Coving tips

I’ve just done a bit of coving and if you read on I’ll impart my Yoda like skills on anyone who’s willing to do a bit of reading. There’s quite a  few photos and a bit of text, so this if for people who may be willing to put up with a bit of a read. I would have videoed my work, but I work alone and selfie videos are a bit tricky. So here’s my coving tips from the lone cover.

Finished coving

The finished item, a nice bit of coving.


Anyway, over the years I’ve done a little bit of coving here and there, generally though the coving I’ve used was plaster based and when I’d do some coving then there’d be a spare pair of hands to help out. What I needed to do in this particular case was to find out how to cove with only one set of hands and how to do it with Duropolymer coving.

One had necessitated the other, the fact that I needed to do it on my own had meant I’d needed to use a lightweight coving and not plaster. It’s not impossible to put up plaster coving by oneself, I have done it in the past, but this time I needed to put up something a bit more elaborate and the physical size of larger coving could have been too heavy and fragile for one person.

I had also read some good reviews about Duropolymer, the fact that it was lightweight, that it was easy to cut and the cut lines were nice and sharp was a bonus. Also it was easier to transport, the designs were legion and it turned out a bit cheaper (but not much) than plaster based coving. I had in the past been put off anything non-plaster-based, generally with my experiences of Polystyrene coving – which I found brittle and cheap, generally without the online reviews I think I would have steered clear of Duroploymer coving, thinking of it as an upmarket Polystyrene.

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Anyway I did a bit of research and found that there’s lots of lovely coving out there, a bit of research and in the end I plumped for the HomeBase Arthouse Oregon range, basically it was the biggest coving one could get for a reasonable outlay and Homebase was handy. One can pay a fortune for coving and anything over £100 per room is getting a bit too expensive for me, this range allowed me to purchase a 120mm (up wall) by 120mm across ceiling pack of 4x 2m lengths of coving for £44.99. Not bad, there are cheaper and there certainly are lots more expensive options, the choice is yours.

I must admit I that at first I was a bit disappointed with this coving, it just seemed too lightweight and Polystyrene-ish. I’m not too sure whether this is symptomatic of Duropolymer coving or whether this range is pretty shoddy but in the end it turned out to be good. It was easy to buy at my local Homebase and I did manage to get a few quid knocked off for a slightly dinted box and quite importantly it was easy to chuck into the car and transport home, I didn’t fancy a long protracted delivery with the prospect of dinted and scratched coving, so for me this was the best option.

I needed to do a bit of research on how to install this coving so it was to YouTube and the internet that I turned. I must admit I was a little disappointed, all the vid’s and help I found seemed to be of similar content. What I needed to know about was what adhesives to use and how to generally crack on with the job, what I found were reasonably informative resources that seemed to have all fed off one another and although worthy they seemed a lacking in information. There was no plaster covered individual swearing at their mitre block with chipped coving and mismatched corners. There were however a few vid’s of over-health and safeteed individuals wearing protective spec’s and high-vis jackets while trying to saw a bit of coving looking as though they’ve never used a saw in their lives. I’m not being a snob here, there’s no way I’m a builder or anything, it’s just that a lot of the sites were missing the point of what people needed to know.

Nearly done

A bit of filling required, but not bad for a bunch of dodgy corners

I first needed to know:

  • What adhesive to use
  • What saw to use
  • What mitre block to use.

The adhesives mostly recommended were specialist mastic gun based products, so I bought a tube of that (Orac FDP500 DecoFIX Installation Adhesive), however when buying my coving in Homebase I asked a young assistant about suitable adhesives and he recommended a tub of readymix HomeBase coving adhesive, so I bought a tub. Online a few people had mentioned any solvent free no-more-nails type products, so I got some of that too.

The saw recommended was an Orac Décor FB14 so I ordered one too from an Amazon Store.

The mitre block I required needed to be big enough for my coving, there’s lots and lots of mitre blocks out there but large ones are a bit thin on the ground. What you need to do is measure the height of the risers in the mitre block and the distance between these risers and check whether these dimensions are larger than your coving dimensions. My coving would sit with 120mm on the wall and 120mm across the ceiling in cross-section so the risers needed to be bigger than this. After lots of research and turning down a multitude of options available from B&Q, Homebase, Screwfix etc. I had to buy one online and I settled on another Orac product, the Orac FB13. There are more elaborate solutions out there, professional options include the Orac Décor FB300 but this is over £100 and really only for pro’s and anyone needing really deep coving.

After much experimentation I found.

The Orac Adhesive although good was too expensive, a tube lasted only a half a medium sized room. It had good grip and allowed one to reposition the coving but it really was too expensive and another drawback was as one was trying to be frugal with the adhesive one couldn’t put oodles of it on the cove, so there was no squishing out of the adhesive when pressed onto the wall. This meant that once finished I had to fill the gaps with plaster. What I found in the end to be best was the tub of pre-mix coving adhesive, it was cheap, there was oodles of it, more than enough infact, one could be liberal with it and when squished onto the wall the coving could be buttered with enough adhesive to allow the gaps to ooze out lots of lovely adhesive, thereby no longer necessitating filling, just a bit of trimming of excess adhesive. I must admit that I didn’t get around to the no more nails option but I think it would have suffered for most of the reasons the specialist filler did and an idea for plaster dot-and-dab wasn’t tested  – I didn’t fancy having  to run to the kitchen every half an hour to mix a new batch of plaster – the readymix was best, cheap and convenient.

