put up coving
Our step-by-step guide to fitting decorative coving to house interiors
DIY skill rating: Intermediate
Lengths of coving
TOOLS YOU MAY NEED
Straight edge (e.g. spirit level, 1m long)
YOU COULD ALSO USE...
Cornerpieces, so you don't have to cut internal or external mitres with the mitre block.
All items are available in store
Putting up Coving
This how to explains how to fit coving in a room. Homebase stocks a range of coving including plaster, paper-coated plaster, duropolymer, premium polystyrene, paper-coated polystyrene and basic polystyrene. The cheapest polystyrene coving comes in 4ft lengths, and a limited number of widths and embossed patterns. Polystyrene must be painted and is easily damaged, so take care when handling.
Paper-coated plaster coving is heavier and must also be painted. The smooth paper covering gives the best base for painting.
Plaster coving is the most expensive option but has a brilliant white, smooth finish that doesn’t need painting. You can buy a wide range of authentic period mouldings. Duropolymer coving is a new concept from Arthouse and gives all the benefits of plaster coving but without the added weight. It is preprimed and comes in a range of contemporary designs. Whatever you choose, coving can add the finishing touch that makes a room look complete. It needs no special skills to put up and most rooms can be tackled in a day.
Fitting the coving
1Use a 100mm length of coving as a template to mark the top and bottom edges of the coving on the walls and ceiling of your room. Make the marks at regular intervals so that you can join them together with a straight edge. (See fig. 1)
2 Connect the pencil marks with a straight edge (the edge of a spirit level is ideal) and remove any loose wallpaper or flaky paint. Make criss-cross scratches between the guide lines with a craft knife to give a base for the adhesive.
3Start on the longest wall and use the mitre block to cut the end of the first piece of coving to a 45 degree angle. You may have to mitre both ends if the room is very small. Cut the coving with a finetoothed saw and sand smooth any rough edges. (See fig. 2)
4With a filling knife, spread an even layer of coving adhesive over the top and bottom of the back of the first piece of coving, i.e. the areas that will be in contact with the walls and ceiling.
5 Hold the coving in place and line up the bottom edge with the pencil guide line on the wall. Press gently along the whole length of the coving so that the adhesive sticks evenly. (See fig. 3)
6 Longer lengths of coving can
easily sag or fall off before the
adhesive has set. To hold it firmly in
place, temporarily support the
bottom and top edges with a few
galvanised nails – when the
adhesive has dried, remove nails
and fill the holes.
7 Use a damp paintbrush to remove any adhesive that oozes out from the top and bottom edges of the coving and to smooth the joint line. Fill any gaps with more adhesive. Work around the room, butting the edges of the cornice together on straight sections of wall. Cut the pieces that meet at internal corners using the mitre block.
- Bowed walls If your walls are slightly bowed, you can still add coving as the plaster is flexible enough to be slightly curved to match the wall. To hold it in place, fix it to the walls with brass screws, countersinking the heads and filling the holes with a dab of adhesive.
- Use long lengths Try to make as few joins on the walls as possible. It’s worth buying an extra full length piece of coving rather than use up two shorter sections – the result will look neater.
- Decorative coving Very heavy plaster coving may need to be fixed with brass screws at 1m intervals. Hold the pieces in position and drill carefully through the coving and into the wall. Add wall plugs, spread on the adhesive and screw into place.
- Difficult wallsSometimes the coving won’t stick to areas of new plaster because the adhesive is absorbed into the wall too quickly. Coat the wall and ceiling with a solution of plaster sealer and allow to dry before re-fixing.
You can put up coving with just a small stepladder, but it’s quicker and easier if you have a platform to work along a few metres at a time.
You can buy multi-purpose ladders that can be used in this way.
Repairing old coving
If you’re lucky enough to have original coving, you can remove areas of clogged paint with a chemical stripper.
Work in a well-ventilated room, cover the floor with plenty of paper and wear goggles and gloves.
Dab on the stripper with a brush and work well into any mouldings.
Leave to work and then remove the loose paint with a nylon scouring pad and an old screwdriver. Take care not to damage the plasterwork.
Fill any cracks or missing sections with a plaster filler.
Putting up picture and dado rails
These mouldings are usually made of solid timber or MDF and are screwed to the wall. Dado should be fitted between 1 and 1.2m from the floor. Older, high-ceilinged rooms should have picture rails at anything from 300-500mm below the ceiling. For 1930s and newer houses with lower ceilings, the dado can be level with the top of the door frames. Use a spirit level to mark a guide line (see fig. 4) around the room and fix the lengths at about 1m intervals. Countersink the screws and use wall plugs for brick walls, or cavity wall fixings for plasterboard walls. Varnish or paint the mouldings before you fix them to the wall.