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How to Install Baseboard Trim

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How to Install Baseboard Trim

Baseboard trim covers the joints between the walls and the floor and adds an essential finishing touch to a room. You can choose from many styles of baseboard and shoe moldings to get the look you want, from understated to elaborately detailed.


Measure the perimeter of the room to determine how much material you'll need.

Select and purchase your materials. Buy more trim than your measurements call for, to allow for scrap ends and for the inevitable mistake or two in measuring and cutting. Some people use a 10 percent excess estimate, but usually just buying an extra stock length or two will do.
Prime and sand. If you've chosen primed materials, do your sanding before installing the baseboard on the wall to save yourself a lot of time on your hands and knees. If you've selected bare wood materials, stain or paint them with primer, allow to dry, and then sand before installing.
Measure and cut your pieces to fit. Cutting good miter joints is critical; use a power miter saw instead of a miter box and hand saw for the best results. Where you encounter odd-angle corners, use scrap material for trial-and-error fitting until you find the correct angle cut. Then use that setting on your saw to cut your trim pieces.

Nail the baseboard in place with finishing nails. Use a stud finder to locate wall studs to nail into. Sink the nails below the surface using a nail set, or use a nail gun. Fill all the nail holes with putty, allow to dry, and sand.
Apply your finish coat. Baseboard is usually finished with a gloss or semi-gloss paint or varnish, so the lines separating the baseboard from the wall and the shoe molding, and the shoe molding from the floor, must not be crossed with the finishing material. You can use masking tape to ensure the separation, or cut the lines in freehand with the paintbrush. Either way, these are exacting and slow work, so be sure to have a good kneeling pad on hand.


Trim should already be installed around doors before you begin installing baseboard.

You'll find a limited selection of stock moldings at the home supply stores; if you want more choices, you can usually find them at a lumber mill. Buy paint-primed baseboard if possible, as this will save you a step at installation.

Shoe molding typically is attached to the baseboard, although with hardwood floors, some prefer to attach it to the floor to avoid having gaps open up later between the molding and the floor.

If the walls are uneven in places, you may wind up with some gaps between the wall and baseboard. Fill in these gaps with paint able caulk, allow the caulk to dry thoroughly, and then paint it to match the wall color.