How to Install Decorative Moulding and Baseboards

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Molded to Perfection

How to Replace your Molding and Baseboards
Trim Powers

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Looking for a simple project that can give any room a refined, classy look? Adding elegant molding and baseboards can accomplish the trick in a hurry. Think about it: the world's finest places use detailed trim as an accent—palaces, museums and banquet halls. Why not bring a piece of the high life to your home?

Want to see how we did it with Jeryl, our Jane-in-training? Watch the video.

Believe it or not, incorporating this kind of detail is an easy project especially if you use kit molding. We used a kit from LP Molding. The trim in molding kits comes pre-finished to minimize your work and their colors don't stray too far from white, but you can always paint the trim to work with any scheme. However, white trim always looks classy and stands out nicely against a boldly painted wall.

Likewise, new baseboards may be just what you need to spruce up your home, and installing them is also something you can do yourself using a kit. Baseboards are often scrimped on by builders, with narrow, plain designs predominating. Like detailed trim, new baseboards add character and are a stylish feature that adds a subtle but genuine touch of elegance.

Step 1

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First measure around the doors and windows to get an estimate of how much trim you need. Trim kits are sold by size so it's best to know this before heading to the home improvement store. A measurement for baseboards can be determined by the perimeter of the room. You can also measure the old baseboards once you have removed them. Because cutting or measuring mistakes are common, buy at least 10% more molding and baseboard material than you think you need; leftover pieces can always be used for future repairs or mistakes.

Step 2

Using a putty knife or pry bar, remove any existing molding and baseboards, being careful not to damage the drywall. You don't want this home improvement project to spawn its own set of home repair projects! (If you do poke a hole in the wall you can learn how to fix it very quickly.)

Jane Tip: A pry bar will make removing old molding or baseboards much easier. A little leverage will help the tool do the work, rather than relying on your muscles. Place a thin piece of scrap board against the wall to give your pry bar something to lever against. You'll get a more solid surface for prying (compared to prying against the unprotected wall itself) and you won't leave a dent.

Step 3

If you are installing unfinished trim or baseboards, you will want to sand, prime and paint the wood before you begin the installation process. This is much easier to complete on the floor than after the trim is up on the walls.

Step 4

If you're using a kit, read the instructions carefully to determine how the pieces will fit together. Then, with a good quality tape measure, take precise measurements. Using a kit will minimize the complexity and number of cuts needed, but you'll still likely be making a dozen or more cuts by the time you finish a room. Follow the adage: measure twice, cut once.

Step 5

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Put on your safety glasses and head to the miter saw. Verify the angle of each cut and be sure the trim is flush against the saw's guide before making the cut. If you're creating compound cuts or cuts at odd angles, you may want to make some test cuts on scrap or leftover trim; check the test cut pieces against the actual wall to make sure the real pieces will fit snugly. When it comes to trim tolerances are tight and the margin for error is slim. This is one of the reasons we love miter saws: they make very precise cuts with ease.

For the baseboards, measure the length of the wall and mark your baseboards accordingly. Another method for installing baseboards is cutting one end and then nailing it to the wall, with a little excess left over on the other end. Using a hand saw, you can cut the baseboard so that it fits snugly with the corner, and you will never come up short!

Step 6

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"Dry fit" the pieces in place on the wall making sure the length, angles, and joints are perfect. Everything okay? Time to put the pieces in for real. A helper really comes in handy here. One of you can hold the trim piece steady as the other uses the nail gun to fasten it.

Working from the bottom up, countersink the nails into the trim. (Countersinking means pushing the head of the nail into beneath the trim's surface) Because it's just trim, you needn't drive every nail into a stud; the drywall will do. Later, go back and fill these teeny holes with wood putty or caulk.

Jane Tip: Few rooms offer perfectly straight walls. Bumps and dents, settling and shifting will ultimately affect every house over time. If you find that a piece of your trim won't sit completely flush against a wall, you can always fill the gap with a bit of caulk.

Step 7

To install your new baseboards you'll want to begin in the corner on the wall opposite the door. For outside corner angles (they jut out instead of turning in), called a miter joint, cut the wood at opposite 45 degree angles, so that they will fit together. A coping joint is a corner that turns inward. You will want to put the two pieces so that they fit together like a puzzle piece. Even the most skilled carpenters make mistakes, so take heart. If your corners are a little imperfect you can always shape the wood with a file, or fill gaps with caulk once you put them in place.

Jane Tip: If you don't have a nail gun, drill pilot holes before hammering the nail into the trim. Be careful not to miss the nails and dent the molding. Drive them almost all the way into the surface and then countersink the nails with a nail set.

Now, if you have a window, read on!

