By Pat Tomaskovic
Decorative crown molding has changed over the centuries. Crown molding has a rich history which dates back to the second millennium B.C. and was often found in palaces. It has evolved from the beauty of the Greek forms to the simple curves of the Roman era; from the flowers and vines of the Gothic rounds to a return to the simple forms of the Romans during the Renaissance. Today, crown molding can be found in just about any type of material. So what’s appropriate? Which one should you use? There are so many, it can be a little daunting. So let’s take a brief look at the different kinds of materials that crown molding is often crafted from.
Traditionally, crown molding has been made from milled hardwood and plaster. Wood crown molding can be found and made from several hardwoods such as hickory, ash, poplar, alder, cherry, maple, mahogany and oak. Wood crown molding enriches the character of any interior as it frames your ceiling and complements your decor. There are many styles available and you can find many of the traditional styles, such as acanthus, grape and oak leaf motifs and shell. Wood crown molding will certainly add classic detail to any room.
On the down side, hardwood moldings can be quite expensive. Forest resources are limited. The softwood moldings require more time and care to install and finish, although it is less expensive than hardwood. Wood moldings shrink and swell with humidity, they can be damaged by water, it is combustible, it can be damaged by rot and insects, it can crack, it requires mitering and coping skills, it may split and splinter when nailed or cut, and wood molding must be sanded and primed prior to finishing. These disadvantages may outweigh wood’s good points for many.
Renewed interest has been growing in decorative ornamental plaster. Decorative plaster molding can be found in all styles. Ornamental plaster crown moldings do not shrink, burn, warp or produce toxic fumes. Ornamental plaster can be formulated in a wide range of compositions to yield finished products which include a range of properties. They are versatile, safe, stable and economic. Ornamental plaster, although an excellent product, can be costly to install. Although it is no longer required to be manufactured in place, skilled craftsmen are in short supply and it has become almost a lost art.