Choosing Your Coving Material

There are many coving materials on the market to choose from, each with different characteristics. Some materials are more suited to certain types of projects than others, with budget being a key consideration.

Before choosing which material is best for you, it’s recommended to measure up first. That way you know beforehand the total amount of coving you’ll need for your project, and can therefore budget appropriately and choose the most cost effective material for your coving.

Common Materials Used for Coving

  • – Polystyrene
  • – Paper Covered Plaster
  • – Hardened high density Polyurethane (and rubber)


Polystyrene is the cheapest solution and is ideal if you have a limited budget. Polystyrene coving is lightweight and therefore easy to fit, although it does tend to be quite soft and prone to damage when installing. Also, even after painting, you may find that the finished look still reveals it to be a ‘cheap and cheerful’ installation.


Plaster in it’s various guises (gyproc, hessian backed, paper faced etc) is the material that coving was traditionally made in before the more modern counterparts. It’s attractive smooth finish is great for creating an authentic period look to a room and it does lend itself to some incredibly ornate and detailed patterns. If you are restoring a Grade II listed building this is probably for you.

The biggest downside however is it’s weight. Plaster is incredibly heavy – and very brittle. Installing plaster cornice is not for the faint hearted or average DIYer. It is always at least a 2-person job and requires careful cuts and screwing into the wall to support the enormous weight. It is not uncommon to see cracks subsequently appearing – leave the installation of this to the professionals!

Hardened Polyurethane

Hardened Polyurethane is the relative newcomer on the market (though it has now been available since the 1980’s). It aims to offer the same visual benefits of plaster coving and yet it is affordable and lightweight, so can be fitted much faster and without all the cursing! This material is also strong and durable (like a piece of light wood), making it perfect for a single person installation with minimal DIY skills. Many profiles (including matching skirting boards) are available in a flexible rubber compound so they can bend around curved walls and bay windows – something that is very difficult to achieve in plaster or wood.

With it’s many advantages as well as the same visual appearance as plaster, hardened polyurethane is now replacing plaster coving and becoming the ‘new traditional’ coving material of choice for designers and installers. For some great examples of coving & cornice – get in touch for a copy of our Decor or Axxent brochures.