Is it Crown, Picture rail, or both? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 03-06-2013, 05:48 PM Thread Starter
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Is it Crown, Picture rail, or both?

In my 1899, early arts-and-crafts FourSquare, a 1 1/2" tall x 1" deep moulding surrounds the top of the walls but does NOT touch the ceiling, anywhere. There is a very even 3/8" gap between the top of the moulding and the plaster ceiling, all around the perimeter of every ceiling. Deep in the gap, there are lumps and bumps where the wall and ceiling plaster meet, though the plaster is neither loose nor crumbling, and which seem to be the reason the moulding wasn't mounted flush to the ceiling. Question is, why?

My first guess was that the small crown might have been mounted with a gap to act as picture rail, though all PR I've seen is usual hung 14"-18" below ceiling height, and this appears to be a regular profile small moulding.

My second guess was that the builders, cutting corners, did sloppy plaster work, knowing it would be covered by the moulding later, which later couldn't be jammed all the way up to the ceiling. I have to point out this seems out of character with the rest of the house, however, which is marked by precise and beautiful work all over, particularly trim and finish woodwork. These are original thickness plaster ceilings, BTW, so we can rule out a situation where moulding was removed for re-plastering and then replaced over a lousy job.

Can anyone briefly tell me if there is a known architectural reason for the gap?
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post #2 of 7 Old 03-06-2013, 08:21 PM
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It's there to hide the roof removal/installation seam. Back in the early 1900s they had house assembly lines where the house and roof were built separate, then at the end of the assembly line they set the roof and ceiling on top of the house then shipped the houses to their customers. Pretty basic history knowledge. :) no ...really!
I'm not a old house expert, just thought humor was in order
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post #3 of 7 Old 03-09-2013, 03:47 PM Thread Starter
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nice one, Windy!
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post #4 of 7 Old 03-09-2013, 03:51 PM
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post #5 of 7 Old 03-09-2013, 05:04 PM
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Originally Posted by GeorgeC View Post


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post #6 of 7 Old 03-09-2013, 05:10 PM
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In some cases, plasterers in the day used to use "plaster grounds". Framing wasn't like the lumber of today, it was rough and could vary quite a bit in thickness, making for undulating walls. Studs and other members were kept even with the outside face of the wall, the interior fell where it might. This wasn't a problem with plaster like it would be with drywall. A "ground" was established and shimmed straight and level. This was a guide for application of the plaster. The plaster could be troweled to any thickness to give a straight, flat wall surface. "Grounds" were often established at the top and bottom of a wall, sometimes covered by moldings later and sometimes, a near the ceiling molding was used as a ground. A straight edge could be referenced to the grounds and keep the plaster in line. Similar to the way we skreed concrete.
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post #7 of 7 Old 03-11-2013, 09:19 AM
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i often do work in an elegantly built 100+ yr old home in town, where the crown is mostly "dropped" about 1/4 - 3/8" from the ceiling. The owner often asks what to do about it when refinishing rooms, i always say leave it alone.

it will be interesting to hear why it is that way.
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19th century crown gaps

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