Painting and Staining Baseboards

When choosing new baseboards consider the finish. Whether it will be painted, stained, or left natural determines the material selection. Wood is the traditional choice, but it's not your only option. If you're planning to paint the trim, manufactured materials such as medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and plastic moldings (including urethanes and other synthetics) are good-looking, budget-conscious alternatives.


To save money when staining, select wood based on the appearance of the grain, and stain to personal preferences. Cherry, for example, is an expensive wood, but you can get a comparable look by buying birch and applying a cherry stain. The grain and hardness of cherry and birch are very similar.

Prestart Checklist

About 45 minutes total (not including drying time) to sand, finish, and fill holes on an 8-foot length

Sandpaper (fine and medium grits), sanding block, tack cloth, putty knife, paintbrush, lint-free cloths, disposable foam brushes, #0000 steel wool

Using sandpaper and a paintbrush

Fill knotholes, sand

Baseboard, wood filler, mineral spirits or paint thinner, paint, stain, clear polyurethane or varnish

Painting baseboards: Step 1

Sand baseboards, whether unfinished or painted, with medium-grit sandpaper on a sanding block. Wipe away residue with a tack cloth.

Painting baseboards: Step 2

Fill knots and nail holes with water-mix putty. Let dry. Lightly sand filled spots and wipe clean.

Painting baseboards: Step 3

Protect the floor and wall with painter's tape before painting. Apply paint to the wood surface with short light strokes across the wood grain, laying down paint in both directions. Finish with longer strokes in one direction only -- working with the wood grain. Use only the tips of the bristles to smooth out the paint.

Staining baseboards: Step 1

It's easier to stain uninstalled baseboards as you can finish them on a waist-high work surface. Sand baseboards with sanding paper or a sanding block and wipe dust particles away with a tack cloth.

Staining baseboards: Step 2

Mix stain before using. With a brush or a lint-free cloth, apply it with the grain. Slightly overlap your strokes so you don't miss any spots. Let the stain set according to the manufacturer's directions.

Staining baseboards: Step 3

Before the stain begins to dry, wipe the entire surface with a lint-free cloth to remove excess stain. This forces the stain's pigment into the grain, enhancing contrast.

Staining baseboards: Step 4

To apply clear sealer or varnish, use a disposable foam brush and work across the grain. For the second coat brush with the grain to avoid ridges. Once dry install baseboard and fill nail holes with wood putty.

Comments (1)
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