Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
If you’re renovating a room, you may have wondered whether you should install baseboards or carpet first. The order in which you install them may make a difference in how efficient the process is and save you future headaches. So which should be installed first: baseboards or carpet?
Do baseboards go on before or after the carpet? Generally, choosing whether to install baseboards before or after the carpet is a matter of preference.
- If installed before the carpet, you need to leave a gap between the floor and the baseboard. This can make the carpet installation slightly more challenging and you need to be careful not to damage the baseboard when installing the tack strips.
- If installed after the carpet, it is easy to install the carpet all the way to the wall. However, installing the baseboard can be more challenging because if you need to paint or caulk the baseboard you might stain or damage the carpet.
Installing baseboard is a great way to increase the aesthetic appeal of your home. It can add a clean, polished look to any room, whether it is with carpet or hardwood floors. If you choose to hire a professional to install the baseboard, the professionals may have a preference about whether they prefer to install the carpet first or the baseboard first.
The baseboards can be applied either before or after the carpet is installed, so if you already have carpet you shouldn’t be deterred from installing some baseboards. Installing baseboards is something you can do yourself with a little knowledge and the right tools, so read on below to find out more about installing baseboards, both with and without carpet.
What is the Difference Between Baseboard and Trim?
Occasionally, you will hear the terms trim and baseboard used interchangeably, but technically they refer to different things.
Baseboard is a strip of material, usually wood but occasionally plastic or other materials, that runs along the junction between the floor and the wall. It can be varying widths, and some are simple while others are more ornate.
Baseboards serve a decorative purpose but they also have a functional role. Baseboards keep the lowest part of the wall from being damaged and from getting dirty. They also help specifically protect the wall from being scuffed or damaged by shoes.
Trim is a more encompassing term that can include baseboards. Trim applies to any strips of material that are used decoratively throughout the home. Examples of trim include baseboards, crown molding, panel molding, door casing, picture rails, and window trim.
Do Baseboards Need to be Removed to Install Carpet?
Removing baseboards before installing carpet isn’t absolutely necessary, but it can make the task easier in some aspects. If the baseboards are not removed, the tack strips of the carpet will be laid up until the edge of the trim. The edge of the carpet is then rolled under the edge of the baseboard trim.
For the most part, this isn’t too difficult to accomplish. However, it is important to take your time and be careful while installing the carpet. If you aren’t careful, you can accidentally damage the baseboard with the tack strips or with other tools.
Some professional carpet installers may prefer to remove the baseboards before installing carpet, but this is simply a matter of preference rather than a necessity. Usually, this is done so as to avoid damaging the baseboards and to easily ensure the carpet is secured all the way to the wall.
How to Paint Baseboards
Often, you may want to paint your baseboards in order to match walls or add a creative touch to your home. Painting baseboards can be deceptively tricky, so it is helpful to know a few tricks to make the job easier before you decide to begin.
Since baseboards generally lack texture, any small flaw in the baseboard will be visible, even after painting. Because of this, you want to make sure the baseboards are clean and sanded smooth of any blemishes before you begin. It is also important to prime your baseboards if you intend to paint them. Priming also helps flag any troublesome areas you need to fix before you actually apply paint.
Some baseboards are pre-primed. With these, you may not need to prime before painting. Priming is not absolutely necessary, but if you choose not to prime your baseboards you may end up having to paint several layers of paint before you reach the desired opacity level. If your baseboards are somewhere there is a lot of moisture, such as a bathroom, consider using a moisture vapor barrier primer to help protect the baseboards long-term.
For the paint itself, you can choose oil-based, water-based, or an alkyd-acrylic hybrid. Each has advantages and disadvantages:
- Oil-based: dries slower than water-based, so it creates a more even, smooth surface, but also has a longer wait time between coats. Due to environmental concerns, oil-based paints are becoming less common.
- Water-based: compared to oil-based, water-based paint is less durable and harder to clean once it is dried. It dries fast but brush strokes can be more visible if you aren’t adding multiple coats.
- Alkyd-acrylic hybrid: a great compromise between oil-based and water-based paint. It dries fairly quickly but also smoothly, so you don’t have to worry as much about brush strokes or unintentional texture. The downside is that there tends to be less color and finish selections available for alkyd-acrylic paints.
To paint baseboards, it is often easiest to paint them before installation. You can use brushes, rollers, or a paint sprayer; the choice is usually determined by the type of paint you are using and your personal preference. Before painting, make sure to prepare the baseboards by filling any holes or dents, sanding any grit or imperfections, and thoroughly cleaning the surfaces to ensure a flawless paint job.
What is the Best Way to Nail Baseboards?
When you are installing baseboards, they are usually attached to the wall with nails. This may sound simple, but it is usually during this process that we discover interesting quirks of our home such as the walls being bowed or odd angles at corners that are difficult to manage. As such, making sure your baseboards are properly attached can be a critical component in successfully installing baseboards.
Usually, installing baseboards is much easier if you have access to a nail gun. If you don’t have a nail gun, it is worth considering the investment because it makes installing baseboards a breeze and can be used for various other home improvement projects. Finish nail guns are generally the best for baseboards, as these use nail gauges that are specifically for installing trim and generally are able to fit in the angles of corners better.
If you are using a hammer to install baseboards, it will be more time-intensive and there is also a greater risk of damaging the baseboard when installing them. It can also be tricky to hammer in nails in corners or tight spaces.
When installing baseboard, be sure to locate the studs in your wall. As a general rule, for baseboards less than five inches you should use two nails per stud, and anything longer should use three nails per stud.
Baseboards generally will work best with nails that are stout enough to work with thicker material baseboards and long enough to ensure a secure connection to the wall. For most applications, nails that are 2 to 2.5 inches in length are sufficient, and a gauge between 15 and 18 is usually of the appropriate sturdiness.
How to Remove Baseboards
If you decide you want to remove your baseboards, whether to make it easier to install carpet or simply because you want to put up a different baseboard, there are tips to make the job easier. You want to make sure you remove the baseboards in a way that won’t damage them or your walls.
Luckily, this job is made easier if you have a simple tool. A trim puller can come in different sizes and vary slightly in design, but the general idea is the same. The tool lets you slide behind the baseboard and gently loosen the nails securing the baseboard.
Before you begin, you will need to look and see if there is a seal between the baseboard and the wall. This usually occurs if the baseboard was painted at the same time as the wall, especially if painted with a latex paint, which can seep into the space between the baseboard and the wall and create a seal. You will need to use a utility knife to carefully slice through the seam. If your baseboard is caulked to the wall, you will need to apply caulk remover first.
At one end of a piece of baseboard, place the trim puller at the junction between the wall and the baseboard. Use a hammer or mallet to drive the trim puller and wedge it between the baseboard and the wall. Then you will want to gently rock and twist the trim puller to separate the baseboard from the wall. Continue this process at regular intervals down the rest of the baseboard until it is completely removed.
Baseboards can be removed in a similar fashion using other tools, such as a prybar or a thick putty knife, but these tools can be clumsy and aren’t necessarily the best for the job, so it has a higher likelihood of accidentally damaging the wall or baseboard. After the baseboard is removed, you can remove the nails from it with a regular claw hammer or with a pair of pliers.
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