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One of the smartest ways to add stylish decor and depth to a room, crown molding is a subtle alternative to many of the over the top trim some people fill their homes with. For years, moldings have been made almost exclusively from wood, resulting in a process that requires very detailed calculations, expensive tools, and woodworking skills. Foam, on the other hand, represents a newer, simpler, and more cost-effective alternative that can give you the same appearance as wood without all the work.
The lightweight, flexible foam crown molding requires little more than adhesive to install and is easily cut by hand with a sharp carving knife. The “softness” of the foam means you can be generous with your cuts, as the foam will compress when it fits into a tight space, creating perfect joints and seams while hiding imperfections. Making a spongy material like foam look like a more solid product is what occasionally causes people to question its ability to genuinely replace wood as a molding material. Actually, the process of painting foam trim gives the installer the ability to make the foam look like any other medium. In this post, I’ll give you a rundown on how easy it is to paint polyurethane foam trim and end up with a beautiful new space.
There are two methods of painting foam trim, and you decide which one is best: spray paint or brush paint. Spray paint requires less work, fewer materials, and is faster, but doesn’t give you maximum detailing capabilities. Brush painting allows you to replicate the design or appearance of any other molding medium, but is a bit more labor intensive than spray painting.
Spray Paint Foam Crown Molding
After measuring and cutting the foam trim sections, prepare a workspace in a well-ventilated area where accidental overspray is not a problem. Putting a large tarp or tarp in the garage, basement, or even on the ground outside on a quiet day works well.
When your area is done and your trim is spaced out on the canvas, apply thin, even coats, being careful not to over-saturate the foam. As an absorbent sponge rubber, trim will take longer to dry if it does. After all parts are painted to your specifications and allowed to dry for the proper amount of time, your crown molding is ready to mount.
As stated above, spray paint has an advantage over brush painting in terms of speed and ease. Preparing the area, painting the foam, and letting it dry are the only steps before mounting. The downsides to spray paint are little more than personal taste. There will be limitations to spray painting depending on the nature of your application; Two-tone or intricate designs will not be practical. Additionally, the foam will retain its fluffy appearance with the spray method. The polyurethane foam that most manufacturers use has a small enough cellular structure that it is indistinguishable from a solid at a distance from which it will be seen, but it is still a consideration to take into account.
Brush Paint Foam Crown Molding
For people who have an intricate or custom paint job in mind, or who prefer to have a solid, smooth surface on their trim, brush painting is the right choice.
Unlike spray paint, brush painting requires that the foam be covered with a diluted gypsum joint compound as a sealer before painting to create a smooth surface. Also unlike spray paint, trim will need to be mounted prior to sealing and painting. Mounting first gives you the benefit of foam compressibility to create clean corners and seams before hardening the material with sealer and paint.
Once the foam has set, protect the room from paint and joint compound with protective rags and painter’s tape. When you’re done with the prep work, prepare your drywall compound mix. You will want to dilute it until it is the consistency of paint.
Once you have finished mixing, apply a thin coat over the entire surface of the trim. Joint compound should dry quickly, so in a medium-sized room, you can start applying a second coat as soon as the first round is done. Only two coats are necessary, but if you prefer to add more, please do so. Once you’ve finished applying the drywall compound, allow the trim to dry completely for 24 hours.
The next day, the trim will be ready to paint. It should not be necessary to sand dry joint compound unless a defect is detected. If you need to sand the compound, use the finest grit sandpaper possible and wear a respirator or mask. When you are satisfied with the surface of the siding, proceed to paint the trim as desired. Once the paint dries, remove the drop cloths and tape and you have a newly transformed space that you upgraded with a fraction of the time, money and effort required for traditional crown molding.
Lastly, there are a couple of tips that apply to any of the painting methods. First, avoid oil-based paints for foam. There is little reason to use them anyway, as latex paints are more affordable and you won’t need weather resistance indoors. Second, the foam itself may be bright white when you first buy it. If you plan to have a white crown molding, you will still need to paint the foam, even if it matches your room. This is because the foam will naturally yellow as it ages. This is a purely cosmetic change and does not affect the quality, but by painting it you will ensure that it will always be the color you want.