When you’re deciding on what type of trim you want throughout your home for wood floors, you have the option of going with baseboards or an alternative design such as crown molding or quarter rounds. There are advantages and disadvantages to having baseboards, and your decision should hinge on several factors.
Choosing to have baseboards installed has a significant number of benefits for your finished floor. The most important element of baseboard installation is the protection of your walls. In this article, we’ll examine the pros and cons of installing baseboards.
Table of Contents
- 1 Why Are Baseboards Installed On a Finished Floor?
- 2 How Different Flooring Materials Intersect Walls
- 3 When Did Baseboards Become Popular?
- 4 Different Forms of Baseboards
- 5 Different Baseboard Profiles
- 6 Baseboard Materials
- 7 Choosing the Baseboard Height
- 8 Creative Baseboard Ideas
- 9 Installing Baseboards
- 10 Installing When Floors Aren’t Level
- 11 Close Wall Gaps with Adhesives
Why Are Baseboards Installed On a Finished Floor?
Homeowners install baseboards to add a layer of protection to their interior walls. You can avoid scuffs from your vacuum cleaner by installing this type of trim. Most baseboards are durable enough to weather the impact.
They also serve as a cosmetic remedy for flooring that isn’t installed flush with the wall. Baseboards are used with hardwood flooring, a floating floor, and carpet normally. However, baseboard material is used with other types of flooring on occasion.
When materials like carpet and hardwood are installed in homes, normally, the edges are imperfect where they meet the wall. These imperfect edges can cause gaps at the bottom of the wall that expose the area beneath your carpet or hardwood floor. Baseboards have a bottom edge that leaves a flush base.
Baseboards cover these gaps, giving the appearance of a perfectly installed floor. Additionally, they may also serve to prevent moisture damage done to your walls.
Let’s examine in more detail exactly how different styles of flooring intersect baseboards.
How Different Flooring Materials Intersect Walls
Different types of flooring materials can intersect your walls in various ways. Some homeowners choose to install baseboards below certain types of flooring. Other times, baseboards are installed above a particular type of flooring.
Normally the appearance given off is that of the baseboards being perfectly flush with the flooring materials. Ultimately, the final look rests on whether the baseboards or flooring materials are installed first.
Homeowners can choose to install baseboards before or after the carpet is installed. Typically, whichever gets installed first will be the easiest job to accomplish.
When baseboards are installed before carpet, the carpet is tucked beneath the baseboard with what is known as a stair tool. Alternatively, when baseboards are installed after carpet, they normally rest directly on top of the carpet.
The flooring installer will unroll the carpet from wall to wall, ensuring both ends touch. Baseboards can then be installed directly on top of the carpet.
In the case of tiles, normally, no baseboards are attached. However, when they are, they are usually fastened with a finishing nailer.
When tiles are laid, the area between the tile and the bottom of the wall will be filled with grout. Baseboards are installed after tiles normally. This is to ensure that the tiles are installed properly.
This expansion and contraction can lead to cracks in the finish over time. The natural setting of your home’s foundation can also lead to minor shifts in certain areas.
Baseboards help you cover some of these cracks and imperfections that can form over time. If you don’t have baseboards, you should pay extra attention to how the details at the bottom of the wall cover up these imperfections.
When Did Baseboards Become Popular?
The modern house’s style of baseboard goes all the way back to ancient Greek construction. However, the design as we know it first emerged during the Victorian era. When the middle class began to multiply, these modest homeowners wanted their houses to look more sophisticated. Before this, baseboards and other trim were found only in high-dollar homes.
Originally, baseboards were made exclusively from hand-carved wood. On certain occasions, they were hand-molded from plaster casts. When these types of pieces were created, they cost a lot of money and took a substantial amount of time. The average homeowner was not able to afford trim like this.
After the World Wars and the Industrial Revolution, builders needed more efficient ways to construct homes without sacrificing any style. Baseboards and other types of trim were detailed with very intricate patterns to give them the look of a more expensive home. These small wooden pieces of trim sometimes resembled highly expensive, hand-crafted works of art.
Even in the beginning, baseboards weren’t the cheapest accessories to purchase. However, thanks to technology and other upgrades in construction, they are much more cost-efficient now.
Different Forms of Baseboards
The modern-day style of baseboards is much different from the Victorian era look. Nearly any type of home can be matched and suited for baseboards.
Older homes typically lean more towards traditional baseboard patterns that resemble hand-carved wooden pieces. More suburban and modern homes may take on a flatter type of design or something that matches their paint job. These simple, clean looks are more popular these days. Some homeowners are even choosing a no-baseboard look.
Different Baseboard Profiles
In terms of the shape, size, or height of your baseboards, there are many different options. One single piece of baseboard may allow you to achieve the style you desire. However, some looks may take multiple pieces of wood to achieve.
The first piece of wood may be used with a base cap or shoe molding. Shoe molding is the piece that goes in the front of the base covering where it meets the floor. The base cap sits on top of the base piece where the floor meets the wall.
