Wanting To Improve Existing Wood Crown Molding


Our house has blonde real-all-wood crown molding throughout and also blonde real-all-wood doors. It's one of the things that made me love this house the first time I saw it (real wood). But after we bought it, we came to realize that the person who built it didn't stain any of the wood - and may not even have sealed it, though the house is almost 20 years old. The crown molding is high enough that, obviously, it has been spared use & abuse like the doors and baseboards. I can't tell if the doors and stair rails have been sealed or not - they are light/blonde wood and are looking rough now with dirt and marks...
My question is this. I want to sand and stain the wood surfaces, but don't know how to do this with existing crown molding. Do I just get on a ladder and get up there to sand every inch by hand? Or do I need to dismantle it?
We're scraping the popcorn stucco off all the ceilings, and will be painting the walls a-fresh. So this is the perfect time to stain all the crown moldings first - but I'm on a timeline, as I need to get the crown molding finished first. Any counsel would be greatly appreciated. -Becky
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Becky wrote:

First things first, make sure you have a nice rolling scaffold set up at a height where the ceiling is only a few inches above your head. You're going to be spending a fair amount of time working with your arms above your shoulders so go easy on them.
Clean the popcorn off the ceiling first. Wipe down the whole room with a TSP solution to clean it. That step alone will probably take care of most of the marks on the molding. There's no need to take down the woodwork. If there's no finish, sand the crown. If you do discover a finish of some sort, and depending on the complexity of the molding, you should either sand or use a liquid deglosser to soften up the finish to help improve the bond with the new finish.

finishes. It's about the easiest thing to control and will save you a couple of steps. It's not furniture, and you're not a pro, so don't make it more complex than it needs to be.
The order of finishing is a personal preference. In your situation I normally prime as necessary, paint the ceiling, finish the wood molding, then paint the walls. I'm pretty good at cutting in so I don't normally tape things off. If you do tape, your order may be different, and you should use the blue painter's tape.
R
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<snippage of some big project and some good advice>
Somewhere in there, you'll need to consider a texture coat on the ceilings you cleaned up of their popcorn. Probably best after they are clean, but before the primer. In California, it would be done with a sprayed, knock- down finish, but that differs pretty widely around the continent. The sprayers are generally available at the rental yard for reasonable rates.
Then proceed as previously instructed.
Make certain to budget twice the time you think reasonable at the beginning of the project. Then you'll only be a week late. ;-)
Patriarch, who has done this before...
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Becky If you love the look, why would you want to stain it? stain does nothing more than change the color of the wood, and depending of the type of stain and wood, it can excentuate the grain, or differing densities of the wood (pine and cherry can have a tendency to be blotchy when stained).
So, if you have tire of the blond look, go ahead and stain (or use a colored finish like Minwax Polyshades as previously suggested), but don't feel that you have to stain.
Some kind of sealer is a good idea. IMO it looks better because you can see the grain more clearly with "the wet look" and it will keep dirt out of the pores.
Cheers,
Steve
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