Baseboard Done Better
A veteran carpenter shows how to achieve first-class results with timesaving techniques.
Synopsis: Think you know everything there is to know about running baseboard? Read Gary Katz’s article on the topic and you’re sure to pick up some great tips, no matter what your skill level. This must-read article shows how to streamline measuring and cutting, and just wait until you see the tip on coping a corner without breaking off that pesky little sliver at the top.
Carpenters new to finish work often cut their teeth on baseboard, and for good reason. Baseboard has many of the basic joints that form the foundation for trim carpentry. Over the years, I’ve shown a lot of carpenters better ways to run baseboard. Whether you’re a veteran or new to the task, I’ll share some tips that will improve both the speed and the quality of your trim work.
Measure once, measure precisely
The first key to installing any trim, especially baseboard, is recording accurate measurements on a cutlist. After years of practice, I’ve learned how to read a measurement when the tape is bent into a corner. But there are several other ways to measure precisely. One method is with a measuring block. For the block, cut a piece of baseboard to an exact length that’s easy to remember and add (4 in. is the length I normally use). Stick the block at one end of a run, measure to it, and add the length of the block.
For measuring to the eased edge of casing, simply lay the block flat and take a precise measurement to the crisp edge of the block. The same strategy works for an outside corner, but make sure to check the angle with a protractor to ensure that the cuts will leave you with a tight joint.
My rules for measuring change slightly depending on the length of the piece. For pieces longer than 6 ft., add about 1/8 in. so that you can spring the piece into place for a tight fit. For pieces shorter than 6 in., subtract a little so that the piece slips in easily between the casing and the corner. For everything else, measure precisely to the nearest 1/32 in.
Cutting corners made easy
Once you’ve recorded all your measurements on a cutlist, it’s time to head for the miter saw, which, by the way, should never be on the floor. Working on a stand with support for the work on each side of the saw is more efficient and more accurate. Many commercial stands have built-in wings, or you can go for a homemade version. Whatever the strategy, the wings should support the work so that it stays flat on the saw. I also attach a straight, flat auxiliary fence to the saw. This added fence supports the trim as it’s being cut and serves as a measuring aid, too. Make the auxiliary fence the maximum height your saw will cut, or at least as tall as the trim you’re cutting and slightly longer than the fence on the saw.
For more photos and tips on how to install baseboards, click the View PDF button below.