How to Install Crown Molding on Kitchen Cabinets

crown molding on kitchen cabinets

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Dress up your kitchen wall cabinets by installing crown molding along the top edge. Crown molding helps eliminate the dark appearance of open soffits on wall cabinets and gives them a fine carpentry look, even if you only have beginner carpenter skills. The trick that makes this project so simple is the addition of nailing strips at the top of the wall cabinets. These strips help you accurately position the crown molding and provide a place to nail onto other than the cabinet face. Because the strips are stepped back, the crown molding will cover them, rendering them invisible. You will enjoy the simple mechanics of this project, and especially the trim, neat, and ultra-finished results.

Tools and Supplies You Will Need

Instructions

The success of this project relies precisely on locating the wood nailing strips along the top of the cabinets. If you position the strips too far forward or backward, a narrow but visible line will mar the appearance. Success, too, depends on using an electric nail gun. Not only does this valuable tool let you shoot thin brad nails and avoid splitting your cabinets, but it can also reach into low soffit areas where swinging a hammer is difficult. When purchasing the one-by-two lumber for the nailing strips, avoid furring strips as they have rough edges. Instead, choose straight-edge spruce, pine, fir, or another good quality softwood.

Measure the Nailing Strips

With the measuring tape, measure the width and depth of the wall cabinets. Both measurements are necessary because the crown molding will wrap around the cabinets. Then, total the two figures. For example, for a standard 36-inch wide wall cabinet with a depth of 12 inches, the total figure would be 60 inches. The total is comprised of a front width of 36 inches, a left depth of 12 inches, and a right depth of 12 inches.

Measure the Crown Molding Lower Edge

For the sleekest appearance, the bottom edge of the crown molding will be flush with the face of the cabinets. This means that the nailing strips need to be stepped back on all sides by the thickness of the lower edge of the crown molding. With the tape measure, measure this thickness. For many popular crown molding profiles, this thickness is 1/8-inch.

Cut the Nailing Strips

Cut the nailing strips to the cabinet perimeter size, minus the thickness of the crown molding's lower edge. So, if the crown molding's lower edge thickness is 1/8-inch, you would have:

Front Strip

The front strip should be as long as the width of the cabinet, minus 1/8-inch on each end for a total subtraction of 1/4-inch. So, for a cabinet that is 36 inches wide, the front strip will measure 35 3/4 inches.

Side Strips

The length of each side strip should be arrived at by starting with the wall cabinet depth (usually 12 inches) and subtracting:

  • 1 1/2-inch actual, not nominal, width of the front strip
  • 1/8-inch set-back imposed by the front strip
  • 1/8-inch expansion gap between the kitchen wall and the end of the strip

So, for a 12-inch deep wall cabinet, the length of each side strip would be 10 1/4 inches.

Position the Nailing Strips

Lay the front nailing strip on the top of the cabinet and set it back by the thickness of the crown molding's lower edge. With this example, that would be a 1/8-inch gap. Center the strip so that there is a space of 1/8-inch on each side. Repeat for the two side strips, setting each strip back by 1/8-inch. It can be helpful to establish these set-backs with the crown molding itself rather than relying on a tape measure.

Secure the Nailing Strips

Use the nail gun to nail the strips to the top of the cabinet.

Measure and Cut the Crown Molding Front Section

Measure and mark the front section of crown molding to the cabinet width. Set the miter saw to a 45-degree angle cut. Place the crown molding so that it is rests upside-down and at a 45-degree angle against the saw gate. Cut at one mark, then move the molding along to the next mark. Reposition the saw to the opposite 45-degree angle cut and make the second cut.

Important

The two marks represent the width of the cabinet. But do not be surprised that the angled ends will flare out farther than the cabinet width. This is necessary in order to meet up with the the two side sections.

Attach the Crown Molding Front Section

Hold the molding front section against the front nailing strip. Make sure that it is precisely positioned. With the nailing gun, drive several nails through the lower edge of the crown molding and into the nailing strip. At this point, the crown molding may droop a bit, but this will be corrected when you add the side sections.

Measure and Cut the Crown Molding Side Sections

The two side sections of crown molding only need angle cuts on one side; the other side can be a straight 90-degree cut. For the left section of crown molding, make a 45-degree on one side to complement the front crown molding's 45-degree left side. Repeat this for the right side.

Just as you left an expansion gap between the side nailing strips and the wall, do the same for the side crown molding sections. Make sure that you leave about a 1/8-inch gap rather than having the crown molding touch the wall.

Attach the Crown Molding Side Sections

For this step, it helps to have an assistant raise the front section of crown molding so that it is at a 45-degree angle position. Place the left section of crown molding against the left nailing strip. Make sure that the two 45-degree angle flared sections of crown molding perfectly meet. With one hand firmly holding that angled junction, nail the side crown molding section in place.

Match the Corners

Drive one brad through one board to the adjoining one to help them stay together. Repeat for the right side.

Paint and Finish the Crown Molding

Before painting, cover the cabinets with sheet plastic or masking film and secure it with painter's tape. Depending on the size of the nail holes, you may wish to fill them with wood putty or leave them unfilled. Interior paint can often adequately fill the small holes produced by electric nail guns. Coat with at least two layers of paint. Let the paint cure for at least four hours before removing the plastic.