Doing It Right: Drywall and Crown Molding

Mistakes done on drywall and crown molding are visible even to the casual observer. Here are some tips to help you get it right.

April 09, 2015
Doing It Right: Drywall and Crown Molding

Today is all about getting the job done right.

We've all worked for clients who used a flashlight to inspect the drywall finish and, not surprisingly, it usually came up lacking. But in most cases, light rarely  if ever  rakes the wall at that shallow an angle, so a standard level of finish works well enough. There are times, however, when natural light floods a room at every imaginable angle throughout the day. In those cases a "level 5" drywall finish is called for. Architect Bob Borson visited one of his job sites the other day and snapped some photos of the drywall crew sanding and skim-coating and sanding some more on the way to achieving a level 5 finish.

Crown molding is another place where it's obvious to even the casual observer when the carpenter didn't get it right. No doubt the first time you installed crown you were happy that the painter would cover the places where you'd filled imperfect joints with caulk  or what we used to call "quarter-inch paint." If you or someone on your crew still hasn't learned to do it right, check out this video series on cutting crown from master finish carpenter Gary Katz. Even if you know what you're doing with crown, Katz's system will show you how to do the job faster and better.

Drywall and crown molding need to be done right because the results are always visible. But what about all those materials we install that get covered up and are never seen again -- until a problem arises. Most often that happens on the exterior and the problem is usually caused by water, the enemy of any wood structure. But the quality of the materials we use to keep moisture out of our buildings is changing for the better. Compared with just a few years ago, there are dozens of new products on the market, including housewraps, peel-and-stick membranes, and liquid-applied water resistant barriers. Here's a video from builder and remodeler Matt Risinger, who takes a look at weather barrier testing being done at the University of Texas Construction Durability Lab.

The right tool makes the job easy. In fact, sometimes the job is impossible without the proper tool, as I found out one unusually cold (for D.C.) morning this winter when I discovered the water to the kitchen sink was frozen. To make a long story short, the supply lines ran under the cabinets along an outside wall and at one point came in contact with an exhaust vent where it penetrated the siding. The air in that duct was essentially the same as the exterior air and the metal on metal contact of duct to pipe caused the water to freeze. Fortunately it was a "soft" freeze and a hair dryer thawed it in less than a minute. But to make the repair so it wouldn't happen again required cutting out parts of the cabinet floor. In the good old days that would have meant a lot of hand work, but these days a multi-tool makes quick work or cuts in tight quarters. You may not use a multi-tool every day, but when you need it, you really need it. Here's a review of Ryobi's Job Plus multi-tool from Thomas Hammett over at

Finally, here's a new product that might come in handy when things aren't going well. It's a malleable glue called Sugru, and although I haven't tried it yet, it looks like something I'd want to carry in my toolbox just in case.

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