Introduction

Tom Silva runs baseboards
Photo: Craig Raine
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Despite their lowly position along the floor, baseboards are one of a house's defining features. If they have stature, a room becomes regal; when they are skimpy, that same space looks dowdy.

Baseboards were often three-piece affairs consisting of a flat plank, a decorative cap molding, and a rounded shoe molding to cover gaps along the floor. "In old houses, you often see the fanciest baseboard in the front room downstairs," says This Old House general contractor Tom Silva.

In houses built after World War II, however, fancy gave way to cheap, and the vital floor-to-wall transition became the domain of thin, featureless one-piece trim. Fortunately, it's easy to replace modern moldings with taller, thicker, two- or three-part baseboards.

Running baseboard is also good for perfecting carpentry skills. The joints required are simple butts, miters, and copes, and the same basic installation steps apply to all trimwork.
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    Tools List

    • miter saw
      Compound miter saw,
      for straight and angled crosscuts
    • coping saw
      Coping saw,
      for cutting copes in the ends of molding
    • four-foot level
      4-foot level,
      for finding low spots on floor and marking height of baseboard
    • circular saw
      6-inch circular saw,
      for ripping back-bevels in trim
    • speed square
      Speed Square,
      for guiding crosscuts made with a circular saw
    • 30-foot tape measure
      25-foot tape measure
    • pencil compass
      Compass (for scribing
    • block plane
      Block plane,
      for tuning the fit of a scribed piece
    • biscuit joiner
      Biscuit joiner,
      for cutting slots in miter joints
    • chalk line
      Chalk line,
      for snapping the lines that establish baseboard height
    • hammer
      Hammer or pneumatic nail gun
    • nailset
      Nail set

    Shopping List

    1. BASEBOARD MOLDING

    2. CAP MOLDING

    3. SHOE MOLDING

    4. 6D AND 8D FINISH NAILS

    5. NO. 10 COMPRESSED WOOD BISCUITS
    (for holding together baseboard miters)

    6. CARPENTER'S GLUR
    (for adhering joints)