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How to Install and Refinish Baseboards

installing baseboards

A baseboard, which is also known as floor molding, skirting, or skirting board, is a board that’s usually made from wood and covers the lowest part of an interior wall. It covers the joint between the floor and the wall and hides any uneven edges there. Not only is it a decorative feature, it also protects the wall from abrasions, kicks, and nicks.

While many homeowners believe that installing or refinishing baseboards is a complicated task, this guide will show you how to install and refurbish baseboards in your home, including complex situations such as on uneven walls, in corners, and on stairs.

How to Install Baseboards Around Rounded Corners

While rounded corners are a beautiful architectural feature in your home, they make it difficult to install baseboard trim without leaving an ugly gap. However, with a few extra cuts, you can also install baseboards around rounded corners. Start with your baseboards and cut them to fit the length of the wall, except the rounded part at the corner. Here, you will need a smaller piece to fit between the two longer ones.

Lay the long baseboard pieces against the wall and measure the distance between the two pieces on the corner. Use this measurement to cut a smaller piece of baseboard and cut the piece with a 22.5-degree angle at both ends. Fasten all the pieces of the baseboard to the wall using glue or nails. Use caulk to fill any gaps and paint if necessary.

How to Install Baseboards on Landings and Down Stairs

Image via Flickr by Crown Molding

Image via Flickr by Crown Molding

Knowing how to install baseboards on stairs can seem tricky because of all the angles. If you have a stair stringer, simply install the baseboard directly on top of it. At the top of the stairs, join the baseboards on the floor with the baseboards on the stairs with a tight angle. To find that angle, extend a piece of each baseboard and mark the intersecting point on the wall. On the bottom of the steps, end the baseboard flush with the end of the stringer. On the floor, resume the baseboard by butting up against the base of the stringer.

How to Install Baseboards on an Uneven Floor

Image via Flickr by Sitka Projects LLC

Image via Flickr by Sitka Projects LLC

An uneven floor can make it hard to install baseboards and keep them looking nice. Place a level on the floor next to the wall and move it across the floor until you find the lowest point. Tack a scrap piece of wood to the wall at that point. Then use this piece as a benchmark to make a horizontal mark every few feet at the same level. Snap a chalk line around the room so you can see where the top of baseboard needs to land.

Tack the first baseboard on the wall and set your compass points to span the distance between the top of the board and the chalk line. Take the compass and hold the pencil part on the baseboard with the point against the floor and slide it along the floor. With a circular saw, cut along the pencil line. Finally, install the baseboard with nails or glue.

How to Install Baseboards Inside Corners

Image via Flickr by gemteck1

Image via Flickr by gemteck1

When you’re installing baseboards on the inside corners, you must decide whether you want to miter or cope those corners. If you want to miter these corners, cut them at a 45-degree angle. However, not everyone likes to miter inside corners because walls are rarely perfectly square, and this can leave large gaps. For a tighter fit that won’t require more paint or caulking, you can cope your inside corners.

To do so, make a 45-degree inside cut on the baseboard piece you want to cope. Take a pencil and darken the profile so it’s easy to see. Then use a coping saw to cut away the angled profile you made with your first 45-degree cut. Angle the saw at about 30 degrees so you can take away more wood from the back than the front. You won’t have to cut the other end of the baseboard because the coped joint will cover the remaining part of the baseboard.

How to Install Baseboards on Uneven Walls

Image via Flickr by Crown Molding

Image via Flickr by Crown Molding

If you lay your baseboard molding against a wall and see a gap between the trim and your wall, it’s usually because of a misaligned stud or bulge in the taping compound. If you’re dealing with trim that’s 3/8-inches thick, it’s usually pretty flexible. Apply construction adhesive to the top and bottom of your trim and use small nails to force the gaps closed.

If you’re using 3/4-inch trim, it’s not as flexible. In this case, it’s better to fill any gaps you see with caulk. Use caulk that can be painted and fill it a little higher than the top of your trim. Allow it to dry, and then paint it to match your wall color.

How to Install Baseboards Without a Nail Gun

Image via Flickr by Delwin Steven Campbell

Image via Flickr by Delwin Steven Campbell

While using a nail gun will make your baseboard installation go faster, it’s still possible to nail your baseboards in by hand. First, use a stud finder to locate the studs in your walls. Lightly mark the location of each stud on your baseboard. Make sure the baseboard is flush against the wall, and hammer in each nail on the stud.

As you’re hammering, make sure you don’t hit the head of the hammer on the wood because it can dent or damage the baseboard. Instead, use a nail set to drive the nail completely into the wood. Smooth some caulking over the nail head to hide it, and paint your baseboard if desired.

How to Refinish Wood Baseboards

Over time, the finish on your baseboards can fade or wear away. To refinish your wood baseboards, start by cleaning off the baseboard. Next, use a 120-grit sandpaper to clear away the old finish, and then switch to 220-grit sandpaper to create a smooth surface. Clear all the dust away, and then secure any loose nails.

Use wood putty to fill any dents or nail holes. Then use a rag to apply wood stain with long, swift motions to the baseboard. Allow the stain to dry, and then apply another coat if you want it darker. After the stain is dry, use a paintbrush to apply a polyurethane finish to the baseboards.

How to Refinish Painted Baseboards

To give your room a fresh appearance, you should consider refinishing painted baseboards. Since dust and dirt tend to collect along the baseboards, it’s very important to start this project by giving them a good cleaning. If you live in a newer home, it might be easy to pry the baseboards off the wall with a small pry bar and paint them on a sawhorse.

However, if you live in an older home, you could damage the wall if you try to take the baseboard off. If you’d rather leave the baseboard on, use painter’s tape to mask off the wall directly above the baseboard. Use wood putty to fill any holes or nail depressions, and then use a paintbrush to repaint your baseboards.

Even though baseboards are installed low on the floor, they’re a defining characteristic in many houses. Whether you’re trying to install baseboards with uneven walls, uneven floors, or unique angles, use this how-to guide to make your installation easier.

Let us know if you have any questions about how to install and refinish baseboards in the comments section below.