How to Install Baseboards

Three Parts:Removing Old Baseboard TrimMeasuring and Cutting Baseboard TrimInstalling the Baseboard and Finishing Up

Baseboards cover the joints between the walls and the floor and add an essential finishing touch to a room. Not only this, they are relatively easy to cut and install, making them a perfect DIY project for the adventurous homeowner. To remove old baseboards and install new ones, learning how to measure and which cuts to make, read the following instructions.

Part 1
Removing Old Baseboard Trim

  1. Image titled Install Baseboards Step 1
    Use a utility knife to cut through caulking or paint along the top edge of the trim. If you don’t do this, you’re likely to chip the surrounding paint.
  2. Image titled Install Baseboards Step 2
    Use a putty knife to loosen the trim from the wall. Do this gently to avoid damaging the wall and floor. If necessary, use another object like a screwdriver or a grouping of shims to help the process along.
  3. Image titled Install Baseboards Step 3
    Pull the trim away. Most of the nails should come with it, but if necessary, remove any still sticking into the wall. Scrape and sand away any glue or caulking that may obstruct the new baseboard installation.

Part 2
Measuring and Cutting Baseboard Trim

  1. Image titled Install Baseboards Step 4
    Measure the perimeter of the room(s). Measure the dimensions of each straight wall, rounding up slightly. Especially for beginners, give yourself leeway and cut slightly more than is necessary for a tight fit. Remember, it's always possible to cut off, but not always possible to add back on.
    • When measuring outside corners, be sure to add additional room to your measurements to allow for outside corners. You'll want at least the width of your baseboard in extra room, possibly a bit more.
  2. Image titled Install Baseboards Step 5
    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% excess estimate, but usually just buying an extra stock length or two will do. If possible, buy the baseboards and bring them inside one week before installation to allow them to acclimate to their new environment.[1]
    • There are three components to most baseboard installation projects. Moving from top to bottom, they include:
      • The cap molding. These moldings fit on top of the baseboards to add a detailed and ornamental flourish.
      • The baseboard. Usually at least 6 inches (15.2 cm) high, they are predominantly flat and form the bulk of the baseboard.
      • The shoe molding. Another ornamental detail at the bottom, between the baseboard and the floor, they complete the look.
  3. Image titled Install Baseboards Step 6
    Establish level on your floor. You want to make sure your floors are level, or the floor could peek out of your baseboard at certain points and look off. Use a 4-foot level to establish whether the floor is level.
    • If the floor is not level, use the level to find the lowest point in the room. Tack a scrap piece of baseboard to the wall at the lowest point. Make horizontal marks every couple of inches in either direction starting at the top of the baseboard, being sure to stay level with this line. Once a few horizontal marks are established, snap a chalk line over the horizontal marks. This will show where the top of the baseboards will stand when they are installed.[2]
  4. Image titled Install Baseboards Step 7
    Scribe the baseboards. To make sure that the top of the baseboards are completely level with your chalk line, you'll want to scribe them. Tack a piece of baseboard to an inside corner with one or two nails after leveling it. Use a compass to measure the distance between the chalk line (on the bottom) and the top corner of your tacked baseboard.
    • Keeping your compass spread rigid, hold the point-side of the compass on the floor and the pencil-side on the baseboard. Move the pencil across the entire distance of the baseboard to trace an outline.
    • Use a circular saw or a jigsaw to cut along the scribed line on the baseboard. If you have a circular saw, set a slight (2° - 5°) bevel on the cut. This will make scribe-fitting much easier in the end.
    • With a block plane, plane down the beveled edge of the baseboard. Then dry-fit the baseboard back onto the floor and make sure it lines up evenly with the chalk line on your wall.
  5. Image titled Install Baseboards Step 8
    Start by measuring and cutting your outside corners. Cutting miter joints is critical wherever two pieces of trim meet around an outside corner. A power miter saw is the ideal tool for these due to ease of use and efficiency. If your corner forms a 90º angle, cut each piece at a 45º angle and match them to form an outside corner. When in doubt, make the cuts a little longer than you need; you can always shorten it if necessary.

