Coving and cornices are simple ways to finish off the look of a room and do not require any special skills to erect -just care and attention. Their use is especially useful when a new stud wall has been erected or a ceiling has been replaced, and fitting a cornice will remove the need to undertake detailed finishing of the corner where the wall and ceiling meet. Although this job can be done by yourself, if you have particularly high ceilings, or are attempting this job on the exterior of a property, it is advisable to use the services of a builder in London who will provide scaffolding and ensure the job is done safely.
Before You Start
Measure the length of each wall in the room to be covered and work out how many lengths of coving you will need. You should allow an extra 150mm at each corner of the room for joint cutting, and work out where you can save materials by using off-cuts around chimney breasts and bay windows. It is best to clear the room of furniture or move it all into the centre and cover any floor surfaces you will be working above.
Prepare the surfaces you will be covering with coving. Scrape off any loose paint and scour gloss-painted areas with sandpaper. If the walls or ceiling are papered, use a sharp knife to cut through the paper 1.5mm inside where the coving is going to go, and remove strips of paper inside your cut and any old wallpaper paste. Using a tungsten carbide tipped ceramic tile scriber or very sharp knife, score the wall and ceiling between the edges of where the coving is going to be placed to enable the adhesive you are going to use bind to the surfaces.
Start working on your longest walls first as this will enable you to use cut-offs on shorter walls. Where more than one length of coving is required, work from each end of the wall towards the middle, and it helps when working out what goes where later, to write a “W” on the side of the coving which is going to be fixed to the wall. This also helps when cutting mitres using a mitre box as the “W” side should be the one on the far side of the mitre box.
Cutting mitres accurately is the key to getting a professional finish to your coving. London builders will use a specialised mitre saw, but you could use a regular hacksaw and saw along a pencil line if you take sufficient care. For polystyrene coving a fine-toothed bread knife will do the trick.
Measure and cut square all the lengths of coving you will need – adding 30mm for waste – this ensures a cleaner cut on the sharp corner when you mitre. As you cut each piece, number it and write the corresponding number on the wall where it will eventually go.
Take the first piece of coving and cut the appropriate mitre. Mitres can be internal or external depending on the area of wall you are coving – for example a corner of a room requires an internal mitre cut and the outside corners of a chimney breast would require an external cut. In a perfect world, each of these angles would be 45 degrees, but in older houses and around bay windows, you will have to make allowances for aging and bowing. Take the next piece and mitre the end. You should put the two pieces in position to make sure they meet and mark the wall. Carry on around the wall until all the pieces are cut and annotated.
Fixing the Coving
Most brands of coving come with the manufacturer´s recommendations for which type of adhesive to use. If in any doubt, speak with a London builder who will be able to help you. It is recommended by London builders that you tap masonry pins into the plaster along the walls which you have just marked and then, using a wide filling knife, apply the adhesive to the back edges of the coving – applying it only to the surfaces which will touch the wall and ceiling. NOTE – if the adhesive comes in a tube with a frame gun, use this instead.
Offer up the first piece of coving, resting it on the masonry pins. Ease the mitre into the corner and firmly but gently push the coving inwards and upwards. Remove any excess adhesive from the coving and the edge of the mitre – you do not want too much adhesive on the mitre at this stage as it will stop a good joint being made with the next piece of coving. Continue with the next section of coving – now filling any gap in the joint with adhesive. Carry on around the room, remembering to remove any traces of adhesive with a wet sponge or cloth as you go.
Alternative Corner Solutions
As a room with a lot of corners may take up too much of your time cutting exact angles, you may want to consider using separate pre-formed decorative corner pieces (cornices). These can be purchased from a DIY store or your local builders in London will be able to get them for you. If you fix these in place first and then measure and cut square ended lengths of coving to fit between them, this could save you a lot of effort. You can also use stick-on cornices – in which case you would put your coving up first and fix them over the square ends using adhesive.
Painting and Decorating
Once your coving is in place and the adhesive has been given the chance to dry, you may wish to consider how you are going to decorate your coving. Polystyrene coving can only be painted with water based paint – such as an emulsion – as spirit and oil based paints can seep into the coving, damage it and also present a fire risk. All other types of coving can be painted in any household paint, but where you have put up timber coving, you may prefer to varnish it depending on the rest of the decor in your room.
You may wish to integrate your coving with matching skirting, dado rails or architraves. Your local builder in London will help you acquire the materials you need and, as mentioned before, should be used to help put up covings in rooms with exceptionally high ceilings or when you are attempting this job on the exterior of your property.