Replace the baseboard an inexpensive improvement
Q: I have just taken over a rental property in which I will live. After painting and repairs, I’m thinking of replacing the baseboards with something prettier. Is it expensive and/or difficult?
A: It’s an easy job that gives you value for your money. You can go from boring to mind blowing in an afternoon.
I bought my first home many years ago at a foreclosure auction and it was a mess. The first thing I did was paint the place and replace the carpet. For a bit of elegance, I installed baseboard moldings and door jambs that I stained a natural oak color and high-gloss varnished. What a difference it made. The custom look made the home warm and inviting.
To change baseboards and frames, first remove the old ones without damaging the walls. You can do this by placing a scrap block behind a hammer and slowly prying out the old baseboard and casings.
Before removing the old stuff, score the top of the baseboards (or the side of the casings) with a utility knife where they meet the wall. This will prevent tearing of the paint and wallboard where a painter may have filled in the gaps with putty.
The cost of new baseboards and door moldings varies by type and style. Most trim (baseboards and cabinets) are solid wood or MDF (medium-density fiberboard) covered with a thin veneer.
You can also buy trim made from different types of plastic. I wouldn’t suggest it because it looks cheap. Also, the high speed of an electric miter saw can melt plastic.
Trims are sold by the linear foot and range from about 75 cents per linear foot for MDF to over $8 per linear foot for solid woods. You can also use a combination of moldings (base shoe, baseboard, base cap) to achieve custom profiles.
It depends on your tastes and your budget.
Installing the door trim comes first. Take a pencil and a combination square (about $5) and draw a light line 3/16 inch from the inside of the door jamb. This will be the “reveal” line, which the front edge of the trim lines up with.
Measure the lengths of the pieces you will need to wrap around the door and add some for the mitered corners.
I strongly recommend that you finish (stain and varnish or paint) the casing (or baseboard) before nailing it to the wall. It’s much easier to stain wood standing in your garage than it is lying on your floor.
Once the finish is dry, you will need to miter the corners (cut the corners at 45 degrees). You can rent an electric miter saw, also known as a scroll saw, for around $100 a day, or you can buy a miter box and backpack saw (this one is powered by your arm) to around $50.
Use scrap wood cut at 45 degrees and hold them to the corners. Although the corners should be perfectly 90 degrees, sometimes they are not. Adjust the saw and cut both pieces at the new angle.
Once the pieces are cut, attach them to the stud using 4d nails if you don’t have a nail gun or compressor. If you are using hardwood moldings, be sure to pre-drill the nail holes. Otherwise, your topping will split and your vocabulary will increase.
Drive the head of the nail below the surface of the trim with a nail set (about $5) and fill the hole with wood filler. You will need to touch up the finish wherever you have filled in a nail hole.
Start the baseboards by first cutting the length of the longest wall. If your skirting board does not completely cover the entire length of the wall, you can join two pieces together by cutting the adjoining pieces at a 30 degree angle. That way, if the pieces start to separate later, you won’t have an obvious gap.
Roughly cut out the pieces for the rest of the room.
There are two ways to get a great inside corner. You can miter the corner (like you did with the door frame) or you can face the inside corner. The coping consists of cutting the profile of the plinth at the end of the piece that intersects it.
To face an inside corner, cut one end at a 45 degree angle as if cutting an inside miter. Then use a coping saw (about $25) to cut along the profile left by the miter.
You can make a snug fit by using a wood file (about $10) to smooth out any rough edges.
Continue mitering and/or facing around the piece, pre-drill and nail it using 6d nails.
Mike Klimek is a licensed contractor and owner of Las Vegas Handyman. Questions can be emailed to [email protected] Or send mail to 4710 W. Dewey Drive, No. 100, Las Vegas, NV 89118. Its web address is www.handymanoflasvegas.com.