The Orac saw was awful, it was over-priced and far too aggressive, I’m not sure if I was supplied with the right saw though as this one had no marking and the teeth seemed much larger than the ones on the picture on Amazon. My standard saw was much better, in fact today while shopping I noticed a fine toothed Irwin saw, I think it was a 990, this looked a great option for the job, it was around £11, which turns out around a third of the price of the Orac, the teeth looked (without testing) perfect for the job.

The Orac mitre block was perfect though, it has an adjustable pair of screws in the bed of the block to accommodate different sized coving. I stuck four sticky labels to the block to indicate internal-right, external-right, internal-left and external-left cutting positions and I don’t think I got a single cut wrong all day.

Now rather than go through how to do everything I’ll give a few tips and you can fill in the health and safety and mitre cutting gubbins from websites catering to such things.

I would advise:

A pair of Black & Decker Workmates or similar, fix the mitre block between the jaws of one (the mitre box I have has a raised part on the base to allow for this clamping) Workmate and then stretch long sections of coving over the second Workmate. Put a bit of wood on the bed of the other Workmate to raise the job to the same height of the bed of the mitre block.

When sawing do not press down on the saw, just let it cut its own way through the coving.

Start with small corner sections. I had in the past, with plaster coving, fixed large lengths to the walls and up to the corners. New corners were then simply matched up and pressed together pretty easily. When working with Duropolymer I found that the corners were much less forgiving and whether it was my measuring or the simple fact I was working by myself I found it impossible to get corners right. This is the method I found worked best for me:

  1. Let’s for example say I’m doing a long section of wall with two internal corners at each end of the run.
  2. I would go to each corner and using a bit of wood I’d cut to size (120mm in my case) I’d measure in each corner a line 120mm into the ceiling and 120mm down the wall all around the corner.
  3. First I’d cut two internal-left and two internal-right joints. I would then square them off and not make them more than a foot long each.
  4. I’d then butter an internal-left and an internal-right with liberal amounts of ready-mix adhesive and go to my first corner.
  5. As the sections are nice and small one can offer both up to the corner simultaneously and using the lines marked on wall and ceiling as a guide one can put them neatly into the corner. Squishing them satisfyingly into place.
  6. Wipe of any excess and use a wet paintbrush to smooth down any crinkles.
  7. A pocket full of panel pins and a hammer can come in useful if things start moving. Try to put the pins into the wall surrounding the coving but if you have to pop one nail into the coving then don’t be tempted to put one near the edge as it’ll probably crack the coving. I found putting the nails into the recesses of the lines in the coving detail was best, a big hammer proved easier than a small one. Don’t put the nails right the way into the coving, it’ll grip if you only put a bit through and you’ll need a lot of shank left to extract them later – it helps to stop damaging the very delicate coving.
  8. Once you have both opposite corners in place then hammer two panel pins directly below each facing edge of the coving.
  9. Get a bit of thread and tie one end to a nail and stretch the other across the gap between the pins over the other nail. Get a weight of some description and fix it to the end of the thread and this will stretch a truer line than trying to tie it tightly at both end. I used a light adjustable spanner, gripped the thread in the jaws and hung this over the nail, it worked a treat.
  10. Get some more panel pins and nail them in directly where the thread is on the wall, every foot and a bit or so.
  11. You are now ready for the straight bits between the two corners.
  12. Measure and cut to length, spread with adhesive and fix on top of the panel pins.
  13. This is a great method as you follow the straight line and you don’t follow the line of the ceiling.
  14. I found in the past that if you work out of a corner then you tend to follow the ceiling, this method forces one to follow the straight line.
  15. The real trick to coving though is the filling of the gaps, allow a good couple of hours to finish off a job properly with filler.
  16. I think that even the best cover in the world must have some gaps and the trick is how to disguise these.
  17. I found after filling walls for weeks that the best thing since sliced bread is Gyproc Easi-Fill and a good Filling/Jointing Knife – I prefer the narrower filling knife – you can fill anything with these and a bit of practice.
  18. On all joints, mix up some Easi-Fill (not too much as it goes solid quickly and you end up wasting loads and it takes ages to clean up too) to a creamy thick texture, heavy cottage cheesy thickness. Spread it liberally top to bottom over the joint, draw your jointing/filling knife with the blade horizontal from top to bottom and scrape away all the excess, do this twice on either side of the joint with an edge of the knife touching the joint. On one side of the joint all the filler will disappear (this is the proud side, where the joint on this side is higher than the other) on other you will be left with a wedge of filler that fills the gap between the upper and lower levels of coving. Don’t be tempted to leave excess to sand down later, get it right now and it’ll work brilliantly. I have a selection of cutlery too to hand to mark and sculpt out some of the detailing, it really should only take a couple of minutes a joint. Once finished the secret is a wet fine paint brush, brush it lightly from left to right (or right to left 🙂 ) over the joints and hey-presto a couple of hours later and you will be marvelling at the super work you’ve done. With some joints it may take two goes to get it right, but don’t be disheartened the technique should come pretty easily.
  19. Corners are a bit more difficult but you’ll be amazed the sizes of the gaps you can fill up with the filler. With a bit of practice too you’ll be sculpting amazing sharp corners.

Anyway once this is done a coat of primer (use cheap emulsion) then a coat or two of your final paint choice and it’ll be brilliant.

Don’t do what I did too, I painted my walls and ceiling first, really you should put the coving on before you start decorating. This’ll allow you to cover up any mistake you might make with dribbling filler or water without having to paint a wall again.

Anyway good luck and remember to ignore me and wear those high-vis jackets.


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