How to Hang and Level Odd Shaped Decor

Posted by John on April 21st, 2013

It’s nice to be back in the swing of things.  Lisa and I are adjusting nicely to life with two kids.  So far so good.  The real challenge will be when they both can walk or climb.  That will be an adventure.. an exhausting adventure.  This weekend we started catching up on some projects that got shifted to the back burner when we started making preparations for baby #2.  One of those projects is a large wooden key Lisa bought at Hobby Lobby.  It’s an odd shape and doesn’t have any straight edges for a level to rest on.  Plus, it needed some modifications to mount.  Here’s how to hang and level odd shaped decor…

hang and level odd shaped decor

wooden key

This key came with a small bracket on one end.  I guess it was designed to be hung vertically.  That’d be cool, but we thought it would look better if we hung it horizontally.

large wooden key

To modify the key to hang horizontally, I needed to add two additional brackets.  I couldn’t find the exact same one that was already one there, so I just bought something similar from Lowes.  I started by drawing a center line down the back of the key using a straight edge.  The center line will help me align the two brackets to each other and will serve as the line which the piece will be leveled to.  I then traced the outline of the bracket and the screw holes.

brackets on decor

Since the bracket needs space for a fastener, I needed to drill out the space where the center hole is located.  I also pre-drilled the holes for the two screws that keep the bracket onto the key.  Then I just repeat those steps for the bracket on the other end.

key hole bracket

To mount the key onto the wall so it’s level, I transferred the locations of the brackets to the actual level using a pencil.  I also marked the center point of the level.

leveling decor

With the level marked up, I place it against the wall and line up the center mark of the wall with the center mark of the level.  Now all you have to do is transfer the lines on the level to the wall to indicate where the brackets will be located.  Don’t forget to level the actual level first (awkward sentence ay?).  The wall marks for the bracket locations should be a plus sign and not just a horizontal or vertical line.

Now I just use my favorite drywall anchors and mount the key onto the wall.  The key doesn’t have a straight surface on it, so I can’t really check to see if it’s level once it’s on the wall.  However, the marks we made were level, so that’s good enough for me.

decor on wall

key decor

Cool piece.  We really like it.  Lisa bought it on sale too, which makes me like it all the more.  So, what to take away from this post?  Using a level to transfer marks from art work or decor to the wall.  It’s a guaranteed way to get it level every time regardless of the shape.

Anyone else adding any new decor?

Posted in DIY Projects,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, ,

Such Great Heights

Posted by John on December 12th, 2011

I hate hiring contractors.  Ok, wait.  I don’t hate hiring contractors.  I hate hiring contractors for jobs that I could do myself.  That I definitely hate.  But, there is one thing that I hate more than that: heights.  I hate heights.  Not. a. fan.  I’m not so terrified that I can’t go up elevators or anything crazy.  After all, I did manage to build our shed myself and that required me to get onto the roof on multiple occasions.  But, I did nearly have a heart attack on the Space Needle in Seattle a few years ago and left Lisa alone up top to eat her lunch alone while I “recuperated” on the ground floor.

Now, there’s no space needle in our home.  But there is a two story vestibule.

So what?  Well, it wouldn’t be an issue except for the fact that we’re installing trim below our crown molding and we have a ton of painting planned.  So, yesterday, I brought in my extension ladder out to attempt to scale the wall and start adding the trim.

After extending the ladder up the wall and coloring it with the ladder’s black plastic feet, I climbed up.  No go.  There is no way I’m going to be able to install a piece of molding, let alone paint it.  Not happening.  It’s too difficult with a ladder.  Now, I could do this with a scaffold system, but that’s overkill.  Alas, we’re just going to hire someone.  At least it will be someone else up that ladder.

We’ve also decided to scrap the molding in the vestibule and just leave it in the dining room and the living room.  After all, these two rooms are the most formal rooms in the house, and the molding adds some elegance there that we don’t need in the entry anyway.

So, the rest of the day we puttied and caulked the trim we had already installed.

Here’s how I prepped the trim for painting:

1.  I went around all the trim and looked for all the nails that hadn’t been sunk below the surface of the wood and used a setter and knocked them down.

2. Then I used some white wood filler and filled all the nail holes.  I just apply it with my fingers and rub the putty until it’s basically flush down with the wood.  A deep hole may require two treatments because as the putty dries it contracts.  Oh, and use the white putty if you have white trim.  The wood colored stuff needs more coats of paint to hide.

3. Once all the holes are puttied, I apply the painter’s caulk.  Now, the best interior caulk contains both latex and silicone.  By best, I mean least likely to split or crack.  You don’t want to have to do this again.  I just cut the tip to a small size and spread it out with my finger.

4. When it’s all done. It will just need a little bit of light sanding before you paint it.  I’ll be painting these trim pieces this week.

So, I know I’m not the only one that’s had a major phobia keep them from getting some home improvement projects done. So spill the beans. What have you skipped or handed off to a contractor?! Inquiring minds want to know!

