How to Install Baseboard Trim for Solid Hardwood Floors
In this article:
- Out of Square Corners
- Tilted Baseboard Molding
- Protruding Seams
- Improper Measurements
- Gaps and Crooked Walls
Homes with great curb appeal have a beautiful, finished look on the exterior. It helps the house sell faster and potentially increases the home’s value. Finishing touches attract quality buyers and are a good return on investment.
Moreover, finishing the home’s interior with the right baseboard or base molding trim will provide the same impact. No matter what type of floor you install, without a quality baseboard to cover the seam at the wall, the room will look unfinished. Besides covering the gap and protecting the wall against dings from chairs and vacuum cleaners, the right selection of base molding adds an elegant look of luxury to any room.
But, how do you choose the right baseboard molding and how to install baseboard trim for it? Keep reading as we uncover those answers.
Baseboard Molding Types and Material Options
Molding comes in different shapes and styles. You can find them in every hardware, building supply store or even online. When shopping, you may see other terms for baseboard moldings such as shoe molding and baseboard trim.
Most people can use one or more standard moldings to achieve the look they want. However, if you are trying to match an antique molding, you’ll need to seek out a custom cabinet maker or other woodworking professional.
Wood flooring expands and contracts due to variances in temperature and humidity. Due to the expansion, Easiklip and other solid hardwood flooring manufacturers recommend a 15 mm (1/2 in.) gap between the floor and the wall. The molding sits on top of the floor and flush to the wall to cover the gap. Sometimes it may require two or three types of molding to cover a large gap or to create a unique look.
The most common material for baseboards is jointed pine. It is made from small pieces of pine joined together in long sections. Pine is the most economical and practical option.
Other common materials include:
PVC – Also known as vinyl trim, it is an excellent choice for wet areas like bathrooms. However, it is difficult to paint, and you must pre-drill every nail hole as it is brittle and can crack.
MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) – It’s a popular option because it is economical and easy to use. MDF is very soft, comes pre-primed so even a novice DIYer can install it. Another advantage of MDF is that it is mold and fungus resistant.
Tropical or Specialty Hardwoods – As with any custom option, this can be costly. However, if you want to match the specific wood species of the floor, it is a viable option.
Along with the right material, you’ll need to select the right shape. Here are the common types or shapes of molding you’ll find:
- Quarter Round – Usually ¾” tall x ¾” deep, you can also find ¾” tall x ½” deep
- Base Cap Molding– This is a generic term used to describe what is a curvy version of quarter round molding. Some installers and DIYers use a 1x6 or 1x8 as the baseboard then “cap” it with a decorative base cap.
- Shoe Molding – This type has a slightly narrower profile than a rectangular board. It is somewhat tapered and usually has decorative curves on the top and bottom. It’s only about 7/16 in. wide and 4 ¾ in. to 7 7/8 in. tall. This molding has a sleeker look and combines the height of a baseboard with the decorative features of the cap and quarter round.
If the room has hardwood floors, add shoe molding for a dramatic detail. It's higher than quarter round and has a much better appearance. – HGTV Molding and Trim Make an Impact
Baseboard Selection Guidelines
The first job of a baseboard is to cover any unsightly gaps. Begin by measuring the height of the opening from the floor to the bottom of the wall. Then choose a base molding that will cover the space. You may have to combine two moldings for wider gaps.
Molding selection is a matter of budget, taste, and design preference. You’ll find 6 to 8 in. tall baseboards in older colonial style homes. The higher the ceiling, the taller you want the baseboard to be. Most homes today have a standard 3 ¼ baseboard.
One way to find the right baseboard size for your room is to use the 12:1 ratio. For every 12 inches in wall height, add 1 inch of baseboard height. A room with a seven-foot ceiling could have as much as 7 inches of the baseboard.
The Tools You'll Need
As with any DIY job, you want to have all your tools handy before you start. Here is a checklist to save you from making multiple trips to the basement or hardware store.
- Screw Gun
- A pneumatic nail gun or small hammer and nail set punch
- Combination Square
- 180-Grit Sandpaper
- Utility Knife
- Safety Glasses
- Tape Measure
And, here are the materials you need:
- Wood Filler
- Wood Glue
- Finish or Baseboard Nails
Tip: Use baseboard nails or brads no longer than 18 inches apart for 3/4-inch thick molding. Use 11/4 to 11/2 in., long enough to penetrate the molding, the drywall and drive at least 1/2 inch into the wall's base plate.
Once you have gathered all the tools, here are the steps to installing your new baseboard molding.
How to Install Baseboard Trim Molding
There are four types of baseboard corners you’ll make to install baseboards:
- Inside 90 deg. Corner
- Outside 90 deg. Corner
- Outside 90 deg. Corner w/ a Bullnose
- Radius inside and outside under a 30 deg. Angle
The steps below are to cut material for 90-degree corners. For other angles or a “bullnose,” refer to the video at the end of this section. A bullnose is an extra piece that joins two ends of baseboards together where an outside corner is too wide for a simple 90-degree fit.
Most homes have only 90-degree corners. Follow these four steps to install baseboards in those places.
Start with the longest wall. If your wall is longer than one board, you’ll need to join two boards together using a Scarf Joint. Rather than butting two boards together at the ends, we make this joint by cutting each board at a 45-degree angle, so there is more surface area to glue together. Whenever possible, try and make the joint line up with a wall stud. That way there is a better place to attach the boards. Need help finding studs? Grab a handy electric wall scanner to find them for you.
Tip: Before permanently attaching any boards, you’ll want to make the 45-degree cuts for the baseboard corners. Make sure you have one wall and one corner fitted before hammering nails.
