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Putting up Coving

Skill Level: Intermediate


Coving is a decorative concave moulding that fits between your wall and ceiling. It is an extremely attractive feature and creates a smooth transition from one to the other. It is one of the simplest but effective ways of finishing off a room, creating texture and depth, and importantly it doesn’t take great skill to attach it.  Usually, the coving would be painted in a contrasting colour to highlight and enhance a high ceiling or deceive the eye, to make a low ceiling seem higher than it is.
Coving was customarily made from plaster faced with paper but these days other lighter, more manageable materials are used. It can be textured or smooth; be very plain or have an authentic Victorian feel.

Types of Coving

Plaster    This type of coving is the most expensive but it has a beautiful smooth white  finish which doesn’t require as much painting.

Paper coated plaster    Slightly heavier than the plaster coving but the paper coating usually gives the best surface for painting.

Polymer       A relatively new product that is as strong and durable as plaster but doesn’t have the weight.

Polystyrene    A popular choice of coving if it is economy you require. It still looks good but you must take care when handling as it is easily damaged.


Calculate how much coving you will need by measuring the length of the walls all around the room. Add 5% to that figure to cover the additional amount needed for mitred joints and any unexpected damage.
Clear the room as much as you can and protect the floor with plastic sheeting. Coving adhesive is difficult to remove when dry.

Marking out.

Using a length of coving as a template, hold a piece in position and make a pencil or chalk mark on the wall and ceiling at the top and bottom of the coving. Make regular marks around the room then join them up using a straight edge.

Clean Working Surface

Scrape off any wallpaper, flaking paint or plaster as the coving will only adhere to a sound, dry, clean surface. To give a better key, score the plaster in a criss-cross pattern with a safety knife, and then brush away any loose debris. Apply a solution of PVA adhesive and water to this area to prevent the plaster from leeching water out of the adhesive that has been applied to the coving.

Coving Adhesive

Coving adhesive usually comes as powder which you mix with water to form a “clotted cream” consistency. It is much easier if you use a mixing tool attached to your electric drill on a slow speed.


With a trowel or filling knife, apply the coving adhesive over the back of the first piece of coving. You don’t need to apply it to the central part of the coving, only the areas that will be in contact with the walls and ceiling.
Hold the coving in place, and line it up with the edges of the pencil guide lines on the wall and ceiling. Press gently along the whole length of the coving making sure that there is contact along the whole length. Any excess adhesive that has been squeezed out should be removed immediately with a filling knife or your finger. Use this to fill any small gaps in the mitred joints. Ensure that any adhesive splashes on the walls or coving are wiped off without delay, using a damp sponge.

Joining Straight Lengths of Coving

Continue around the room, butting the ends of the coving together where they join on straight sections of wall. Most people butt the joints on the straight sections of wall but I prefer to join them at a 45 degree angle. These mitred joints are much less noticeable than the straight edge joints.
The coving will need to be supported and held in place until dry. To give that extra support, hammer in fine nails just below the bottom edge. These nails can be removed after the adhesive has dried. If, however, you are fitting plaster coving, the nails should be galvanised nails or countersunk screws which are left in place.


Although some manufacturers include a template to use when cutting mitred corners, it is more accurate if you use a Mitre Block.  Start with the longest wall and using the block, cut the end of the coving at a 45 degree angle.  A fine toothed panel saw is ideal for cutting the coving and always remember to smooth any rough edges of the cut with sandpaper.
If you are having trouble with your mitred corners, there is a solution. Some manufacturers make coving corner pieces which give a stylish finish and hide any “less than perfect” mitre joints. Fix these pieces to corners using the same adhesive and hold in place until secure.

Finishing Off

Carefully look around the coving and fill any gaps with the adhesive. Gaps may be noticeable only under electric lights so to make doubly sure that all the gaps are filled, give the coving a thin coat of white emulsion. When it has dried, and with the lights switched on, look again from all angles; this should throw shadows on any irregularities.  Where these are evident, they can be simply smoothed  or filled as required.

Tools you will need:
Marksman Retractable Safety Utility Knife - Red
Marksman Retractable Safety Utility Knife - Red

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