How to nail Crown Molding 

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After measuring and cutting crown molding, you need to fasten it to walls and ceilings. To accomplish this, you can either glue it or nail it to attach to the walls. Some people wonder, which is the best option between gluing and nailing crown molding, but in this guide, I will be focusing on the latter.

So, if you’ve already cut and measured your ceiling trim, read on to learn how to nail it properly to the wall. 

Step-to-step guide on how to nail crown moldings 

  1. Find the framing material behind the wall cladding 

The first step you need to undertake is to determine the exact location of the framing behind the ceiling or wall cladding. In most cases, the wall cladding is made up of drywall, but it can also be other nailable material like wood paneling. Whichever the case, the framing lumber is an excellent location to nail your crown molding. 

There are 3 techniques you can use to locate the framing found around the top edges of your interior walls. That is; test holes, stud finders & the tapping technique. Similarly, there are 3 types of frames that you can use to nail your crown moldings. This includes; rafters that run across the ceiling, studs that run up & down inside the walls, and the top plate running along with the ceiling on top of the studs. 

That aside, here are the different strategies you can use to find the framing lumber behind the wall cladding; 

  • Test Holes 

Start by determining how much of the wall and ceiling you want your new molding to cover. This will help you make test holes without being concerned about them looking bad afterward. So, once you’ve determined the area that will be covered by the molding, take a thin nail and use a hammer to pound it in to make test holes. 

If the nail hits an area between the framing, it will sink easily, But if it hits lumber behind your wall cladding, you’ll feel resistance. 

  • Stud finders 

The use of stud finders is the easiest way to locate the framing lumber behind any nailable materials. Basically, a stud finder is a device that measures material density. More importantly, the device beeps and shines a light on the wall when it’s brought over framing. 

To use the device, follow the manufacturer’s directions and slide it around on the wall until it shows the framing location. 

  • Tap technique 

Compared to the above technique, this method is a bit more complicated and requires an experienced ear. It involves tapping along the ceiling or wall with a hammer to determine if there is framing lumber beneath the wall cladding. If you tap over framing, the hammer produces a dull sound. But if the taps sound hollow, you’re over empty space. 

2. Mark rafter/ stud locations 

After determining the locations of the rafters and studs, mark them with a light writing material like a pencil. Although some people tend to overlook this step, it’s critical since it’s easy to locate the framing while holding a nailing gun or a similar piece of nailing tool in place.

The boldness and locations of these marks will depend on whether you’ll paint your wall and ceiling after crown mold installation. For instance, if you’ll not paint the surface, use light erasable marks or hide them behind the actual location of your crown molding. However, if you’re planning to paint the surface, you don’t have to be concerned about the marks since they’ll be covered.

3. Hold the molding in place 

Most installers hold the crown molding in place with their body and hands and then nail the pieces off. Interestingly, the rest of the nails are easier to place accurately once the first nail is in.

On the downside, this approach is a bit difficult when dealing with particularly long pieces of crown molding. Therefore, you’ve to come up with creative ideas like using the painters’ tape, crown molding hanger or getting a partner/ friend to help you hold the molding. Also, you can scab a piece of wood to the wall to hold one edge of the molding or rest it on a piece of heavy wood positioned against the wall. 

4. Nail crown molding to the wall 

Finally, nail your crown molding into the ceiling and wall. Here, you can either use a hammer or the best nail guns for crown molding. Also, make sure you have selected the right nail size for crown molding installation

If you’re planning to use a hammer, I would recommend that you pre-drill holes in the molding to prevent it from splitting. However, that is not necessary if you’re using a nail gun to attach the crown molding. 

As mentioned earlier, you should nail the molding into the top plate, studs (walls), and rafters (ceiling). For small molding, you can just nail the molding into the top plate. But for larger moldings, you have to nail it into both the ceiling and wall to prevent it from sagging. 

How to nail the crown molding to; 

  • The wall

To attach the molding to the walls, you need to nail through the part that is flush with your wall. In most cases, this is around ½ to 1” from the edge of your molding. More importantly, you should put a nail into the crown at each stud to increase its durability. 

  • The ceiling 

Crown molding usually has a slightly different shape on the side of the ceiling compared to the wall side. Regardless of the shape, the best place to insert the nails is the part that is flush with the ceiling. This is usually about ¾” from the edge of your molding. Also, make sure you put a nail through the molding into each rafter along with your ceiling. 

  • The top plate 

For relatively small crown molding, you can just nail the molding to the top plate. More notable, the spacing of the nails should be around 12 to 16”. 


Apart from the wall, top plate, and ceiling, you can also nail your crown molding to the profile backing. This involves fighting a profiled backing into the space behind the molding to solve the issue of a relatively narrow point where your nails hit a solid surface. All in all, the profile backing has to be nailed to the top plate, rafters and studs. Therefore, the steps of nailing the molding will almost be the same.  

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