Flat baseboards are plain types with no design, bevel, or etching at all. The profile of a baseboard can either sit on the tops of walls or be recessed into the wall to give a no-baseboard look. Choosing the type of paint to use on baseboards is also important.
Some homeowners choose to paint baseboards a different color than the interior paint to have a contrast. When the design is a no-baseboard look, normally, they are painted the same color as the interior because you don’t want a contrast or any evidence of baseboards.
Clamshell baseboards are normally rounded on the corners and top edge. These types of baseboards are fairly simple to clean and install.
Ornate baseboards have a variety of miter cuts and different bevels based on the specific design. These are a lot more intricate than the two previously mentioned types of designs and profiles. Ornate baseboards are more the style you would see with historic or higher-end homes.
If you have an older home and these are the types of baseboards installed, you may have a difficult time finding an exact match. However, anything can be recreated with the right woodworking tools.
Baseboards are normally made out of wood, but not all the time. When wood is the chosen design, oak and pine are usually the most common materials.
There are also modern options for baseboards that use PVC, vinyl, or urethane. MDF is another material that baseboards are crafted from.
MDF is a composite material created from wood and different types of adhesives. This is also known as pressboard and can be significantly less expensive than normal wooden baseboards. However, there is a larger risk for swelling when these types are exposed to moisture. Using a primer can help protect MDF from normal wear and damage.
Vinyl baseboards are used when water can become an issue. They are flexible and water-resistant, thus making them very efficient for bathrooms and certain kitchens.
These particular types of baseboard create a seam between the wall and floor and are great for high traffic areas that are exposed to water on the floor for mopping. Normally, vinyl baseboards are seen in commercial spaces, although they are sometimes used for residential homes. A hairdryer can be used for vinyl when installing to allow it to bend around corners and make seams disappear.
Related: Baseboard Alternatives
Choosing the Baseboard Height
Your baseboards must be proportionate to the size of your room. Baseboards that attract too much attention by being too tall end up looking awkward.
When your ceilings are the normal 8-feet high, your baseboards should be between 3 and 5-inches. However, if your ceilings are 10-feet high, you can consider baseboards between 5 and 7-inches tall.
As a general rule, baseboards should extend further than the trim of your doors and windows. If you have crown molding, they should be equal to the molding itself.
If you choose the taller set of baseboards, it’s best if their design is completely flat. Taller types of baseboards use more material, so naturally, they’re going to cost more money. Miters used will also stick out less if you have taller baseboards.
Creative Baseboard Ideas
If none of the baseboard ideas mentioned in this article suit you, there are some other ideas to consider that you may like. Use the following list as creative options for your home’s baseboards.
· Using unfinished lumber can give you a rustic look if that’s what you’re looking for. Additionally, unfinished and aged lumber that’s been sitting in water has a unique look. Normally, the wood gives off a darker finish but is smooth to the touch.
· Metal channels, angle irons, and pipes fit the industrial-looking style.
· Types of tiles include ceramic, mosaic, and porcelain as long as they aren’t grouted into the floor or the wall itself.
· Left over materials like hardwood planks from your floor can also be used for baseboards.
· Stones or river rock can be polished to create baseboards, as well.
· Building blocks or bricks can be used, as well as children’s toys from museums or toy stores.
You don’t have to purchase baseboards that are sold strictly as baseboards. Other materials can be purchased and used for the same job. When it comes to something as versatile as baseboards, you can use your imagination and think outside of the box. Don’t be afraid to brainstorm and come up with your own ideas.
Installing baseboards is a relatively easy process. The only thing that can make this task more difficult is when walls are imperfect and possess bumps and gaps. Floors that aren’t level enough can also pose a problem. However, the issue is normally a cosmetic one, as installing the baseboards is still the same straightforward and process regardless of the floors.
Normally, hanging a baseboard entails tacking it with a nail. Carpenters and homeowners use trim nail guns with nails that are 15 or 16 gauge. Once the nails are driven into the baseboards, you can use putty or wood filler to cover the head of the nail.
Afterward, you may choose to sand down the remainder of the baseboards before you add your final coat of paint. It’s possible to attach baseboards with adhesive, but these can present more problems and eventually lose their stickiness over time.
Installing When Floors Aren’t Level
Many carpenters use a technique called scribing when they’re working with unlevel floors. Scribing transfers the imperfections of the floor onto the bottoms of the baseboards.
You use a level and a compass to trace the uneven pattern on your baseboard before you cut it to fit. You use a circular saw, and the imperfect pattern is cut out of the bottom of the piece of wood. Once it’s punched out, it fits when it’s laid on top of the uneven floor.
It’s important to make sure you leave a small gap between the baseboard and the floor to provide room for your finishings.
Close Wall Gaps with Adhesives
You can close wall gaps between the floor and baseboards if they’re not too large. Using an adhesive like putty or drywall spackle can help close these gaps. You must sand them down to make them smooth, but it eliminates huge recesses in the floor.
Choosing what type of baseboard you want isn’t difficult; you just need to make sure they’re installed properly. Making a selection that matches your walls and flooring is the most important element. Additionally, make sure the baseboards are as level as possible; and remember, the taller they are, the more you’ll see any imperfections.
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