How to Install Decorative Moulding and Baseboards
How to Replace your Molding and Baseboards
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
"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.
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.)
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.
Once you have worked out your measurements cut the stool to length.
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.
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.
Once the stool and the side casings are intact measure and cut the head casing, countersinking the nails.
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.
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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