How to repair cracked molding seams – The Washington Post

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Question: A number of years ago, I put crown molding in my kitchen, foyer, bathroom and two upstairs bathrooms. Downstairs, the molding is fine. But the seams on the two upstairs bathrooms periodically open up and look cracked. Because both of these rooms are right below the attic space, I think the issue involves the shrinking and expanding of the molding, not necessarily due to moisture in the bathrooms.
I have scraped out the old caulk and resealed the seams and then repainted. But eventually the problem reappears! Is there a caulk that will expand and contract, or is there some way to nail the molding more firmly into the walls and ceiling?
— Reston
Answer: Bathrooms do have bigger humidity swings than other rooms, so that could be a factor. But, quite likely, your main problem is expansion and contraction of the roof framing, especially if your house has truss framing in the attic. Trusses get their strength to span wide distances by having short pieces of wood that tie together the long framing pieces that support the roof with those that carry the ceiling; the whole assembly acts as one big piece. So as the roof heats up or cools, the ceiling also flexes, causing those maddening cracks to open up between the crown molding and the ceiling.
To prevent problems, builders can avoid screwing or nailing ceiling drywall to trusses within 18 inches of walls. The ceiling still stays up because the outside edge is supported by the top edge of the wall drywall. But this system allows the ceiling pieces to flex as needed to accommodate truss movement, eliminating cracks. Unfortunately, it’s too late for you to take advantage of this strategy unless you can locate and remove the nails or screws fastening the ceiling perimeter.
Another trick used by trim carpenters who install crown molding under truss roofs is to glue a thin piece of molding to the ceiling and then fasten the main crown molding only to walls. They avoid caulking or even painting shut the seam between the two molding sections. So if a crack opens up there, it looks like a sharp shadow line rather than a problem.
You might be able to adapt that approach to your rooms by adding a thin strip of molding glued only to the ceiling. Or try scraping out the caulk, to eliminate the messy-looking tears in the caulking and paint. Then just let the cracks be where they are. After all, the beauty of crown molding is mostly in the shadow lines; only at corners do you really notice the curves.
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Question: I have a small sculpture of my mother, made well over 70 years ago, that I treasure, especially since she died when I was 17.  Somehow the screw(s) that hold it onto its wooden base broke or came loose. The base itself is in good condition. The statue is made of some kind of clay compound, I think, and obviously there is a lot of wear and tear on the exterior.  My main concern is getting the bust reattached, but if there is also a way to clean up the exterior finish, that would be a bonus. Do you know of someone who might be able to do this?
— Fairfax City
Answer: Steven Pickman, owner of Steven Pickman Objects Conservation in Washington (310-625-1892; ), recommends going to a mountmaker, a person who specializes in attaching objects to bases for display in museums and private collections.
Pickman said he’s seen excellent work done by ParaMounts (304-279-5691;, a mountmaking company based in Charles Town, W.Va., that does work throughout the Washington area.
Nancey Veldran, a mountmaker who handles business arrangements at ParaMounts, said it appears from the pictures you sent that the statue was attached to the base by a threaded rod that’s now bent. So ParaMounts’ approach probably would be to straighten the rod and attach it to a new, custom-built base made of Medite, a formaldehyde-free, wood-fiberboard product that museums favor because it doesn’t release harmful gases that could damage artifacts. The company typically charges travel and assessment time (at $75 an hour) for a staff person to evaluate pieces and recommend solutions. But because your statue is easily carried and you live in Washington, Veldran said she could probably arrange for you to drop it off at Sands of Time Antiquities in Georgetown, a frequent customer. That would save you from paying for travel time, bringing a ballpark total cost for remounting to about $265.
As for repairing the surface, that is a job Pickman would be happy to do. He, like Veldran, suspects the piece is made of plaster topped by a sealing layer and paint or other finish, so the repair would involve patching, sealing and touch-up.
Pickman offers a free consultation if you go to his studio but charges for travel time if he comes to you. At the consultation, he would discuss options and prices. Then, if you decided to proceed, he would photograph the sculpture, write a detailed condition report and document all work he does.
 Pickman does not give price estimates based on photographs. “I need to have the piece in my hands,” he said. But his hourly rate is $120, and his minimum is $250 per object, so you can guess it’s not cheap. You should, however, wind up with a piece that is stabilized and repairs that should last — just what you want for a treasured keepsake.
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