I have a problem. It’s called DIY- itis. When you have DIY-itis, it means you are too cheap to pay someone to do what you know you can do yourself. Projects like my baseboards get delayed until the stars align and schedules clear, in other words it’s rare. We just had one of those rare occasions and I not only have new baseboards, I have a DIY baseboard tutorial to share with you too. They look amazing with my Simple DIY Craftsman Style Window Trim.
Just in case you need new baseboards or are planing on replacing the ones you have.
Installing my own baseboards cost me less than $400 for my entire house! That figure includes the paint, nails and all the caulk I needed with change to spare.
Another challenge I had to work with was that I needed an extra set of hands to do tackle this project. I knew my Dad would be back on his boat soon and cruising north to NJ for the summer, so I asked him if he was up for one last father-daughter building project before he set sail:)
Thank goodness he said yes, ’cause I didn’t want to wait until fall when he sails back down.
I’m going to show you how to install your own baseboards, it’s not hard. If you can cut a simple 45 degree angle, you’re mostly there. Baseboards are not technically called toeboards or kickboards. But, if you want to call them that then, yes, this post could easily be called how to install new kickboards or toeboards in your home.
What makes the biggest difference in your DIY baseboard project, is knowing the tips and tricks professionals use to make their projects perfect. I’ll share the ones we used, and a lot of what my Dad shared with me. These tips made my baseboard project look just as, if not better than if I’d paid someone.
DIY Baseboard Tutorial
Tools needed for a DIY baseboard project. I use affiliate links to help you find the products I used.
- compound miter saw
- compound square, One of my most used tools and it make measuring and marking measurements easy.
- brad nailer , I love the Ryobi Airstrike because it’s easy to use and it’s cordless.
- wood stand
- quick read tape measure – The best kind for this type of project.
- caulking gun
- backer rod
- protective eyewear
- knee pads or a gardening pillow for your knees
You’ll also need a DIY buddy. Two sets of hands make the job go by a whole lot faster and easier.
Measuring tips for DIY baseboards
Baseboards are sold by the linear foot. When you’re figuring out how much to order, measure the area and add 10 – 15% more for waste and mistakes.
There are several choices for baseboard material. You can use unfinished that mean it’s plain wood, you can use primed, which is what I used for my baseboards, or you can use prefinished, which means you install, caulk and walk away. You can see the prefinished boards in my Craftsman Style Window Trim Tutorial.
Use the same measuring tape to measure the wall lengths that you use to measure the baseboards lengths. keeping a pencil and paper nearby is helpful. Also keep in mind when you’ll measure for a heel or toe cut and make allowances for those when you measure. On our baseboards it meant 1/2″ difference on the overall length of the board. It’s good to know if you’re using scraps, which you should so there’s less waste.
See below for my DIY baseboard cheat sheet for cuts and terms.
Prep your surface for new DIY Baseboards
Be sure walls and floors are clear of debris so your new baseboards will lay flat. Once upon a time this house had tile baseboards. There was tile adhesive on the walls and extra grout sticking up from the tile floor edges that had to be removed. I used a hammer and chisel to clear away the area.
It helps to be on the same page when it comes to terms & baseboard names with your DIY buddy. The cheat sheet below shows how the cuts are made, what inside and outside corners look like and the terms we used. All the angles were simple 45 degree cuts.
Tips for cutting baseboard angles
It helps to have two pieces of pre-cut molding at your cutting station. Sometimes, angles can get confusing. If you’re cutting an inside angle and want to be sure the direction you set the compound miter saw is correct, you can hold your boards together for a quick visual and check against the direction of your blade setting.
This is an inside corner.
This is an outside corner.
Because we used these boards as visuals and used the same terms, we didn’t have one wrong cut for the entire project. In fact, we had the entire extra 15% we ordered left over!
Good work Dad 🙂
First, plan to install your longest runs or walls first. When needed, splice two pieces together like the diagram in the DIY baseboard cut cheat sheet.
