Update Your Baseboards!

2 Materials
2 Days
Medium

Adding baseboard to a renovated space is like putting lipstick on a face; it’s the finishing touch that brings it all together. Today we’re showing you how to put up baseboards to get professional looking results.

In addition to our basement installation, we’re modernizing all our baseboards everywhere in the house – switching out 3-1/4″ builder baseboard for a more robust 4-1/2″ baseboard trim.

If you are replacing old baseboards, clear the room and remove baseboards and shoe mold / quarter round from the walls.

For new construction, install flooring first before baseboard trim.


Locate Studs


Locate the studs behind the wall by running a stud finder along every wall you’re placing baseboard.


As you go, mark each stud with painter’s tape. Here you can see the edges of each stud with an ‘X’ indicating where the middle falls. This is important because when you have lengths that are too long for one piece, you will need to make cuts. Those cuts MUST fall onto a stud to attach them properly.

Be sure to mark every stud because that is where you will nail the baseboard to secure it tight against the wall!


Paint


It’s much easier to prime and paint your baseboards before installing. After drying, we stacked longer pieces on some boxes.

Set Up


Now you’re ready to cut. Determine if you want to work indoors or out. Each has its advantages. Working outdoors means less mess to clean up in the house, but is more time consuming if the site is far from the front door as ours is.


Tip: to cut down on dust when working inside, we protect our already painted walls with cardboard.


We also hook up a wet dry vac directly to the chop saw.

Measure


Do you know the adage measure twice, cut once? Measuring how long to cut a piece of baseboard can be tricky. I know I get annoyed when I poke that tape measure into the corner, only to get the metal tip caught up on the edge of the flooring!


Avoid that scenario completely. Cut yourself a block with a 45° angle on one end, and a straight cut on the other. We cut ours 10″, but it could be any length, and used MDF for our block.

Place block in a corner, line up the edge of the tape measure with the flat end of the block and measure to the end of the wall. Just remember to add the length of your block (in our case 10″) to your final measurement and note which way the angle needs to be cut.

To measure a long alcove, two 6″ blocks might make more sense. Measure between the two and then add one foot onto your final measurement (12″)!


On the opposing wall, the bock can be flipped upside down to measure in the same manner. Just position the angle cut tight into the corner and measure away!


It also helps to have sample angle blocks at your cutting station so you can visualize which way to cut your pieces. Here’s an example of an inside corner (which we’ll get to in more detail later).

Dry Fit

Don’t attach anything permanently until you’ve done a dry fit of your pieces. That’s how we discovered that we had an uneven floor casing the baseboard gap you see below in the mancave.

At the end of this post, click on the link to our blog for more info on how to fix that.


Nailing

Our finish nailer takes a variety of sizes of baseboard nails. Load the finish nailer with 1 3/4″ – 2″ nails and use it to attach the baseboard to the studs previously marked.

Tip: we leave the air nailer on top of a piece of cardboard so we can easily slide it along as we nail.

Connect your finish nailer to an air compressor. Check your manual to see how high to set the pressure. Ours is at 100 for the baseboard installation you see us doing on the video below, but we can go as high as 120.

Also adjust the depth setting on the finish nailer. As you’ll see on this video, we test the depth the finish nailer will drive the nail on a piece of scrap wood before we pin the actual baseboards.


Watch this video for more of our tips and tricks on how to put on baseboard, like how to troubleshoot a nail that ricochets and use a fill stick!

With air power and finishing nails, a finish nailer makes the installation go so fast!


As fun as it is to use, wear safety glasses in case a nail deflects. Shoot baseboard nails in at every stud along both the top AND bottom of the baseboard (that’s every 16″). Aim for consistency on where you position the baseboard nails because you’re going to come along afterwards and fill in all the nail holes. Below you can see the nail going in at the top of the board.


If you find you need close a gap between the wall and the baseboard, shooting two pins at opposing angles may help suck it in tight to the drywall. But don’t worry if you still get some gaps: caulk is your friend.

Joining

It’s unavoidable: you’ll need to attach two lengths of baseboard together at some point. Use a scarf joint and the joint will be much less invisible. A scarf joint is just two pieces of wood cut at complementary angles so they fit together. I’ve seen them scarf joints cut anywhere from 15, 30 and 45 degrees. We cut ours at a 45° angle.

