Coping vs mitering inside corners | Pro Construction Guide
Crown molding: Coping vs mitering inside corners

Crown molding: Coping vs mitering inside corners

Coping vs mitering inside corners

To cope a crown molding corner, the installer trims the profile on the end of one piece of molding so it fits into another one − like two pieces of a puzzle.

The greatest debate among installers pits the techniques of coping vs mitering for inside crown molding corners.

Coping, of course, is the traditional way to join inside crown molding corners. To cope a crown molding corner, the installer trims the profile on the end of one piece of molding so it fits into another one − like two pieces of a puzzle.

When it comes to coping vs mitering, many crown molding installers say mitering inside corners is quicker and produces a cleaner look. To miter a corner, the carpenter angle-cuts the two trim pieces that will abut, slides them together to create a seam and glues them.

Roger Beesley, owner of Mitre Contracting in Prince William County, Virginia, blogs that coping “seems to be a lost art. It’s rare to find carpenters who cope their corners.”

Beesley made that statement in 2008. Since then, manufacturers have fine-tuned their miter saws to make crown molding corner cuts easier and more precise.

Still when debating coping vs mitering, carpenters in online chat rooms defend tradition, saying coping corners results in a more secure, polished connection.

Some bash mitering as sloppy, while others find the more labor-intensive coping process too time-consuming. But most seesaw between the two processes, depending on the job.

Tips for coping vs mitering crown molding

When deciding coping vs mitering inside corners, here are four challenges that could make one method preferable to the other, according to advice posted online by carpenters on both sides of the debate.

Challenge 1

All a room’s inside corners are not dead square. Few rooms have perfectly plumb corners, making it difficult for two angled trim pieces to fit together perfectly. In rooms like this, many carpenters will insist on coped corners, on which the two pieces of molding overlap slightly, leaving no gaps.

Still, many installers miter those inside corners anyway, and leave it to their painters to camouflage the gaps with caulk and paint. One carpenter calls that practice “sloppy … at best,” noting that mitered joints “are exacting and fussy.” But others say the touch-ups are not visible on ceiling-height crown molding.

Challenge 2

The client is exacting. Because mitering requires fewer cuts, it can make quicker work of crown molding corners than coping. Plus, mitering allows the installer to pre-assemble the corners before installing them.

So some installers rely on the method when a homeowner is in a hurry for the job to be finished. On the other hand, a homeowner who has exacting standards might not stand for mitered corners filled with caulk. And for designs that call for staining rather than painting, many carpenters recommend coping, which doesn’t require caulk to fill gaps.

Challenge 3

The molding is made from fragile material. One installer recalled trimming a kitchen with white lacquered molding that chipped and fell apart unless it was cut with a sharp, high-speed saw. He called coping “risky” and mitered the joints instead.

Likewise, crown molding with near-negative angles on the profiles are difficult to cope, leading carpenters to default to mitering.

Challenge 4

In a humid climate, wood shrinks and expands, depending on the weather. So in areas with humid summers and dry winters, many installers swear by coping. Unlike mitering, they say, coping usually creates tight joints that won’t tolerate shrinking and swelling.

The bottom line when deciding which do you do, one carpenter wrote in a forum, “The way a job looks − uncaulked and unpainted − is the only thing that matters. You’re the one who’s counting on referrals, and you’re the one who’s going to hear about it if the joints separate six months down the road.”

–By Sharon O’Malley


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