Installing Baseboards

Installing Coped Baseboards

More than a convenient way to cover the joint between the floor and the wall, the baseboard is a hardworking piece of molding that protects lower wall surfaces from shoes and errant vacuum cleaners. Aesthetically it eases the transition from vertical to horizontal, adding visual appeal to the floor and the wall.

Accurate measuring and cutting skills are critical to achieving professional results for your baseboard installation. To accomplish a seamless joint, cope (or back-cut) the joint. Use miter cuts for smooth transitions around corners.

Or if you don't want to go to the trouble of coping the joints, install no-cope baseboards with corner pieces and butt joints.

For a look that's all your own, combine boards and various moldings to create a substantial custom baseboard.

Prestart Checklist

Time
About 45 minutes for an 8-foot section

Tools
Hammer, nail set, stud finder, cordless drill, tape measure, pencil, combination square, miter saw, circular saw, wood file, caulk gun, coping saw

Skills
Basic carpentry skills: measuring, marking, cutting, drilling

Prep
Remove old baseboard, install finished flooring

Materials
Baseboard, 8d finishing nails, corner pieces, shoe molding, sandpaper, caulk

Step 1

Measure from the edge of the door trim to the nearest corner and cut a piece of baseboard to fit. Cut butt joints on both ends of the baseboard. Cut butt joints on both ends of the baseboard and predrill it for 8d finishing nails. Drive the nails into the studs and bottom plate of the wall.

Step 2

Using a power mitersaw miter the end of the adjoining corner piece as if you were cutting it for an inside corner. Then set the baseboard on a firm work surface and outline the edge of the profile with a pencil.

Step 3

Clamp or steady the baseboard on a work surface and hold a coping saw with a fine-tooth blade at right angles to the mitered end. Carefully cut the board along your penciled outline. The goal is to create a thin edge at the front of the baseboard -- one that follows its contour and will fit almost seamlessly into the profile of the adjoining corner piece.

Step 4

Test fit the coped piece against the baseboard already in place (or a piece of scrap), sanding and filing to correct your contour until it mates with the baseboard. Use 80-grit sandpaper where it will fit the contour and a fine round wood file in tightly curved sections. Don't worry about small gaps -- you can fill them with caulk. If you've made a larger mistake, miter the board again and start over.

Step 5

Cut the other end of the coped piece, if necessary, to fit its section of wall. If the board fits to the corner cut the end square. If another board is needed to complete this section, miter to finish a scarf joint. Fasten this piece with finishing nails, being sure to nail to a solid base.

Step 6

Cut a piece of baseboard to fit the next wall. Then cut, miter, and cope the left corner, employing the same techniques you used for the first piece. Fit the final piece of baseboard against the door trim with a butt joint.

Step 7

Cut shoe molding to length for each section of wall, duplicating coped and butt joints where they fall on the baseboard. Predrill the shoe molding and nail it at an angle into the baseboard. Make sure the bottom edge is flush with the surface of the finished floor.


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