How to Install Baseboards
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Baseboard moulding is a simple way to add instant character to a room. While installation of baseboard trim isn’t hard, cutting and measuring the angles can be tricky. The process is similar to installing crown moulding.
This is a project where "measure twice, cut once" will save you time and effort.
Homeowners can easily learn how to install baseboards with this easy-to-follow project guide.
Safety Tips for Installing Baseboards
Although installing baseboards is a straightforward DIY project, there are a few safety precautions to keep in mind. When using power tools such as a compound power miter saw or a finishing nailer, be sure to wear safety glasses and ear plugs. Make sure your working surface is clear of debris when operating power tools. Finally, be sure to read the operation manuals for your power tools so that you are aware of all the safety precautions associated with each tool.
Remove Old Baseboards
- Cut away the old paint and caulk along the top edge of the trim.
- Pull away the old trim with a pry bar.
- Remove any nails that remain in the drywall.
- Scrape and sand off any remaining glue or caulk left on the wall.
Tools and Supplies to Install Baseboards
Before you head to your local Home Depot to buy baseboard material and supplies, save time and money by accurately measuring first.
- Measure the perimeter of the room(s) with a tape measure, rounding up to the nearest whole-foot dimension divisible by two.
- Measure each wall at least twice.
- Add additional room to your measurements to allow for outside corners.
- If you are a beginner, add six inches (or more) to your total measurement to give yourself some leeway.
- Purchase extra baseboards moulding in case of cutting mistakes.
Baseboards are typically composed of three components: cap moulding, baseboards and shoe moulding. You may not need all three components for your project.
- Cap moulding fits on top of the baseboards to add an ornamental touch and are optional. Cap moulding is often used with wainscot paneling or with a chair rail.
- Baseboards range from 3 1/2- to 6-inches high and are predominantly flat. They form the bulk of the baseboard.
- Shoe moulding is another ornamental detail at the bottom of the baseboard. Although they are optional, they help complete the look. Shoe moulding is used when retrofitting or putting down new flooring.
Once you have the measurements, it’s time to head to your local Home Depot to get your moulding. Baseboard moulding comes in lengths up to 94-1/2 inches. Make sure you have the right type of vehicle to transport the material.
You will need a few other tools and supplies to install baseboards. The handiest tool is a miter saw. A miter saw will help you quickly and accurately cut trim. Most importantly, it makes quick work of cutting the corners on baseboard moulding. If an electric miter saw is not in your budget, you can rent one. A miter box is also a good, economical option. Another tool to help speed up the process is a brad nailer. If you are not ready to invest in a set of power tools, see your local Home Depot’s tool rental for affordable options. You will also need a caulk gun, cartridges and wood glue.
Preparing to Install Baseboards
- Bring the boards into the room where you'll be installing them a few days before you start. This will help the material acclimate to the environment.
- Measure and cut the baseboards for each wall. For the boards that meet outside corners, cut them a few inches longer than the wall to allow for miter cuts.
- Paint the baseboards and let them dry.
- Use a stud finder to find and mark the wall studs.
- Use a 4-foot level to determine if your floor is level.
- If the floor is not level, find the lowest point in the room and tack a scrap piece of baseboard to the wall. Use the top of the scrap baseboard as a point of reference to make horizontal marks every few inches, keeping at the same level, on the walls around the room.
- Snap a chalk line between the marks to indicate where the top edge of the baseboards should be once they're installed.
- Start at an inside corner. Hold the first board against the wall, level it, then temporarily tack it in place.
- If you plan to install baseboard moulding before adding carpet, it needs to be installed 1 inch above floor level to allow room for both pad and carpet.
- If adding baseboards after carpet is laid, it should be installed at the same height as without carpet. If you are not intending to install quarter round, or base shoe, the baseboard should be installed snugly on top of the carpet.
For floors that are not level, you will need to scribe the bottom of the baseboard for an accurate fit. Scribing is a method to transfer odd shapes and wavy walls or floors to your work piece.
- To scribe, set the compass points to 1/4 inch apart. Place the point of the compass even with the floor against the wall and the pencil against the baseboard slightly above the board's bottom.
- Drag the compass point along the floor, drawing a line across the bottom of the baseboard.
- Remove the board and set it onto a cutting surface.
- Set the circular saw blade depth to the depth of the board, and on a 5-degree bevel with the face of the cut toward the wall.
- Trim the board along the penciled line.
- Using sandpaper, sand the bevel away to create a level cut at the marked line.
- Dry-fit the baseboard back onto the floor. Make sure it lines up evenly with the chalk line on your wall.
Outside Corner Cuts
- Fit one end of the baseboard against the inside corner of the wall or door casing.
- At the other end draw a vertical line up the back of the board.
- Use the edge of the outside baseboard corner to guide the pencil.
- Mark the top of the board to show the direction of the miter.
- Place the other board against the adjacent wall. Mark the same way. Its miter angle should be opposite of the previous board.
- Set a compound miter saw to 45 degrees.
- Cut each miter about 1/16–inch longer than necessary. Doing so ensures a tight fit.
- Place both boards back against the wall and check the join.
- If the join it too tight, use a sanding block to remove excess wood.
- Once the fit is good, apply a thin bead of wood glue to mitered edges and nail in place with finishing nails.
Coping an Inside Corner Joint
When two walls meet in an inside corner, one baseboard should be coped to fit into the other baseboard for a seamless look. You can, however, use a miter cut to join an inside corner. This option will result in a less seamless look and will need additional finishing in the end.
- Measure and cut one baseboard so that it fits flush against the wall with a straight cut next to a corner. Mark the end of the baseboard to be coped. Make it a couple of inches longer in case of mistakes.
- Use a miter saw to bevel cut the end at a 45-degree angle. The cut will reveal the profile of your baseboard.
- With a coping saw, cut along the profile.
- Slightly angle the blade so that you cut away from the backside of the baseboard.
- Sand the edges and then dry fit.
- If the fit is good, nail into place with finishing nails.
Scarf and Butt Joints
- Where two boards meet on a long wall or straight run, you will need to make a scarf joint.
- Miter the end at 45 degrees in opposite directions.
- Glue and overlap the miters, then nail through the piece that covers the joint and into the stud.
- If the baseboard doesn’t need to continue around any, simply cut it and butt it up against the object (like a door trim).
- In older homes, you may run into issues with walls that are not square. To figure out how to install new baseboards on old walls, you will need to adjust the angles.
- Use a sliding T bevel to help determine the new angles for the corner. Alternatively, use scrap material for trial-and-error fitting until you find the correct angle cut.
- If the joint gaps are small or the gaps between the wall and the baseboard are small, you can use caulk or wood putty to fill in the gaps.
- However, if the gaps are larger than a 1/4 inch, you will need to adjust the angles of the outside and inside corners to match the angle on the corners of the old wall.
- Install shoe or cap moulding, if using. Employ the same methods for outside and inside corners, scarf and butt joints on the moulding.
- Caulk along the top edge and corner edges and nail holes.
- Touch up the baseboard with primer paint.
- Apply final top coat of paint.
Installing a baseboard is a quick way to update a room and add a stylish finishing touch. The Home Depot is your DIY headquarters. Looking for a product to complete your project? We have options to deliver online orders when and where you need them.
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