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How to Hang Crown Molding on Kitchen Cabinets

Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva installs crown molding on kitchen cabinets with full overlay doors.

Assuming that cabinets are installed plumb and level, you’ll want to hang the crown molding in a way that makes the ceiling’s unevenness as unobtrusive as possible. To do that, the crown’s bottom edge has to be level and evenly spaced above the cabinet doors, and it has to remain intact. Any cuts in the crown will be immediately noticeable.

Before You Get Started

First, select a crown molding with a vertical height about the same as the narrowest gap between ceiling and cabinet.

Then glue a 34 -inch-thick strip of clear poplar to the molding’s top edge. Make sure the strip’s front edge and the top of the molding are flush, as shown at right.

When the glue sets, sand or plane the joint so that it won’t be visible after painting. Now you can scribe this section to fit tight against the sloping ceiling.

cabinet crown molding illustrations Peter Sucheski

Cabinets with Inset Doors

If your cabinets have inset doors, open them, place the augmented crown in position on the ceiling, and clamp it to the cabinet’s face frame. Trace a pencil line on the ceiling where it meets the scribe strip, then reclamp the crown so it sits flush with bottom edge of the face-frame top rail. Draw tick marks across this joint to help you align the crown after scribing.

To make the scribe line, set your compass legs to match the widest gap between the crown and ceiling. Keep the legs aligned vertically as you run the compass point along the line on the ceiling and the pencil along the scribe strip. The pencil line will show the ceiling contour.

On cabinets with overlay doors, which have hidden face frames or no frames at all, you’ll have to mount rabbeted filler pieces to the cabinets’ tops to give you something to nail the crown to.

The fillers above the doors should sit flush with the door faces; these fillers are held in place with screws driven through the tops of the cabinets. The side fillers sit inside the cabinet frame, flush with the sides. They’re fastened to the cabinet with a combination of superglue gel, wood glue, and pin nails.

Steps for hanging crown molding:

  1. Cut strips of the 5/4” pine to length and width, based on the size of the cabinets. These will be the filler pieces.
  2. Make rabbet cuts on the filler pieces so that the piece fits tightly on the top of the cabinet and over the door of the cabinet.
  3. Once the cuts are all made, spray paint the filler pieces to match the color of the cabinets in case they show through.
  4. Mount the filler pieces to the cabinets using super glue to hold it in place and wood glue to more permanently bond it to the cabinet.
  5. From the sides of the cabinet, nail the filler pieces in the place. For the front filler piece, drill from underneath the inside of the cabinet, and then secure that piece with wood screws.
  6. Hold up the crown molding on the sides of the cabinet. Be sure the pieces are tight against the wall. Use a pencil to mark from the inside the correct measurement to cut the crown molding. Draw an arrow on the inside to help determine which angle the miter cut should go.
  7. Hold the crown molding upside down and backwards so that it presses up safely against the fence of the miter saw. To keep it from slipping, you can use some of the clear polyurethane glue and a couple small pieces of wood to glue on the base of the saw to act as stops.
  8. Turn the miter saw to 45 degrees based on the direction of the mark drawn on the crown molding during measuring. Cut the piece.
  9. To make the sister cut on the opposite piece of crown molding, turn the saw to the opposite 45 degree angle and cut it again.
  10. Nail the two pieces together using the brad nailer and then hold the crown molding back up to the cabinet to get the next measurement. Measure and mark the front piece of crown molding. Be sure to also mark the direction of the angle for the crown molding like before.
  11. Make the miter cut for the front piece of crown molding. Then, make the sister cut for the following side like before.
  12. Mount the crown molding to the cabinet using the brad nailer. Repeat this process with the rest of the cabinets with outside corners.
  13. For any cabinets with an inside corner, cut the miters with the opposite 45-degree angle so that the miter angles on the crown molding cut into itself.
  14. Fill in all the nail holes with wood putty.
  15. Caulk around the crown molding where it meets the ceiling to give it a finished look.


The homeowner had already purchased Shaker-style cabinets that came with the crown molding.

The wood glue and super glue Tom used for the crown molding and the filler pieces are both manufactured by Gorilla Glue.

The other materials Tom used to install the crown molding, including the brad nailer, compressor, and spray paint, are all found at home centers. For the spray paint, Tom recommends getting a fast-drying spray primer with a dry time of one hour.

Expert assistance with this segment was provided by Universal Factory Direct.

Shopping List:

5/4-inch pine

Fast drying spray primer
Super glue
Wood glue
Brad nails
Wood screws

Wood putty
Paintable caulking