time causing me not to sleep and my eyes to bleed. It was fantastic. You are fantastic. Max is fantastic. The dogs are fantastic. The house is really fantastic. Everything is a fairy wonderland of DIY and plaster and renovation and amazing one liners. I’m so happy that you pick option 3 every time (EVERY. TIME. WITHOUT FAIL.). That is all. (Oh, and your writing is beautiful. Just beautiful.)

  24. That fireplace wall…is it brick underneath? I just can’t get Rehab Addict’s opening out of my head. “I JUST WANT BRICK!”

    • Not the whole wall, just the little part that protrudes into the room. (I love me some Nicole, but I don’t think every room/space/house needs exposed brick. It’s a great way to add some character back into spaces where it might be lacking, but this room has plenty of character! I think it would end up being too busy to expose it. The plaster covering it is original, and I don’t really want to change that!)

  25. You know, I think this was a great room to develop your skimming skills. Looks good!

  26. Hey Daniel, there’s a weird pop-up ad that comes up almost every time I go to read your blog as the page loads
    and it redirects me to that page automatically… Maybe it’s my phone, but it only does it when I try to read your blog, and I think it’s called lovelinks ? Doesn’t let me exit out of it, takes about 5 tries to get on your page… Just thought I’d let you know : )

    • Thank you for letting me know about that, Viktoriya!! So annoying. Definitely not supposed to be happening. I’ll try to figure out how to make it stop!! I started using an ad service back in August and a few people told me that they were seeing the same thing at the time (only on phones and tablets), but I thought it had been taken care of then. Do you recall what the ads are for? I’ve never personally seen this, even when I load the site on my phone or iPad, which makes it extra frustrating!

      • I never let the pages load, for fear that it was some kind of strange virus, ha ha. It just said “lovelinks” in the url, and I backed out of before it loaded. Good luck!

      • Huh. Frustrating! Ok, I will try to figure it out. Thank you for letting me know!!

      • I also get redirects egen accessing your site ön ny phone, since a couple of days ago. Its been a couple of different things – but I dont remember where ut redirects to

      • Ok, so I checked, and the popup says it’s from ads.yahho.com and I get redirected to adultfunhub.com, which appears to be a pornsite.

        I’m using google chrome on an android phone.

      • Ugh, wtf?!? Ok. Yikes.

  27. I knew you’d pull it down! I’ve read your blog for a scary amount of years now, long enough to know someone as well as obsessively reading about their lives will allow, and I just knew that mismatched crown would make your eye twitch every time you looked at it.

    I feel creepy now, so well done on that as well.

  28. It looks fabulous, you have done a great job. I am reminded of an old saying, “The devil is in the details.” Too true.

  29. #3…that’s why someone like you buys a house like this! So fine.

  30. Maybe it’s only relative to the craziness of other recent projects, but this looks like it came together with minimal anguish! Nice work. :)

    Perhaps a silly question, but how do you know “the ceiling was installed right on top of acoustic tiles, which are nailed into furring strips over the original plaster ceiling?” Did you take down a chunk of ceiling? Are there strangely detailed records of prior renovations? X-Ray vision?

    • Ha! When we were installing the electrical, we had to drill the hole for the ceiling light from the attic, so you could see all the layers of ceiling as we drilled through them!

  31. I don’t think you’re crazy. I think you’re grooving on the authenticity of the house. It will love you back, big time. <3

  32. So pretty.

  33. I knew that you’d select this option because you are you! So glad because it would have bothered the heck out of you! And your weekend to do list is very you, too! Can’t wait to see how it all comes together! Meanwhile, I’m facing a tiling and drywall project this weekend!

  34. My mind cannot comprehend how freaking awesome you are that you can do this….amazing.

  35. Obviously you’d go for option 3, why would you even consider the other ones if that means less work and crazieness? Also because it’s just the right thing to do Looking good so far, but maybe you’re a little optimistic about your to-do list :) however, by now you should now how realistic it was…

  36. You’re insane, and this is fantastic.

  37. Chiming in with the others to say it already looks so much better. Worth it!

  38. Errr, Daniel… I feel quite embarrassed to distract you from all these wonderful comments (and I concur, by all means!), but I wanted to *very quietly* mention to you this: I tripped over reading “despite that” in your post. You used it twice. It sounded wrong to me. You are usually very good with words, so I second-guessed myself and looked it up. Can’t find anything super-official looking, but in a nutshell, you have to use “despite + verb+ing” or “despite the fact that…”, per this totally random and very authoritative website, http://speakspeak.com/resources/english-grammar-rules/various-grammar-rules/despite-in-spite-of. Now, so that we’re even, please feel free to point out any and all errors in my comment :).
    Good luck with your plan!!!

    • Huh! I think you’re right! For some reason I don’t think I ever learned that…I guess “despite that” is a colloquialism (perhaps even a regional one? It still sounds right to me, even if it isn’t, and I feel like lots of people say it…I could be wrong there, too). Obviously my blog posts aren’t super formal or anything, but I like to think that I know I’m doing it when I’m breaking grammar/style rules! Ha! Thanks! This is a fun thing to know.

      • You’re welcome, glad you took it this way! I haven’t heard anyone say it this way, so a colloquialism hasn’t occurred to me, therefore you may be right too. Since many people (including me) consider you an awesome writer, we’re holding you to higher standards :)

  39. “It would take the skill of an artist and the precision of a surgeon and the patience of a nun and the heart of a lion.” This may be one of your best lines yet. Somehow you are the perfect storm of all those things. Plus a brilliant, funny writer to boot. Keep up the amazing work, Daniel, on all fronts. I have never enjoyed a blog quite so much.

  40. YES. No mismatched mini-crown for D’s lovely house.

    I have tiny crown in my bedroom (though it all matches) and at least SOME ceiling detail is period for Arts and Crafts houses. So I’m thinking that I’ll get some heftier, but still plainish profile at some point. Being true to the house is key.

  41. I took two classes in plastering at the DIY-school here, ceilings and walls. Enough for me to decide that it is a real craft. Here some ideas for your diningroom: http://style-files.com/2014/02/12/10-of-the-most-beautiful-beamed-ceilings/#more-16212 (this is a joke of course) I would pick my battles with this house ;-D

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