Baseboard How-To (+ Workroom Progress!)

After our recent nook room baseboard update, we had a few questions regarding the actual installation, and after knocking out the trim in Kim’s workroom this weekend, we thought this was a great little room for our rundown. Prying up and re-doing baseboards might seem like a daunting task, but if you follow the old adage of measuring twice and cutting once, knocking out a room of bold new trim is a relatively simple project:

We started this tiny-room adventure with a wall color quite outside the realm of our usual comfort zone, (which ironically enough, is most people’s comfort zone) – white! After staring at swatches for a good week, we finally landed on Silent White by Clark + Kensington with a flat enamel finish (matte, but still very wipeable), a white falling in the cool family, but it’s still neutral and definitely not blue. Kim was even worried that it looked a bit yellow at first (especially when laid on top of the very cool primer), but now that the whole room is done, we love it.

With the room painted, we could move on to the baseboards! We tackled the window sills a few weeks back, and the fresh paint and baseboards brought everything together. (Our prep work is done, and now the fun can begin, right?)

Our baseboards, cut to approximate lengths at the hardware store
Quarter round, cut to the same approximate lengths
Decorative outside corner trim
Semi-gloss paint in Ultra Pure White (Behr)
Paintable Caulk

Utility knife
Pry bar
Speed square
Nail gun
Compound miter saw

PREP FIRST. Kim likes to paint all of the trim first (The night before is best to allow your paint time to fully cure) so that all we need to do once everything is installed is a quick touch up. Sawhorses come in very handy for the lengths you’ll likely be dealing with. We used the same semi-gloss Ultra Pure White (Behr) paint for the baseboards as we did in the nook room.

Our gracefully aging home has its challenges, with flooring installed not only after the baseboards, but with every type of fastener you could imagine – including drywall screws, finish nails and seemingly load bearing caulk (yes, really). Every time we think we’ve gotten used to the bizarre easy-way-out projects handled before us, new previous shortcuts continue to astound us! Anyway, start by removing any rogue fasteners, then carefully score the caulk that resides between the old baseboards and the drywall.

Next, just start prying! A hammer and a small pry bar should be all you need. Find a loose spot and work your way from one end of each wall to the other. If your baseboards were installed properly (ie; after the flooring was laid), you’ll probably be prying from the top of the trim and pulling the baseboard toward you. For us, it was a matter of prying up and out to make sure we cleared the thick hardwood.

As we mentioned earlier, our baseboards were held in place with a handful of randomly placed screws. Honest to goodness screws. If this happens to you, pop those suckers out and get back to prying.

Once everything was up, we had sizeable gaps (upwards of 1 1/2″ inches!) between our floor and wall, and since some of these were exterior walls, we took that as an opportunity to use my favorite spray foam to keep things insulated. Once the foam dries, you can cut off any excess with a utility knife. The amount of cold air rushing in from the outside was kind of unbelievable, but now the room is completely draft-free (and much warmer!).

THE INSTALL. Now that all the prep work has been done, we could move on to the install. Always start your baseboard project by cutting a fresh 45-degree angle on one end of your baseboard, then use that as your starting measuring point. You’ll want all of your inside pieces to be shaped like a trapezoid. Keep in mind that your wall measurements should match the widest side of the trapezoid. Our trim is rather large at 6 1/2″ tall, so most of our cuts had to be made with the saw tilted horizontally to accommodate the taller board, whereas lower height trim can likely be cut with a standard miter saw.

Tip: The trim we’ve been using is pretty substantial, so the speed square comes in pretty handy for marking your 45-degree angles and drawing lines for the most accurate cut on your miter saw.

I highly recommend using an air compressor and pneumatic brad nailer for this project. Everything can be nailed by hand with finish nails, but you’ll spend at lease twice as much time fastening everything. (If you don’t have one in your tool arsenal, you can easily rent one from a big box hardware store for the afternoon). We used 18 gauge 2″ nails, securing them every 10-12″ along the entire length of baseboard, top and bottom.

Due to the large gaps between our hardwood floor and the trim, we also needed to install shoe molding (quarter round). I’ll admit that using the shoe molding is not necessarily a look we love, but it’s been our saving grace for our slightly crooked floors, walls and gaps. This goes much quicker than the baseboard cuts, and all the same rules apply. (Measure, measure, measure, cut, cut, cut, then nail, nail, nail.)

Our workroom has a slight slope up in the flooring when you leave the room, so we were unable to continue a seamless transition around the door frame. We picked up decorative outside corner molding to allow things to blend a little more seamlessly and avoid uneven trim from one room to the next.

FINISH UP. You can see below how we notched it out to go up with the slope (I used my multi-tool to do so), and at this point, you’re finally ready to caulk all the unsightly gaps! Just run a thin bead along the top edge of your baseboards, and use your fingertip to swipe along your caulk line. (On a side note, there was one pesky floor board [see below] that was cut way to short for the room, so we may end up filling with color-matched wood putty or something similar. We’ll cross that bridge down the road.

When installing, remember that you will have slight gaps and imperfections – and that’s okay. Drywall is almost never square, and the older your house, the more likely you’ll meet some challenged along the way. Luckily, there’s caulk, spackle and paint to the rescue! After I caulked, Kim used a bit of spackle to touch up the small nail holes (no need for a putty knife; your fingertip is the perfect tool to fill those barely-there imperfections), and she followed that up with a touch up coat of the same semi-gloss paint she used the day before:

YOU’RE DONE! We wrapped the baseboard around the door casing, and left it at that since we’ll take care of the rest when we do the foyer / landing trim. This is our first official completed room with the window and the baseboards wrapped up! Add that to our freshly painted walls, and we’re ready to get this room into shape.

