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How to Paint Baseboards

How to paint baseboards

Giving your walls a fresh coat of paint can lend a room new life, and giving the baseboards a new coat takes this fresh feeling to a whole new level. Painting baseboards can be a tricky endeavor, so follow these steps for a clean and efficient paint job.

Baseboard Paint Options

How to paint baseboards

Image via Flickr by John Loo

Don’t slap just any type of paint on your baseboards. Choose your paint wisely to get the look you want. For a subtle sheen, choose latex paint in a satin finish, which is shinier than eggshell finish and is reasonably easy to clean. For even more shine, opt for semi-gloss paint, which resists stains and grime and couldn’t be easier to clean.

Tools & Materials

In order to paint your baseboards, you’ll need the tools listed below:

  • Spackling paste: This putty fills holes and cracks in baseboards, making them look as good as new.
  • Putty knife: Use this to press the spackling paste into holes and spread it evenly.
  • Painter’s tape: This protects the walls from brush marks.
  • Painter’s plastic: Use this to protect the floor from drips and spills
  • Paint: Do the math to make sure you purchase enough without going overboard
  • Paintbrush: Be sure to purchase a two-inch angled paintbrush. A smaller brush will create more work, while a larger one will make a mess.

How to Paint Baseboards Efficiently

Painting baseboards and trim is slightly more complicated than just applying a coat or two of paint. Follow these steps to get the best results from your paint job.

Step One: Fill Holes and Repair Scratches

It should come as no surprise that baseboards receive significant wear, given their position where the wall meets the floor. Inspect the baseboards for damage like scratches, dents, and small holes. Use the putty knife to repair any blemishes with spackling paste. Allow to dry for about an hour, and then sand away any excess spackling paste from the baseboards. Remove any stains or grime, and wipe or vacuum the baseboards clean.

Step Two: Prepare the Space

Apply painter’s tape along the top edge of the baseboards and trim, all the way around the room. Use your hand to press the tape into place, or use a straight, dull tool to create a crisp line.

Use long strips of painter’s tape to adhere lengths of painter’s plastic along the bottom edge of the baseboards. The tape creates a lower edge, while the plastic protects the floor from inevitable spills and drips.

Step Three: Apply the Paint

Once you’ve repaired the baseboards and prepared the space, it’s time to paint. Like most interior paint jobs, baseboards look best with two fresh coats of paint. Use the angled paintbrush to apply the paint, and use a small tray to hold the paint. Wipe excess paint off the brush and onto the tray to avoid drips. Allow the first coat to dry, and then repeat.

When it’s time to revamp your walls, don’t neglect the baseboards. Follow these tips for a quick and easy paint job that looks great, too.

What do you think? Did we miss anything? Do you have any trade secret baseboard painting tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments section!

(11) Comments

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Skylar,

      Thank you for getting in touch! I would suggest removing the baseboards, painting the walls first, then putting the baseboards back on and painting them after. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  1. For carpet I use several strips of plexiglass (about 24″x2″) and wedged them between the carpet and baseboard. Let the paint fully dry and run a utility knife to score the paint before you remove the plexiglass.

  2. Your instructions are based on painting baseboards and protecting hard floors. What about painting while trying to protect carpeted floors?

    • Using a flexible scraper and blue painters tape: tear off short sections of tape about 18 inches long, lay it length wise on the carpet as close to the baseboard as you can. Gently push the tape under the baseboard leaving about half the width of the tape over the carpet . Go all around the room with the tape before you start to paint. If you are careful it should keep from making a mess. Do NOT pull up the tape until the paint has dried.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team
      BuildDirect Product Expert Team - Reply

      Hi Al,

      Thank you for getting in touch! E Medaris’s comment below is correct. You can use the same plastic on top of the carpet and use the painters tape to secure it slightly under the baseboards. This will keep the carpet from getting messy. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  3. Brush shown in picture is not the recommended slanted brush. Also can wrap wet brush in wet paper towels in between coats of paint to avoid drying out brush. Or cover with plastic wrap and place wet paint brush in freezer till need for second coat.

  4. Since most baseboards have been painted with a gloss or semi-gloss paint, I would suggest you give them a light sand with fine (180 grit) sandpaper first to ensure a good bond to the new paint

  5. Start at the top of the baseboard, where it meets the wall, with a straight clean application, back-brush lightly, then work your way down. The distance of application shouldn’t be much more than your reach.

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