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  • Date Constructed: November 2004

  • Lumber: MDF (pre-primed), and poplar for the window sills

  • Paint: Latex

  • Background:

I lived in a circa 1868 farmhouse. When the house was renovated by a previous owner, he removed most of the original molding in the house and replaced it with flat pine boards. This pine molding has several problems:

  • It lacks the gingerbread charm that you expect from old-house molding

  • The knots bled through the paint, which looks bad

  • The molding was sloppily installed

So I decided shortly after moving into this house in 1996 that the pine molding had to go. All I needed was time, money, tools, and skill. Eight years later, I'm finally ready to tackle this project.

  • What I Learned:

Installing molding is just another woodworking project, but on a bigger scale. Hanging 14' crown molding and chair rails is much easier with a helper, even if that helper is a child.

The main challenge you must accept when installing molding is that your walls, ceilings, and floors are not as square, plumb, and level as your typical woodworking project. This creates excellent opportunities to practice your anger management skills (especially when you have a child holding the other end of your crown molding piece).

The main new skill I learned was how to cope cut my inside corners. This makes a huge difference in the end result, so I highly recommend that you learn this technique. Click here to view the This Old House web page on how to cope crown molding.

If you're installing paint-grade molding, MDF is really nice material to work with. It's a lot cheaper than real wood molding. It cuts well, both on the miter saw and when coping. MDF should not get wet, so I wouldn't install it in a bathroom or laundry room.

I used many tools to install this molding, including my table sawplaner, and router table (when making the window sills), miter sawair compressor and nail guns, and combination square.

In the end, the new molding makes a big difference in the appearance of the room, and brings back the old-house charm that I'm looking for.​

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