Now that the groundwork for the room has been laid, Kim’s excited to get the Varde together (we’re still deciding on colors, but she’s leaning pink, of course), and we can start thinking about incorporating our old studs into shelving. Then it’s on to baskets, bins, and all those organizational tools she loves so much (I’ll leave that part up to her!).

We hope this helped some of you aspiring baseboard-installers (you can do it!), and inspired some of you to add a fresh look to your spaces. It’s really incredible how much of a difference baseboards make; game changers. Are there any seasoned baseboard installers our there with tips and tricks we missed?

PS… Today is the last day to get 15% off anything in The Pet Shop when you use the code LAUNCHPARTY.

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  • Marie3.12.14 - 7:37 AM

    Because I asked you for a baseboard post, thank you so much ! Thank you for all the details, the tricks and advice, you guys rock. The result is awesome, congratulations. Would you like to come at my place and do the same ? ;-)ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.12.14 - 8:08 AM

      Marie, only if you come here and do a few practice rounds with us first! ;)ReplyCancel

  • Becky3.12.14 - 8:16 AM

    My husband used to work as a trim carpenter and has taught me how to properly do inside corners. Since an inside corner is rarely a perfect 90 degree angle (especially in older homes) it’s not really advised to miter the inside corners, instead you should use a coped joint. It takes a little practice but looks much better than a mitered joint. Here’s a great article explaining coped joints and how to do them:

    We recently replaced the baseboards in our whole first floor but it’s been 3 months and I still haven’t gotten around to the tedious caulking and painting on much of it. I like your tip of doing the painting before it’s installed :).ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.12.14 - 8:39 AM

      Becky, thanks for the link! I also think coping the joints would make for less caulk touch up as well. I imagine we’ll be getting used to a coping saw once we move on to the crown… But it does seem like something we could start learning now with the baseboards too.ReplyCancel

  • Marie3.12.14 - 8:22 AM

    I’d really like to if I could teleport myself from abroad.ReplyCancel

  • Laura @ Rather Square3.12.14 - 9:32 AM

    This is a great tutorial! I think I’ve mentioned before that we have existing baseboards that are similar to yours (tall and substantial), so I’m a big fan of how yours are turning out so far. We do need to do crown in several of our rooms, so this info will help. I especially like the tips about painting the boards beforehand and touching up with caulk/spackle after. Our house is old too, and the walls/floors are definitely not level anymore, so I’m sure we’ll run into this ourselves.ReplyCancel

  • Hannah K.3.12.14 - 9:46 AM

    Thanks for the tutorial, Scott!! While we have the standard builder-grade baseboards throughout the house, we pulled up the carpeting and are in desperate need of some quarter-round action. We’d love to get the floors refinished this spring (I’m not sure we have it in us to do it ourselves) and get the finishing touches put on it — our house looks a lot like yours right now (only you are making progress WAY faster!).

    Keep up the excellent work guys!!ReplyCancel

  • carmen vides3.12.14 - 10:30 AM

    Excelente trabajo es muy bueno que lo compartan con nosotros.ADELANTE!!!!! Yo e trabajado colocando todas esa bellezas tienen de nota 100!!!!!.ReplyCancel

  • Kerri3.12.14 - 3:18 PM

    LOVE the difference in the molding. The thick molding really sets it off.ReplyCancel

  • Dave3.12.14 - 5:50 PM

    Becky, Scott’s dad here. Scott and I discussed the advantages of coping vs. mitering. After looking at the space, he decided to miter the inside joints rather than cope them. This particular room was pretty easy. I agree with Kim, in the future, in some of the other rooms, he will have to cope the inside corners. Becky, I am impressed with your carpentry skills!ReplyCancel

  • […] love the look of this baseboard and may go for something like that in the […]ReplyCancel

  • Marie2.27.15 - 12:57 PM

    Hi Kim and Scott,
    After loosing hope about my own home reno, my husband finally decided it was time for our old dirty beige carpet to go. So, I’m happy to say we now have hardwood floor in the bedrooms. Trust me, that is a victory. It is baseboard time now, so I have two questions to ask. First, did you put some caulk along the baseboards, where the floor and the baseboards meet, I mean ? And secondly, how did you work around the doors, did you put some tinted caulk on the floor, around the door frame to match the hardwood floor and prevent any dust to fall in the small gaps, where there are no baseboards and the door closes ? I do not know if that sounds clear, if not, please let me know. Thank you for your help.ReplyCancel

    • Kim2.27.15 - 1:40 PM

      Hi Marie! First, congrats on winning that battle!

      To answer your question, we do NOT use caulk along the floor – not for the baseboards, not for the door. If you still have a visible crack between your hardwood floor and the wall, this is where you would also install quarter round along the bottom edge of the baseboard. Quarter round (which is very cheap) was our saving grace in this home, since it helps to conceal so many gaps and slopes!

      Where the door closes, you should have your door frame, correct? The door frame shouldn’t leave room for any dust to fall into cracks, because the hope is that you don’t have cracks right here. If you wanted to email me a photo of how your door matches up with the floor, I’d be happy to give you a more personalized answer for your situation!ReplyCancel

      • Marie2.27.15 - 1:51 PM

        Thank you so much for your quick answer. The thing is our door frames are not made of wood but of metal so that we had to put the floor around them. I’d be happy to email you a picture tomorrow (where I leave, it’s around 9 pm and too dark to take a good picture), thank you again for offering your help.ReplyCancel

  • Marie2.27.15 - 1:55 PM

    Where I live*, sorry. :-)ReplyCancel


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