    Alternative tools:
    Miter box and hand saw: a cheap but effective option. Clamp the wood securely to the box. Cheaper models only allow cuts at common angles.
    Circular saw and speed square: Fast but inaccurate. Not recommended for baseboard.
  6. Image titled Install Baseboards Step 9
    Decide whether to miter or cope your inside corners. For inside corners, the process of mitering is the same as it is for outside corners, except that the angles are reversed. But not all carpenters want to miter inside corners, because the corners are rarely perfectly square and the resulting joint can be sloppy.[3] If you're looking for a tighter fit or you're installing baseboards which won't take paint or additional caulking, learn how to cut a traditional coped joint.
    • The process is actually fairly simple. Start with a 45° inside cut on the baseboard you want to cope. The other end of the baseboard won't need to be cut at all; the coped joint will simply cover up the remaining piece of baseboard.
    • Use a coping saw to cut away the angled profile made by your initial 45° cut. The goal here is to leave the paint line intact but cut at a 45° back angle to clear away wood behind the paint line.
    • Sand away any excess rough patches or debris to smooth out the coped seam.
      Alternative tools:
      Miter saw: coping with a miter saw is fast but difficult. Practice on scrap wood first, and clean up the rough cut with a file.[4]
      Dremel: a little more difficult to use than a coping saw, but up to the job. Use a carbide cutting or shaping wheel attachment.[5]
  7. Image titled Install Baseboards Step 10
    Deal with any other miscellaneous pieces. In theory, most projects involve rooms that have three or four walls and corners that are perfectly square. In practice, this is rarely the case. Here are some important niche cases for you to consider when cutting baseboard:
    • Odd-corner pieces. Where you encounter corners that don’t form ninety-degree angles, 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.
    • Mid-wall pieces. It’s likely that you will have to use more than one piece of baseboard to cover very long walls. Instead of simply butting flat ends up against one another, which may separate with time as the wood shrinks, cut both pieces at overlapping 45-degree angles (to fit together like so // ) so that the wood shrinkage will be less visible.
    • End pieces. If the baseboard butts into something and doesn’t need to continue around any corners (ex. it runs into a door casing), simply cut it and scoot it up against the object.
  8. Image titled Install Baseboards Step 11
    Sand and prime the baseboards. Once you've scribed and cut your baseboard angles, you may want to sand and prime. If you’ve chosen primed materials, doing your sanding before installation will save you a lot of time on your hands and knees. If you’ve selected bare wood materials, stain or paint them with a primer, allow to dry, and then sand before installing.

Part 3
Installing the Baseboard and Finishing Up

  1. Image titled Install Baseboards Step 12
    Nail the baseboards in place with finishing nails. Use a stud finder to locate wall studs to nail into; alternatively, knock on the wall to differentiate the hollow areas from the studs. Sink the nails below the surface with a downward angle on a nail set, or by using a nail gun. Fill all the nail holes with putty, allow to dry, and sand.
    • On outside corners, apply a thin bead of wood glue or adhesive to mitered edges to ensure a better bond.
    • On inside corners, adhesive is not necessary if you've properly coped your baseboards.
  2. Image titled Install Baseboards Step 13
    Install shoe molding and cap molding if necessary. Tack the shoe molding down into the floor with pin nails, and the cap molding into studs wherever possible.
  3. Image titled Install Baseboards Step 14
    Apply caulking to sections of molding in wet places. Caulk not only along the top edge, but over and corner edges and nail holes. Doing this in the bathroom is a must. If you fear spilling or dripping, you might also consider caulking the baseboards directly below the kitchen sink.
  4. Image titled Install Baseboards Step 15
    Touch up the trim with wall compound. Cover all the nail holes as well as any scuffs or dings with a bit of compound using your finger. The compound should dry up very quickly.
  5. Image titled Install Baseboards Step 16 preview
    Tape the wall and floor above and below the trim (optional). This will allow you to paint the trim quickly without going over the edges. Use something that pulls off easily and doesn’t leave residue, such as masking tape. You can also take your chances and paint freehand.
  6. Image titled Install Baseboards Step 17
    Apply your finish coat. Trim is usually finished with a gloss or semi-gloss paint or varnish. This is exacting and slow work, so be sure to have a good kneeling pad on hand. If your baseboards are already painted, you only need to worry about this step if you want to apply varnish.


  • If the walls are uneven in places, you may wind up with some gaps between the wall and baseboard. Fill in these gaps with paintable caulk, allow the caulk to dry thoroughly, then paint it to match the wall color.
  • 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.
  • Trim should already be installed around doors before you begin installing baseboard.
  • 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.
  • A brad-nailer (rented from a local tool rental agency) will make easier work of trim installation jobs.

Article Info

Categories: Interior Walls Ceilings and Floors