How to Install Baseboards

To install baseboards in your home, you will need some experience with a miter saw. You will have to prep the wall, measure and cut boards using coping and scribing techniques, and attach boards with finishing nails.
Written by Lynell Spencer
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
You can install baseboards in your home by prepping the wall, measuring and cutting new boards using scribing and coping techniques, and finishing with cap molding. You will need access to a coping saw, a miter saw, and a nail gun. 
Adding or replacing the baseboards in your home is a great way to spruce up a room or add finishing touches to a larger project. While it isn’t super easy, just about anyone can learn how to install baseboard—as long as you are handy with a saw. 
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How to install baseboard

Installing baseboards can be a little trickier than it seems. The difference between beautifully installed, professional-looking details and an amateur job is all in the cuts. There are some intermediate skills required in getting the angles of your room to meet up perfectly, so you may want to have some extra baseboard on hand for practice cuts or for if you make a mistake. 
That said, the process of installing baseboards is pretty straightforward once you’ve practiced. Here’s what you need to do. 

Remove old baseboards

Use a
utility knife
to cut through the caulk on top of your old baseboards. Next, use a pry bar to gently pull the baseboard away from the wall. Once the baseboard is removed, scrape any remaining caulk off the wall. 

Check if the floor is level

Start in the highest corner of the room and fit a piece of scrap baseboard into the corner. Use a
to make sure the baseboard is straight and draw a top-line for your baseboard around the room. 
As long as there is less than a 3/4 inch difference from the highest to the lowest point, baseboard installation is possible without special steps. In some cases, you may need to scribe the bottom of the baseboards—meaning you’ll have to add material to even out the floor. Common situations for this include a sloped floor or if you are working with period-correct moldings in a historic home. 

Prep and measure your walls

Make sure that all of the caulk has been removed from the walls and that any loose drywall has been tapped back into place with a hammer. To measure the wall correctly, grab a
tape measure
and then do the following: 
  • Start by measuring from the corner and mark exactly 10 inches from that corner 
  • Move to the far corner, and measure from the corner to the mark 
  • Add 10 inches to that measurement, and that will get you the most accurate measurement for the length of your wall. 
  • Repeat for each wall 

Measure and cut baseboards

Now that you have the exact measurements of the room, it is time to cut your baseboards for a tight, gap-free installation. To start, you will be making two kinds of cuts on your baseboards. Some will be squared at 90 degrees and others will be cut at a 45-degree angle
Here’s what you do: 
  • On the wall that is opposite the door, you will cut square joints on both ends of the baseboard. 
  • For the walls on each side of the door, you will cut a square joint on the end closest to the door and an angled joint on the other end
  • For the wall with the door, you will make squared cuts closest to the door and angled cuts furthest away 
If the baseboard you are using is shorter than the wall, you may need to use two (or more) pieces, attaching them with
scarf joints
butt joints
to ensure a seamless look. 

How to cut baseboard corners

Use a coped joint on inside corners.Coping is a technique where you will use a handsaw to trim away the square edge of the baseboard so that it fits exactly to the angled cut of the adjacent board. 
Use a mitered joint for outside corners. A
mitered joint
uses a table saw to cut 45-degree angles on both pieces of the baseboard so that they meet and make a 90-degree angle on the outside corner. If you have a corner that is not quite 90 degrees, you will need to
make some adjustments
for a tight fit. 

Nail the baseboard

Once all of your baseboards are custom cut to fit for a seamless finish, you will nail the baseboard to the walls. Locate the wall studs and use finish nails to securely attach the baseboards to the wall studs. 
Then, install cap and shoe molding. If you are using cap molding and/or shoe molding for a premium finished look, now is the time to add it. You will make the same corner cuts that you did for your baseboards, fit the cap and shoe moldings to the baseboard, and nail into the wall studs also. 
Finally, you will use a
caulking gun
to caulk the top seam and joints. Cut your caulk tip to a 45-degree angle, and apply caulk to the top seam and joints around the perimeter of the room. 
Now you are finished with the installation and ready to sand, paint, or stain your beautiful new baseboards. 

Required tools

In addition to the actual baseboards, shoe molding, and cap molding, there are a few tools you will need to complete this project. If you are just starting on the DIY path, you can rent some of the more expensive tools. Here is a list of what you’ll need:
Available to rent?
Utility knife
Caulking gun
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Installation tips and tricks 

With the right tools, installing baseboards shouldn’t be a challenge. Here are some final things you’ll want to consider.  
  • Use a finish nail gun or a pin nail gun to attach your baseboards. This will make your project a whole lot easier, and pin or finish nails have very small or no head so that they are easily covered up with paint 
  • Use a 3/8” baseboard for flexibility and fit. This width is ideal with most materials to allow you to make adjustments easily with less risk of snapping or cracking your board 

Stay safe

Above all, you must stay safe when you’re installing baseboards. Here are some tips to make sure you install your baseboards safely: 
  • Wear safety glasses and earplugs when operating power tools, especially the saws
  • Make sure your work area is free of debris that can get caught or dragged into the saw blade
  • If you are using equipment that is new to you, read the instructions and warnings included with the tool 

How to find the best home insurance

Whether you are installing new baseboards for a little spruce-up, or you are doing a full-scale remodel, doing work on your house may mean that it is time to update your homeowners policy. Instead of just updating what you have, let the
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You should install baseboards before you install your carpet. Carpet installation requires carpet tacking strips to be laid in front of the baseboards. If they have not been installed yet, it is easy to place the tacking strips wrong, which will mess with the fit of both the carpet and the baseboard.
Yes. You can use glue to install baseboards, but glue alone is not the best method for a couple of reasons. Nails do a better job of holding the board in place if it bends or warps. Also, glue does more damage to the wall and is harder to remove if you want to replace boards again later. In many cases, glue and nails can be used together for the best fit.
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