Ideally, position the joint where it will fall behind a piece of furniture so you’ll never see it! Somewhere in the middle of a wall is a safe bet, but it depends on your own room layout.


Cut and situate the two boards so that the scarf joint can be secured to the wall over a stud. As shown below, position the first piece of baseboard so it falls in the middle of a stud. Make the first half of the scarf joint with a 45° miter cut that opens away from the wall:

Nail the first piece to the wall at each stud as described in the previous step. Lay the second piece over top. Mark the cut. As you can see, Hubs angles his pencil mark so he remembers which way to cut the angle:

Cut the second piece of baseboard trim using the opposite 45˚ angle. Join the two pieces together to test for fit.

The joint should look like this close-up. Nail on either side of the joint at the top and bottom, right into the stud. Since we pre-painted the baseboards, if you want perfection, you can dry brush some paint on the raw wood of the cuts to help disguise the joint before you put it in place. That way, you won’t see a darker line. We didn’t bother because you’ll never see it once the furniture is in place.

Coping

On an inside corner you can cut inside angles (45° bevels) on both pieces of wood and leave it at that. You will likely get gaps (most walls are not a perfect 90°). The other option is to cut one piece straight and use a coping saw to cut along the profile of the adjoining piece of baseboard. Hubs chose to cope. At the end of this section, I’ll show you a comparison of how each of these two methods looks.


Rule of thumb: make the most difficult cut first (i.e. coped joint), fit the baseboard, then cut the rest of the piece to length. That way, if you make a mistake, you still have some extra length to recut the cope!

Here is the first piece of baseboard secured to the wall which gets a simple straight cut:

Using a coping saw on the next piece gives us a tight fitting corner that looks flawless. Undercut along the profile, removing the excess wood. With practice, you can cut the profile in one fell swoop, but here Hubs makes three vertical release cuts first. Then he cuts along the profile of each section as close as possible and lets the pieces fall away. He angles the coping saw away from him as he makes each cut (which is what I mean by undercutting).

Test the fit against another piece of baseboard and sand smooth any rough edges:

After installing, the coped joint is a pretty tight fit. We just need to touch up the nail holes (which you’ll see in the last step).

Below is a comparison of a regular mitred joint without coping. As you can see, the gap is noticeable. But we’re not fretting. This section of baseboard is going to be hidden behind a whole wall of cabinetry. We figured there’s no sense spending time on coping baseboard that won’t be seen! We’ll show you how to fix any gaps in baseboard corners in the next section.

I’m not gonna lie – coping is way more time consuming than mitre cuts but looks great.


Caulk

Cut the tip of the caulk at an angle and load the tube into the caulking gun.

Attach a piece of painter’s tape along the wall just to protect it from excess. Run the tip of the caulk gun along the gap and squeeze steadily until the end. Then dip your finger in some water and run it along the joint to smooth the caulk. A perfect finish:

Use caulk to fill in any corners where you didn’t cope. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect when the caulk first goes on. Running a wet finger along the joint again will smooth out any imperfections.

Filling Nail Holes

Some people use wood filler for this step, but because we pre-paint our boards, we’d have to touch up every hole with paint. The easier solution for this step is to use a putty or fill stick.


Choose a colour that matches your baseboard paint. After rubbing the stick over each nail hole, you’ll need a soft cloth to buff away any overfill.

Here’s how the baseboard looks after the caulk and nail filling is done. It looks pretty impeccable (just remember to lift all the painter’s tape when you’re done)! We missed the piece in the left corner before snapping this picture!

Here’s the view looking from my soon-to-be office into my empty sewing room after installing the baseboard:

And finally, the sewing room is filled with furniture.

There are many more pictures, tips and tricks than what we can cover here, so head to our blog at the link below where you see our Birdz of a Feather Logo.


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Suggested materials:

  • Baseboards   (Central Fairbanks Lumber)
  • Nails   (big box store)

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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  • Yvonne Johnson Yvonne Johnson on Aug 14, 2021

    Where was link about baseboard straighter than the flooring below leaving a gag

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