How to install baseboards: 10 basic steps

Being able to install baseboards yourself (or skirting boards as they are known in the UK) is such a useful DIY skill to have. It’s amazing the impact that new baseboards can have on a room, especially if you plump for a bold decorative board and use paint to enhance the transformation. 

Baseboards are there to cover the joint between the wall and the floor. It makes a decorative border while hiding the gaps needed to cope with a house’s natural expansion and contraction so it’s a worthwhile DIY project to try yourself. 

Baseboards come in different heights and styles and are produced in a wide range of materials, you can even buy ready primed boards to save you a job. They endure a lot of wear and are frequently bumped with the vacuum or bashed into with children’s toys for example. 

How to fit baseboards

Our guide is here to talk you through the process in 10 simple steps, whether you’re decorating one room or renovating a whole house.

1. Measure up

A measuring tape leaning against the base of a wall with no baseboards fitted

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

Use a tape measure to work out the length of baseboard you need and then add 20 percent on to the total as a contingency. Baseboards can be ordered in four-plus meter lengths so if you have long walls and would prefer not to have unnecessary joins then bear this in mind when you source your materials. 

2. Mark the baseboard

a piece of double-sided skirting board in front of a piece of white skirting board

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

Mark clearly on each piece of baseboard which side you want facing into the room and which way up you want it to avoid any mistakes. This is particularly important when you order dual-sided boards like those shown in the image above. Each side has a different decorative detailing along the top so it’s vital that you know which side should be facing into the room when you make your cuts. 

3. Start with straight cuts

A piece of skirting board with a straight-cut end

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

Start with any boards that can go in with square-edged cuts at either end, for example, either side of a chimney breast. Measure and then use a mitre saw or mitre box to give a good, straight cut. If you are using a mitre box (opens in new tab), be sure to clamp or screw the box down and clamp the baseboard to the box before you cut. The more sturdy the box is the more accurate and neat your cuts will be. 

Lightly sand the cut edges of the baseboards to smooth off any texture from the saw. as this will ensure the joins are as neat and as easy to hide as possible.

4. Attach first baseboard

blobs of grab adhesive on a piece of primed skirting board

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

Instant-grab adhesive is the most popular way of fixing boards, particularly in houses with plasterboard walls. Apply blobs and press the board onto the wall so the adhesive makes good contact, then wipe off any excess. If you want to screw the boards to a plasterboard wall, mark the position of the wooden studs and then put a pilot drill through the baseboard and the wall at these points.

If you are fixing them to a solid wall, run a pilot drill through the baseboard to mark the wall every 6cm. Drill and raw plug these holes. Countersink the holes with a larger drill bit so the screw heads will disappear when fixed. Screws should be long enough to go through the board and at least 3cm into the wall or studs behind. Use wood filler (opens in new tab) to cover the holes before painting baseboards.

a nail sticking out the side of a piece of white skirting board

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

5. Scribing baseboards for internal corners

a piece of white skirting board cut at a 45 degree angle

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

The next board you fit needs to be ‘scribed’ so it slots into the first board you have attached to the wall. To do this, first cut a 45-degree angle in the end of the new piece of board using a miter saw or miter box. 

a hack saw scribing a piece of skirting board

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

Then, use a coping saw (opens in new tab)to cut away the waste section. You’ll be left with the profile of the baseboard that will slot onto the section that is already attached to the wall. Practise with an off-cut first. This method is better than relying on two 45-degree cuts which only work when your corners are exactly 90 degrees and your walls are perfectly straight. 

A scribed piece of skirting board

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

6. Check and fit

A scribed internal skirting board join

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

Check the board you’ve just cut fits cleanly with the one you’ve already attached to the wall. If you’re happy, cut or miter the other end of the board and then attach to the wall. Plan the way your boards go in so that you’re always fitting a square end to a scribed end, never scribe both ends.

7. External corners

an external corner of skirting board

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

Where the boards meet on an external corner, miter both pieces at a 45-degree angle to create a neat join. Measure both boards to the corner and then mark this length on the back. Place the first board on the miter, line the saw, set at 45 degrees, up with the mark you made, and cut.

View looking down at an external corner or baseboard

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

8. Cutting external angle

Make sure you cut the second board so that the 45-degree angle is in the opposite direction so that they meet. Create the opposite cut by moving a miter saw to the other side of its axis.

9. Adjustments

Always fit mitred external corners in pairs so you can adjust them to fit together accurately, rather than attaching one and then trying to cut another to fit.

10. Fill gaps

Once complete, fill any gaps between the wall and the top of the baseboard with decorator’s caulk (opens in new tab) and then run a damp finger along the join for a neat finish. Allow to dry before painting.

Remember to clean baseboards regularly to enhance your home’s decor scheme!

What if my baseboards aren’t long enough?

If your baseboards aren’t long enough to run from corner to corner you will need to add a join along the wall. Ideally, joins should be positioned so they are hidden from view in the least prominent position possible, behind furniture (like a sofa or bed for example). If you need to join any pieces along a straight wall, the best way to do this is by using what’s known as a Scarf Joint, this is where you cut the end of each piece you are joining at 45 degrees (in the same direction) so one piece slides over the other. Add some grab adhesive to the join and wipe off any excess with a damp cloth. You can add a nail or two to secure the seam and prevent the boards from moving out of position. Once the glue has dried, sand the seam of the joint until smooth, remove any dust and the joint will be ready for priming.

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