Attic Closet Renovation Part 4: Trim

Attic Closet Renovation Part 4: Trim

Remember in my How I Got Started with DIY post how I mentioned that this project started two years ago, but wasn’t complete? Well, I can now officially say that I’m fairly certain I’m done…maybe?…I think? (OK, I still want to do a DIY upgrade to my mirror and build a storage chest, but I’m talking big stuff here!).

So, what was hanging me up? Trim. Funny enough, trim has become one of my favorite types of projects. So, how come this caused me such trouble for the closet? A combination of sloped ceilings, design mistakes, and bad technique!

Intrigued? Keep reading to see how I fumbled through three (yes, THREE!) versions of crown molding over two years.

Closet Renovation Recap:

Baseboards and Quarter Round

So, this post is going to be filled with embarrassing mishaps, and this is one of them! I kind of cringe when I think back to how I first installed the baseboards. Let’s just say…caulking NIGHTMARE.

So, I didn’t have a nail gun yet (which is crazy because it’s my favorite tool!). Honestly, if you’re installing baseboards and don’t have a nail gun, I highly recommend buying or renting one. But, I know that’s not always possible and yes, there is a way to install them without.

All you really need is a hammer and finish nails. But I read some tutorial somewhere that you should add caulk on the back to help it stick. I personally don’t recommend doing this! OMG I made such a mess. To be honest, I probably put way too much on, but as soon as I placed it on the wall, it started oozing everywhere! I also don’t recommend doing it because it becomes so permanent and really isn’t that necessary. Trust me, some nails will do the trick. Baseboards don’t just go flying off yk?

I also had one of those bottles that continues to ooze caulk no matter how hard you try to get it to stop. Ever had that happen? Oh, it’s an absolute mess! Plus I had cut the tip way too big. Basically, I went through an entire bottle, 80% of which ended up on paper towels in the trash. 

PS: I’m actually excellent at applying caulk now. It’s incredibly therapeutic. Haha, this experience was the opposite.

Anyways, I eventually gave up on the caulk. I used Polystyrene baseboard which is a foam-like material, so the nails went through really easily. The hardest part is getting the nail flush to the board. A nail punch would’ve worked perfectly here, but I hadn’t discovered those yet!

Remember how I talked about leaving too big of a gap between the wall and flooring in this post? Well, that’s where quarter round comes in.

This time around, I skipped the caulk on the back and just installed it with a hammer and nails. It worked out ok, but it was hard to get a really tight fit because of the curved shape of the quarter round. I actually don’t love quarter round, and I’ve since found a different method that I think looks so much better (stay tuned)! But, it works. Will I change it out in the future? No…Maybe? (I know, I know, I’m supposed to be done with this project!).

I did apply a thin bead of caulk where the floor met the quarter round, which is the appropriate use! You can see the difference below.

closet baseboard and quarter round


First Attempt

This was another one that took a lot of problem-solving. I’d never installed door trim and it was pretty intimating. I’ve since trimmed out a couple of doors and it takes me no time at all, but I was a novice and didn’t know where to start. 

I bought one of those standard door kits because I thought that was the best option. It wasn’t and it was actually really tricky, especially with the inside corner. I ended up returning it and using MDF boards instead. Note: I prefer using select pine now because I like the square edge as opposed to the round, but they both work the same and the cost is pretty comparable.

For the header style, I went with a simple farmhouse look. This was really easy, and I thought the style would work. This was before I had defined my home’s style: transitional with coastal elements. Obviously, this probably could’ve stayed, but I was fixing the crown molding and decided to change it up.

Second Attempt

I’ve been slowly changing out the door and window trim in my house and I really love the style. When I was doing the third attempt at my crown molding, I decided to see if I had enough leftover pieces to re-do the door trim, and I did. So, I went for it!

The first step was to cut down the header piece on the right because I went too far over. For some reason, I always forget that the very top piece needs to be longer, so of course, I cut that too short and had to go back and fill it in, but, oh well. Instead of taking the whole piece down, I used my multitool to trim off the excess. 

Because I already had the flat and top pieces, I just needed to add cove molding and half-round. I plan on going into these further in the future, but it’s relatively easy. Admittedly, it’s MUCH easier when you can build it on your workbench then install it as one piece, but I got it done.