Special Instructions: Install Molding Around Windows

Installing molding around windows requires a few extra steps. Read the directions on your kit carefully, and again, be methodical about your measurements. If you aren't using a kit the process will begin by installing the stool. (Not the thing you sit on, the piece of wood inserted under the window trim, forming a small ledge. If you already have a window sill you may not want to add a stool.)

Step 1

To determine the length of the stool you will need to measure the length of the window plus the trim on both sides. (The stool may be a little longer than the trim.) Again, try holding the trim up to the window and making marks with the pencil.

Step 2

Once you have worked out your measurements cut the stool to length.

Step 3

With the nail gun secure the stool to the wall. Remember to countersink the nails and fill the holes with wood putty later.

FYI: The sides of the trim are called side casing, while the top piece is called head casing.

Step 4

Moving upwards, fit the side casing to the windows making sure it is firmly situated against the stool. Have a helper hold the trim in place while the other nails it to the wall.

Step 5

Once the stool and the side casings are intact measure and cut the head casing, countersinking the nails.

Step 6

You may have another piece that goes beneath the stool, called the apron. This goes on last. Yes, you are almost done! To ensure a perfectly positioned apron, first glue it into place, sliding it until it is exactly where you want it.

Step 7

Next nail the apron into place, countersinking the nails. You will want to use two nails on either side of the apron and then one about every 16". Secure the stool to the apron with three or four nails, nailing from the stool downwards into the apron.

Once the last baseboard and piece of trim has been nailed firmly to the wall, call it a day. Congratulate yourself and your helper (if you have one) on your meticulous work. If you are looking to add a little something extra to your living space consider the elegant detail of trim. As you remember the old adage, measure twice, cut once, your trim should go on easily, giving your living space a tasteful and sophisticated improvement.

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15 comments

29
Oct

Hello, I'm planning on installing molding and baseboards in my new house - my question is however - what do you do when you have bullnose corners in every door way and corner in the house? Even the windows have it. Although it looks nice there I do want to replace the baseboards throughout the house and not sure how to tackle the corners. Any suggestions? Thanks! Lisa
25
Dec

depending on what size radius corners you have(they make afew sizes,1",3/4",1/2")most common is 3/4". so cut a bunch of small peices we call wedges 3/4"long(inside measurement)with two inside cuts at 221/2 degrees on your saw.take a wedge, eyeball it to the center of the arc of your corner and scribe a line on both sides for a measurement for the ajoining peices of trim.to make the corner you will end up with four cuts at 221/2 degrees.sometimes i have to shave off the back of the wedge a little for a better fit. always try to fit the outside corners first because those are the ones you see. if your off alittle on the inside corners, most of the time you can fill with caulk. hope this helps.
18
Dec

Hi, The contractor used a wet lacquer, seleant on the brick and flagstone of my driveway. The day it was applied, we had rain in the night and the next day... there was a film of white patches everywhere. the flagstone looks whitish insted of the original colour but we power washed on the bricks to remove the lacquer....it hasent helped that much... What shall we do???? Should we reapply... Thanks reema
28
Dec

MY HALLWAY IS LONG AND NARROW AND HALFWAY PANELED WITH DARK PANELING VERY DARK WHAT CAN I DO TO LIGHTEN THIS UP
5
Jan

hi, how about addind more light,like a bright chanderlier and some wall sconces
6
Jan

I have a bathroom that has no windows...I added a solar tube which has added a significant amount of light...almost like a light is on all the time and the "light" is flush with the ceiling ...
6
Jan

I have painted dark paneling with great success...even painted it white...
6
Jan

I have the most dificult time deciding on color, my first step was choding the color of my cabinetry (cherry wood) but now I'm undecided about the color of the walls and backsplash.
12
Jan

I have a small master bedroom 12x15 with two small windows on either side of the room, with light color laminate flooring, and don't know what color to paint it so it looks bigger.
12
Jan

Blue seems to "disappear" and makes the eye recede. It is also restful.
17
Jan

i dont know what colour to paint my small bedroom
22
Feb

I friend has given me a lacquor bedroom set - I would like to paint it a flat black that is now being shown everywhere and add brushed nickle knobs. How do I prepare the lacquer so that I can paint it the flat black? Do you think I would need a small spray gun to do this? Redoing this would save me thousands of dollars.
25
May

decormarsha challenging project, very thoroughly explained, now I need to get into a relationship with that saw and I'll be set.
14
Jun

I have metal door frames and concrete walls as it is a fireproof building so this might be a tad difficult to do and for fire prevention reasons might not be approved by my condominium board. I was wondering if these can be put up with adhesive. Any suggestions? Thanks
27
Jun

Hi, I have a 5'X 10'concrete outdoor patio that I want to tile. I'm not sure what type of tile is best to use to sustain the cold and the heat. Any suggestions.