What Is Millwork?

Ornate Interior MillworkA common mistake made by the DIY/home enthusiast regarding the question - what is millwork, is that it refers to woodmill produced artifacts; which could be anything from doors and window frames to baseboards and mantels. However, for the DIY/home enthusiast wanting to work with millwork the term will invariable be applied to things like crown molding, dentils, fascias and other custom interior finish details..

Traditionally millwork would have been made from timber, with plaster work also having been popular in the past. However today, as most millwork is painted when fixed in position, the vast majority of it will be made from lightweight composite materials and high-pressure plastics.

In an older residential property, unsightly cracks can appear between the wall-ceiling interface. As an alternative to re-plastering the wall and/or ceiling a crown molding piece of millwork can be fitted. These can be relatively plain or highly ornate pieces, whichever you choose the procedure for fitting them is the same. If you need to work with pieces of millwork longer than 6 foot then you might want to enlist the help of a second pair of hands to do some of the holding for you.

If you can use a long section of millwork do so, by resisting the temptation to cut it into shorter pieces you will end up with a much neater job. Modern plastic/polystyrene millwork can be adhered to wallpaper.

However, it is always preferable to stick it onto plasterwork/sheet-rock, this is especially important if the wall paper is an embossed one - as getting the millwork to stick flat to the surface will prove impossible. To this end millwork is best fitted when walls have been stripped prior to re-papering.

Crown Molding Millwork

Holding a straight but comfortable length of the millwork against the wall, measure how far out the top edge, along the ceiling, projects. At each corner measure that length of projection from both walls and mark the ceiling, then make marks along the ceiling to act as the guide for fitting the millwork.

Within the areas marked out check for any blemishes in the wall and ceiling plaster, repairing as necessary to improve the adhesion for the millwork. The adhesive you use to fix the millwork should be the one recommended by the millwork manufacturer, if none is recommended ask your local or online DIY store for advice.

Fitting Millwork

Measure out and cut the lengths of millwork required, remember to use long lengths wherever possible. If a wall exceeds the length of a single section of millwork, fix one single length in the middle of the wall and cut shorter lengths to take the millwork into the corners. Any fine toothed saw will be OK to cut the millwork with.

Apply the adhesive generously and align the lengths with the mark(s) made on the ceiling, wiping away any excess adhesive. The corners require special attention and are not a job to be rushed. The millwork moldings will probably have their own miter templates, if not use a miter box or one of the specially designed miter cutters.

Check to see if you need an internal or external miter cut, cut the miters away from the front to ensure a nice clean edge, then smooth the cut edges with glass paper before fitting. (Needless to say cutting miters is always easiest if the corner is a 900 one.) Having started in the middle of one wall work your way around the room from that point, ending up back at the point you started from.

Photo by Steve Snodgrass, Creative Commons Attribution License