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How To Install Baseboard Molding

Jul 9, 2008
When it comes to sprucing up a room in your home that's looking a little dated you have a few different options. You could paint the walls or put up wallpaper, you could change the window dressings or flooring or you could move around the furniture and update the light fixtures. One big part of room that many people overlook is the baseboard molding that goes around the floor of a room.

Baseboards actually serve a practical purpose as well as a decorative one. They're made to protest the lowest part of you walls from all sorts of dings and dents that might come from kicks or furniture moves or even spills. Most baseboards are made of wood or some sort of composite material that is almost always tougher than the sheetrock or plaster walls they are protecting.

These days baseboard molding is as decorative as it is protective. Standard baseboards are simple and only three or four inches high, but taller baseboards make a room look larger than it really is, add some interest and depth to the area of the room where the walls meet the floor and can even brighten up a room if they are painted a light color or kept a light natural wood color.

There are a few basic steps to installing new baseboard molding around a room. This is not a difficult job, but it can be a little time consuming. You'll need a hammer and tack nails or a nail gun, a small crowbar or pry bar, some paint or finishing material, a tape measure and a compound miter saw or a handsaw and a miter box. Here are the general steps you'll follow:

1. Remove the old baseboards in the room with a hammer and pry bar. Slide the pry bar between the wall and baseboard and tap lightly until you have a little gap worked open. Repeat down the length of the baseboard, then begin again, tapping the pry bar a little further down and opening the gap a little more. As you repeat this process carefully push the prybar against the wall, pulling the baseboard away from the wall. With some care you should get the old baseboard off. It's probably nailed on.

2. Remove the trim around the doorways with the same method if you're going to replace that. If you're not, move on to the next step.

3. Paint or finish all your new molding before you install them. Yes, you're going to cut them and bang nails into them, but it's a lot easier to touch up six nail holes than to try painting an eight foot section of baseboard after it's been installed against your floors.

4. After the finish has dried, measure your first length of wall in the room. Take those measurements and mark off a fresh piece of baseboard molding with the exact measurements. If you have to cut for a corner on either end of the baseboard you'll have to pull out that miter saw and get practicing. Angled cuts for baseboards are usually not too difficult: you simply have to look at how the finished product will look on the wall and figure out if it's a 45 degree angle cut from the left or from the right. I suggest you practice with some scrap molding initially. Once you get one or two corners cut you'll be a pro and you'll proceed quickly.

5. Once you have the first piece cut you go attach it to the wall with a nail gun or hammer and tack nails. A nail gun is infinitely easier, so spring for one if it's in your budget. Try to drive the nails into the baseboards where there are studs behind the sheetrock or plaster. That will keep the baseboards attached to walls tightly and help eliminate gaps.

6. Proceed around the room in a similar fashion, measuring, cutting and then attaching each piece of baseboard molding. When you are done you can go around and "clean up" the corners and nail holes.

7. For corners that don't match or have a slight gap you can fill them with caulk and spread the caulk into the gap tightly with your finger. You can cover the nail holes with a little caulk or wood filler. Once the caulk or filler has dried you can touch up those areas with paint or stain to help match the shade and color.

That's about it! Once you get one room under your belt the other rooms in a house go pretty easily. You'll be amazed at how a simple thing like replacing the baseboard molding in a room can really update the look and even the feel of a home.
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