When you get to corners and room transitions like the one below, have your DIY buddy hold the cut baseboard pieces in place. Line up the corners and secure the center piece first. This will help make sure your corners line up well. These corners are the most visible and the last thing you want are wonky corners.
You want your DIY baseboard to look like a professional installed them, right?
Tips to nail your DIY baseboards to the wall
Attach the baseboards at the end with 2 or 3 brad nails. I alternately added more nails high and low on the flat part of the baseboards about every 8 inches. Our home is cement block and don’t have studs behind our drywall, we have furring strips which lay over the concrete blocks. If you have studs, you may want to secure your baseboards at 16″ intervals where your studs are located.
How to install baseboards on uneven floors
Almost all homes will have some uneven floors, especially old homes. You can still have your baseboards look good and flush to the floor. Cut and lay your board in place. You’ll probably have sections that look like this. Some areas touch the floor and some don’t.
Or, one end will and the other doesn’t. Not to worry, this can easily be fixed. Secure the end that lies flush to the ground as you normally would up to the point where the board does not lay flat on the ground. Do not add any brad nails from that spot forward.
Have your DIY buddy hold down the baseboard with a 2 x 4. This will bend the board onto the ground. Secure with the brad nailer up to the point where it doesn’t lay flat. Repeat this until you reach the end of the baseboard.
The last thing I want to show you is how we ended different runs of our baseboards. Sometimes we’d use a flat cut at the end like when the baseboards butted against a door frame.
Below is a good way to finish an end if a baseboard run stops without having anything to butt against. The trim carpenters who finished our addition used a small piece of baseboard to finish and cover the rough cut wood where the molding stopped.
Other times, like in the picture below, we ended with an angle cut because the baseboard stuck out too far for a flat cut.
Installing baseboards when walls are uneven
Floors aren’t the only thing that can be uneven in houses. Walls can be off too, especially in old houses like ours. Run a bead of caulk at the top to seal the baseboards. If you have a wide space between your wall and baseboard, you may need to add a few layers of caulk or something else like a good wall filler to fill in the gap first before adding the caulking at the top. If you have a gap like this, don’t panic we had several. We filled them in like I mentioned, its the only choice you have and on most of them you can’t tell a gap was filled.
If you have a large gap, fill the gap with backer rod before caulking. It will make the job a whole lot easier!
Top tips for painting and finishing baseboards and trim
Once the gap at the top of your new baseboard where it meets the wall has been sealed with caulk, you’ll need to fill the nail holes and give the primed baseboards a coat of paint. I have several painting tricks to save time and get a perfect paint job every time I pull out a paintbrush to paint trim. See my post 12 Genius Painters Tape Tips, to see what I do to save time and get quality results.
Update, fast forward 2+ years… I just finished adding DIY craftsman style window trim to our windows. It looks fabulous! So does our room by the way, completely different than these pictures! What was so amazing was that I used prefinished boards! No painting my friends, and that was a huge timesaver! Check out my How to Add Window Casings Tutorial for the details. Using prefinished boards is a great option if you don’t want to paint.
Because our house has been added on to, and modified a lot in the last 50 years, it has a lot of extra corners and crazy spaces. The entire baseboard project took us about four full days to do.
Yes, it was worth the wait.
Almost a 3 year wait!
Check out this earlier project using pictures from the same angle without the baseboards.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my DIY baseboard tutorial.
I love walking in the house now and feeling like it’s complete! It’s not complete, not by a long shot.
It’s a huge improvement.
The other huge improvement is now when I’m taking pictures of a project for the blog, I don’t have to work around not having baseboards, or worse yet, use the fake piece of ill-fitting baseboard I’d put in place for photos!
Yes, guys, I’ve been faking baseboards for a long time;)
I’m thrilled that my Achilles heel/house project is finally done. Can you relate? Do you have a project now that you want to tackle so bad it makes you crazy? Have you had one in the past? Misery loves company, lets chat about it below!
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