Posted in Home Decor,Staining and Painting,Trim. Tagged in ,,

How to Make Your Crown Molding Look Bigger

Posted by John on December 6th, 2011

Part of our “Grand Plan” is to improve the look of our crown molding.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s no problem with our current trim whatsoever!  When we were selecting the options for our home build, there were some upgrades we passed on because we thought it would be a better value if we just did it ourselves at a later date.  You know, things we could live without if it meant investing the money into something we REALLY wanted.  Another one of those savings came by skipping out on granite countertops.

So, what kind of crown molding improvement am I talking about?  A very basic upgrade.  Let me show you what I’m talking about…

Can you see it?  I added a small trim about 2″ below the crown molding.  Now, it’s not caulked or painted yet because we’re still working on it.  When it’s all done, even the space between the crown molding and the bottom trim will be painted semi-gloss.  It gives an effect as if the crown molding is much larger.  Should be pretty sweet!

Here’s how to make your crown molding look bigger:

1.  I selected my trim.  I used a very inexpensive pre-primed piece.  In the photo below, you can see the profile of the trim.  I bought it at Lowes.

2.  Next, I measured 2″ down from the bottom of the crown molding and marked the wall with a pencil.  You could use whatever distance you’d like.  Our builder used 4″-5″ for this space.  We thought 2″ looked the best for us.  In this application, you don’t need to use a level, since we want the new trim to track the crown molding.  Any variation in the distance between the crown and the new piece will make it look uneven.

3.  Next I cut my trim.  I followed the same basic procedure that I used to install my chair rail molding.  So, I left my right side edge flat and butted it against the wall.  Since my trim pieces are 8′ long, much shorter than the length of the wall, I had to join two pieces of trim.  The left side of the first trim piece was cut on a 45 degree angle.  You can see the end of that first piece in the photo below.  I glued the piece and installed it with my nail gun.

4.  My next piece had the same cut as the first piece so they would overlap, see the photo below.  The other end I just butted into the wall.  The first cut on the next wall will need a coped joint, which I also discussed in the chair rail install post.

So that’s basically it.  You just continue this around the room.  We still have a couple rooms to finish yet, but we can’t wait to see what this looks like painted.

Do you have any cheap tricks to improve the look of molding? 

Posted in DIY Projects,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, ,

How to Install Trim on Odd Angles

Posted by John on November 29th, 2011

This Thanksgiving weekend, despite all the gratuitous turkey related napping, we were able to get a few hours of work done on our trim upgrades.  We finished up the installation portion of the chair rail molding that we has started last week.  We still have to caulk, putty and paint, but we’ll do all of that at once when we’re done ALL the trim.  Yes, there’s more trim work coming so stay tuned.

Since the last portion of the chair rail molding will be installed on a 45 degree wall, I thought I’d to a quick tutorial on how to install trim on odd angled walls.

****WARNING:  Although this procedure DOES apply to crown molding, the crown molding will need a special jig to hold the piece to the proper orientation, as we found out this weekend (Ed, talking about you here). ****

How to install trim on odd angles.


1.  To start this procedure, I have already marked the wall at 36″ up from the floor (again, see here for the basics of trim installation).

2.  I’m going to use a t bevel to help me identify the angle of the wall.  Although I know this wall is a 45 degree angle wall, I’m still going to measure it anyway.  You could also use a protractor or a couple of rulers.  To use a t bevel, loosen the lock nut, position the bevel against the wall making sure both pieces lay flat against both walls and then tighten down the lock nut.

3.  Since I don’t have a protractor, I’m going to use the next best thing, my miter saw.  With the saw unplugged, I place the t bevel square against the backstop and then turn the saw’s miter until it matches the angle of the t bevel.

4.  Once I’m confident the saw’s miter is the same angle as the saw, I can look at the miter indicator to see what angle it’s at.  In the photo above, the indicator is landed on 45 degrees.

5.  I then return the miter back to 0 degrees and then set the saw bevel to half of the 45 degrees that was identified in the previous step.  Half of 45 is 22.5.  You halve the angle because the corner on the wall splits the angle in half.  So you’ll need to two pieces each cut to 22.5.  One piece will be cut from the right, the other from the left.  The saw is shown at a 22.5 degree bevel.

6.  Here we used a small scrap piece also cut to the matching 22.5 degree angle to test fit the long piece.  Once the long piece on the left is glued and nailed in place, I’ll toss away the small scrap and install the actual piece.  I learned that trick from Norm Abrams.

Here is the other piece installed.  Notice the gap against the wall; make sure you account for that when you’re using your small scrap piece as you may need a longer scrap to avoid the dip in the wall from throwing off your test fit.  The gap will be filled later on with some painter’s caulk.

So that’s it.  Not too bad.  Let me know if you have any questions.

Are there any other clever tricks that you know about?  Do you own a t bevel?  What else could I use it for?

Posted in DIY Projects,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, ,

Popular Post