Begin with two boards that have straight 90-degree cuts at opposite ends. Place the first board tight against the corner and mark the location of the stud where you will join the two boards. Use the miter saw to cut the opposite end at 45-degrees. Lightly sand it smooth.
Hammer it in place with a few finish nails, keeping the heads exposed.
Next, place the second board against the first one, carefully marking where you will cut it at a 45-degree angle to match the other board. Sand or cut the 90-degree end if it’s too long. Use wood glue to run a small bead along the scarf joint, then nail it in place. If you don’t have a nail gun, a nail set helps drive the nails below the wood’s surface without damaging the face of the board with a hammer.
There are two ways to assure making tight inside baseboard corners. The easiest way is to cut a 45-degree angle into the ends of each board and fit them into the corner. This works well if the walls are straight and form a perfect 90-degree angle. However, that’s not common. If the wall isn’t straight or a uniform 90-degrees, you’ll want to use a coped joint.
With a coped joint, one board has a square cut on the end and butts up against the wall. The other molding has a coped cut that fits perfectly against the face of the first molding. You cut out all the material behind the cut leaving the outline of the molding that fits seamlessly next to the other board. It creates a tight fit that won’t separate as the wood naturally expands and contracts.
To make a coped joint, lay a baseboard molding face-down on the floor. Using a scrap piece of molding, hold it perpendicular to the face-down board and use a pencil to trace the profile of the baseboard. Using a coping saw, cut along the profile making a back bevel cut with a minimum of 90-degrees and 1/16 in. short of the profile. Remove the remaining material with a coping saw or half-round wood rasp. Keep checking until the piece sits flush against the other piece with no gap.
For outside 90-degree corners, you’ll use the same miter saw technique as the inside corners, except that you’ll reverse the cuts. You want the face of the board to be the longest part of the cut where both ends meet at a point. Always test the fit before you start nailing.
Regarding doorways, most will have molding around them. You can butt the end of the baseboard against the molding. If you want a tighter fit, use the coping technique to match the shape and curves.
For corners other than 90-degrees or requiring a “bullnose,” this video shows you all the cuts and miter saw settings.
Make sure all seams line up correctly, and there are no gaps above or below the baseboard before you start nailing. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done. You may come up against other issues to create a straight and flush baseboard.
In our next section, you’ll see some ways to overcome fitting problems.
Dealing with Common Problems and Imperfections
In a perfect world, every wall is straight, every corner is a perfect 90-degrees, and every floor is level. The reality of construction means there are always minor imperfections in new and older homes.
Here are a few tips and fixes to give you professional results for those little challenges you’ll find when installing floor molding.
Out of Square Corners
When corners aren’t square, the baseboard molding will magnify the problem by showing a misaligned seam or a big opening due to tilting. To avoid these issues, check the corner with a square to see if it is indeed 90-degrees.
If you have an out-of-square situation, you’ll need to do a bit of trial and error. First, use some scrap baseboard to check the corners to see how they fit. If they are not square, use the scrap pieces to adjust your miter saw. Cut two ten-inch pieces and use an educated guess to adjust your miter saw at an angle higher or lower than 45-degrees depending on the corner. Fit them together and make new cuts until you achieve the right angle on the saw. Chances are, the adjustment will be a half degree one way or the other. Now you can cut and install the pieces.
For a baseboard that tilts at a corner, you can drive a drywall screw at the bottom of the wall at the corner. Using a test piece of molding, adjust the screw in or out, so the molding rests against it flush with the wall and the other piece of molding.
Tilted Baseboard Molding
Typically, installers will leave a gap between the floor and the bottom of the drywall. If you try and attach the baseboard by nailing at the base, the nails won’t hit anything or will draw the bottom of the baseboard in, leaving a gap at the top.
To remedy this situation cut spacers the height of the gap. Usually, scrap ½ in. plywood or other material will work. Place pieces in the gap to act as a support for the bottom of the baseboard. You don’t have to attach them, but they will prevent the baseboard from sliding inward as you nail.
To avoid protruding seams, test for fit before nailing them. Also, as mentioned earlier, use a scarf joint positioned at a stud so you can fasten it securely. This will help keep them from popping out later.
The only cure for improper measuring is money because you’ll need to buy more material. Always cut a little long so you can sand or use a coping saw to make an exact fit. The adage, “measure twice, cut once,” holds true for any home improvement project, including floor molding.
Gaps and Crooked Walls
Sometimes a wall is crooked due to a misaligned stud, settling, or poor drywall installation. It’s rare that every baseboard will fit snug against a wall or in the corners. If you’ve tried some of the techniques above and still have gaps, your last remedy is to fill them with caulk or a wood filler. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and clean up. You can paint it the color of the baseboard or the wall for a professional look.
this was done last night. still needs some work - wood filler in the small gaps and stuff. since my house is old, many of the walls are crooked so some of the "boards" are not perfectly aligned! but i can make them so they're not noticeable :)— reaux (@reauxpudu) April 11, 2018
What is the Cost of Installing Baseboards?
The material costs for pine, PVC, and MDF are reasonable. For example, you can find 7/16 in. x 11/16 in. x 96 in. pine base shoe molding on Amazon for only $5.05 each. If you plan to use a hardwood molding stained to match the floor, Builddirect offers Canadian Maple for $23.79 per piece.
If you’re not a DIYer, check Angie’s List to determine the total cost of installation in your area. Also, contact a few local flooring companies. If you buy the flooring from them, it’s likely you can get a deal in the molding and installation. For a quick cost estimate, check out this baseboard installation calculator.
If you have any questions regarding installing baseboards or anything related to hardwood floors, contact the experts at Easiklip. We’ll be happy to help guide you.
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- Bill Grover