All in all, I think this took me about 45 minutes or so. It would’ve probably been closer to 15 if I built it all on my workbench, but the added time of going up and down the stairs several times to get the right fit definitely added to it! Anyways, I’m much happier with this look and it only cost me the use of scraps!

Crown Molding

Yes, it took me three attempts to finally get the crown molding down! This task was way above my skill level when I first started, and it can still be pretty dang difficult.

First Attempt

Originally, I had purchased this Polystyrene Crown Molding because it was really lightweight so thought it’d be easier to install with just me. This is correct. But again, I didn’t have a nail gun. Do you know how hard it is to hammer and nail in crown molding with one person without a nail gun? Guys, it’s basically impossible. 

And it looked like crap! Crown molding is difficult enough to get right, not to mention adding in the sloped angles. I also didn’t know what a molding return is, so the edges literally just ended and it looked really amateur. I lived with it for about a year before getting annoyed and ripping it out! Again, I wasn’t proud, so no images were taken at this point.

Second Attempt

You’re probably wondering, ok, so you ripped it out, why not just patch up the walls and not have the crown molding?

Well, we struggled with putting up drywall in this area. And no matter how much patching and smoothing, it was pretty unsightly. So crown molding was the best answer to cover that up!

I ended up finding an easy tutorial for farmhouse-style crown molding that I figured would work perfectly. It seemed really easy, and the style would match the door trim so I was sold.

Well, not only did I not love the style in the end, I still had major issues with the slope!

For whatever reason, I was getting really hung up on how difficult it would be to get a proper angle here. So, in my mind, I would just cut the top piece to size, then angle the sloped piece. Well, turns out when you do that, the bottoms don’t match up! I tried filling it with shims and wood filler, but over time, it just got more and more noticeable and it again, looked terrible.

Honestly, I was being really stingy with my material here. If I had loved the look as I was installing it, I probably would’ve taken the one piece down and re-cut. But, I didn’t do that and sat with it for another year!

Third Attempt

And now, take 3. This time, I was being much more purposeful in how I went about this. I had two options. I could add decorative molding to clean up the current trim and make it more my style. Or, I could tear it back out (again) and replace it all (again!). I wanted to make the first option work.

My original plan was to find some crown molding that could fit right between the two pieces already installed to add a bit more decoration to it and cover up some of the issues. I found this PVC crown molding and figured I’d give it a try. It was cheap enough that if it didn’t work, I wouldn’t be upset (and could find a use for it somewhere else I’m sure!). It was also on the smaller side, so I thought it had the potential of fitting in the space well.

I also had a ton of other trim scraps in my basement. I started by creating a mock-up of the ‘farmhouse’ trim that was already on the wall using scraps. Then, I essentially just started to play with what I had. I ended up using the crown I picked out (I had to go buy a second piece) and then used scraps of this bead molding on the bottom.

The first cut was pretty easy. I started by cutting it to length, plus about a ¼” extra, just in case! Then, because it’s an inside corner, you flip the molding upsidedown and hold it on the saw base as if it was going on the wall. You then set up your miter to 45º, knowing that you want the bottom side to be longer. Once you have that in your head, you’re good. But, it takes a lot of mental focus!

I got that installed, then measured for the next cut. The right side was going to be the same process as the last piece with a 45º mitered cut. The left side was the sloped piece. I measured the angle with my digital protractor, then used this chart to tell me how to set up my saw. By some miracle, it actually worked!

I put up one nail in the middle before fully installing it, just in case there was an issue with the final piece. I wanted to make sure everything was good to go, then I could get all my corners nice and tight.

For the last piece, I used the same method for the right portion, but I knew that the left side would need a return. This is essentially how you finish off a piece so that it doesn’t look amateur (like my original one). Because of the slope, it does look a little weird because the angle looks pretty harsh, but it looks so much better than the last one so I’ll take it!

I did pretty much the same thing with bead molding, except this isn’t crown molding so it lays flat and is easier to figure out the angles.

After they were all installed, I filled all the nail holes and corners with wood filler. The next day, I sanded everything down smooth, caulked, and painted. 

And it’s finally complete! It’s a little different, but I actually do really like it.

Hopefully, this post is a lesson that in DIY, nothing is permanent. You can make mistakes (even multiple times) and still go back and fix them. This third attempt at crown molding cost me less than $15 because I used scraps and got creative. It also took me maybe a total of 5-6 hours. It was very worth it, and I feel much more accomplished knowing that I persisted.

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