Bulking Up —Baseboard & Casing

The best time to upgrade baseboards is just after installing new flooring. Most flooring projects require you to remove the old trim anyhow, so it makes sense to combine the two jobs. From one Detail Survivor to another, my advice is to tackle baseboards one room at a time. Trim detail can be finicky. It takes time and patience to get professional results. I am not going to lie —the constant up-and-down crouching on the floor is akin to good yoga workout. Limber up.

Living with dated but intact baseboards is a gazillion times better than starting a massive whole-house overhaul and quitting in frustration halfway through the job. I’ve been in many homes where the owner (or previous owner) decided to rip everything out in one day with grand plans to replace it all. Years later the house still looks to be “under construction”.

I am guilty of similar crimes. I have replaced bedroom carpet with laminate (when my kids were young and throwing-up on a regular basis) and waited months to put the quarter-round in place. Put beds and dressers back in the room and you hardly notice all the little lego pieces trapped between the floor and the baseboard. The kitchen renovation (which, started this home-reno obsession and that I will need to discuss at some point) was such a large undertaking that I lost steam before getting to the baseboards in the family room, hall and foyer. It took me almost two years to get back to it. After a while you become blind to your own unfinished projects. Try to see your home through the eyes of a guest. Keep at it to the last detail!

Casing profile is too small to accommodate the more substantial baseboard
Casing profile is too small to accommodate the more substantial baseboard

The tip I am sharing today may help you save time and money on your next baseboard upgrade. Typically small baseboards are combined with small door casings —logical. This presents an installation problem when come home from your local building centre and you realize you new and favourite baseboard doesn’t fit. However, STOP yourself before ripping off the casing too. Instead install a simple backband moulding around the existing casing and solve the issue with minimal effort and expense. Here’s what I did in the Powder Room:

Backband Moulding
Backband Moulding

This is a simple backband moulding. I used it to transform existing 3/8″ casing to a 1″ profile. I have outlined how to install it below but you can also check out my video here.

measure against the existing casing

To “wrap’ the casing simply run the moulding the length of the door, mark, and cut at a 45 degree angle with your mitre saw.

moulding cut at 45 degree angle

Once you have cut the first side of the moulding to fit, nail it in place. Next starting with an opposite 45 degree angle mark the top piece and cut to length.

Hint: mark the direction of the 45 degree angle to avoid mistakes at the saw

Before installing the top moulding mark the opposite side moulding to ensure a perfect fit

Use a nail gun to install moulding

Tip: angle the gun towards the wall. Here I place the gun flat against the moulding and the nail popped through the face of casing. I had to pull it out and start again —Grrrr! I now have another hole to putty over. The good thing is most mistakes can be fixed. Don’t be afraid to try. I learn new skills and tips on every job I do.

Joining up the angles. Easy fit.

Here you can see where the nail popped through and left a scar. I will fill that later. I will also fill the corner with latex caulk and tack the angle closed with a small brad. The end result will be a seamless finish and a perfect fit.

Coping the inside corners to ensure a snug fit

After the backband is in place I can proceed with the baseboard installation. In this small room I will have to deal with four inside corners. I prefer inside corners. It quite easy to get a snug fit on an inside corner with the help of a coping saw. It takes a bit of practice to get the thin blade of the coping saw to follow the profile of the moulding, but once you get the technique down you’ll wish all your cuts were for inside corners (we’ll leave outside corners for another day).

Coping saw

Check out my video to see how I use the coping saw to make an easy fit on an inside corner

Mark with a pencil the cut length

Again, to ensure a perfect cut the first time dry fit the moulding in place and mark the cut line against the wall. This is faster and more accurate than using a measuring tape.

Pre-painting baseboards

I mentioned the yoga moves earlier. Once your baseboards are cut you will be tempted to nail them in immediately. Don’t! Take the time now to apply the finish coat before they get installed. You will never regret this step. It will save your knees and all the fuss of trying to avoid paint on the floor as you go.

Scribed to fit

Every now and then you will have to deal with an uneven floor surface. On my longest wall I noticed a high spot in the centre. This meant that I would see a gap at either end of the room between the baseboard and the floor. Worse still, the corner joints would not be able to match up —one board would be up to 1/2″ higher than the other. This is my first attempt at scribing. I was a bit nervous to give it a go, but I am very happy with the results.

Nailing the baseboards in place
Nailing the baseboards in place

Once I was certain everything fit well I could proceed to nail the boards in place. Look at my knee pads. I picked them up at the dollar store —worth every penny. Nails should be driven into the studs and baseplate for secure attachment. The gun should be adjusted so that the nails sit just below the finished surface. Nail holes can then be filled and touch-up paint can be applied as needed.