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On the House

Medallion Adds a Classical Touch to a Ceiling


Artisans have been affixing plaster decorations to walls and ceilings for centuries--mostly in imitation of Greek and Roman bas-relief. In modern times, the practice peaked in the early 19th century when Greek Revival architecture reawakened an interest in classical ornamentation.

Plaster moldings are again popular today--either to give authenticity to a restoration or to add interest to a flat wall or ceiling. The designs range from chaste Greek-key borders to Baroque ceiling medallions.

Although plaster ornamentation is still used, wood and plastic alternatives can be readily found at lumberyards, home centers and hardware stores. We prefer the plastic kind because it is lightweight and easy to work with. The pieces are constructed of a foam or urethane core with a vinyl-like finish that takes paint beautifully.

For dressing up a ceiling, decorative medallions are reasonably priced, easy to install and attractive. Ceiling medallions come in various shapes and sizes. They can be round, square, oval, rectangular or triangular. You can have a hexagon, an octagon or even a star. And although a decorative ceiling medallion is often used as a "rosette" or foil for a chandelier, it is equally popular as a focal point of a room's ceiling. In either case, it is easy to install one.

When installing a ceiling medallion where a light fixture exists, the fixture must be removed and reinstalled after the medallion installation is completed. Begin by turning off the power to the light fixture at the breaker panel or fuse box. Don't rely on the light switch; the power for the light might originate at the fixture rather than the switch.

With the power off, carefully remove the light fixture--usually held in place with a couple of screws or a nut on a short length of threaded tubing. Lower the fixture canopy and carefully disconnect the wires. Use the opportunity while the fixture is down to give it a good cleaning and polishing.

Place the ceiling medallion upside-down and cut a hole in the center, using a drill or fine-tooth saw. The hole should be large enough to allow wiring and one or more threaded bolts to pass through, yet small enough to be completely covered by the fixture canopy.

Next, apply a minimum of a 1/2-inch bead of adhesive along the outside edge on the underside of the ceiling medallion. Place the medallion into position on the ceiling immediately after applying adhesive. Use four 15/8-inch paneling nails equally spaced on the medallion to hold it in place while the adhesive sets up. Later, countersink the nails using a nail punch, and conceal the nail heads with spackling.

Instead of paneling nails, the medallion can be fastened to the ceiling using construction screws. As you would with paneling nails, countersink the construction screws and conceal with a patching compound.

Apply a bead of caulk at the perimeter of the medallion and smooth, using your finger or a damp sponge. Once the caulk has dried, the medallion is ready for paint.

For best results, prime the medallion with an oil-base primer and finish with one or more coats of latex in the color of your choice.

Complete the job by reinstalling the light fixture. Reverse the steps used to remove it. Due to the added ceiling thickness, longer screws and/or threaded tubing might be needed to properly anchor the light fixture.

Reconnect the wires using approved wire connectors, reinstall the canopy and turn on the power.


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