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.
Baseboards are the hallmark of a home. They help make rooms visually appealing and balanced. However, there can also be caveats when it comes to baseboards and the appearance of a room. Over time, you may notice baseboards pulling away from the walls, which can create quite the eyesore.
Baseboards pull away from the walls for many different reasons. Thankfully, most of the time, the pulling is occurring either because of faulty installation, the shifting of the house, warping boards, or shrinking caulk. While you cannot fix a shifting house, you can repair the offensive baseboards to bring back the visual appeal of your home.
In this article, you will learn why baseboards tend to pull away from the walls as well as how you can easily fix baseboards that have pulled away.
Why Are Your Baseboards Pulling Away from the Wall?
Typically, you will not notice baseboards pulling away from your walls until your house has aged a bit. When you see the baseboards pulling away, it can be alarming, but it is not something that requires a lot of time or money to repair. Before you begin to think about repairing the moving baseboards, you need to figure out exactly why they are pulling away.
Here are some of the reasons they may be pulling away:
- Nails missing
- Little to no caulk or shrinking caulk
- Imperfect wall surface
- Incorrect installation
Looking at this list, you can see that none of the causes of the baseboard pulling away are significant and can likely be fixed with just a bit of time and limited supplies.
Common Reasons Baseboards Pull Away and Their Fixes
Baseboards that are pulling away from the wall are not uncommon. There are several reasons that you could be seeing the baseboards beginning to move. In this section, you will learn about those reasons as well as simple fixes.
When baseboards are installed, they should be attached to each stud using two nails. This will allow the baseboard to remain flush against the wall. (Source: This Old House) Sometimes you will see baseboards attached with only one nail, while this may work for a short time, it will likely cause the baseboard to pull away from the wall over time.
Some solutions for this issue include:
- If you look at the baseboard and notice there is only one nail in the baseboard, you have likely found the cause of the pulling. Add more nails.
- Make sure the nails are in an actual stud before proceeding with your repair.
- If the present nail is not in a stud, then you will likely need to insert a second nail at either the top or bottom to solve the problem.
- Use nails that are 1 ½ inches long to ensure a secure hold.
- Using a nail gun will likely be the most time-efficient, but if you do not have a nail gun, you can use a hammer and countersink, so the nail head is below the surface.
- Use wood filler to mask where the nails have been placed.
Little to No Caulk or Shrinking Caulk
It is not always necessary to install a caulk bead along the top of the baseboard. However, it can help it to stay flush against the wall as the home ages. Another issue with caulk is too little caulk being used. When too little caulk is used, it does not support the baseboard as it pulls away from the wall.
Perhaps the baseboards have enough caulk on the top, but it has begun to shrink. When the caulk shrinks, it allows the baseboard to pull away from the wall.
Quick and easy fixes for caulking issues are:
- Not all baseboard installations require caulk. It is often a personal preference. However, it can be a cause for the baseboards pulling away from the wall.
- Putting caulk on the wall can be time-consuming because the caulk bead needs to be precisely right without excess spilling over.
- When choosing caulk, make sure you are using a caulk that can be painted.
Tips for Properly Beading Caulk
Putting caulk on any surface can be challenging. To ensure the best caulk job, it is crucial to have a proper caulk gun. Also, cut the tip of the caulk tube at an angle to help ensure even distribution of caulk against the wall and baseboard.
Imperfect Wall Surface
Unfortunately, not all walls in a home are perfectly straight and flat, which can lead to the baseboard pulling away from the wall. The reasons for an imperfect wall are varied. The most common causes are a buildup of joint compound and tape or a misaligned joint, both of which are things you can not control, so you need to work around them. (Source: Family Handyman)
Solutions that may help remedy an imperfect wall are:
- If there is a large gap between the wall and the top of the baseboard, you will likely need to fill it in with caulk because the baseboard will not be able to make a flush connection with the wall.
- Use paintable caulk.
- An extremely wide gap will likely require foam to fill the excess space before caulking.
- Place the foam below the top of the baseboard before caulking.
- Fill the remaining gap with caulk (this will also cover the foam insert).
Sometimes the baseboards are installed incorrectly. Maybe they were not nailed into the studs, two nails may not have been used, or the caulk could be limited or missing altogether. No matter what the installation problem may be, it can likely be remedied very easily.
Some ways that you may be able to remedy an installation error include:
- Carefully remove the baseboards and reinstall them properly.
- This is will likely be time-consuming because you need to use extreme caution when removing the baseboards.
- Make sure the baseboards are cut to fit the wall properly and then line them up again. (A tip when removing baseboard: assign a number to each wall and write it on the baseboard, so you do not mix the pieces up).
- Replace the baseboards and make sure you are putting nails into the studs at both the top and bottom of the baseboard.
- Add caulk to the top to make a tight fit.
Baseboard Pulling Away from the Bottom of the Wall
If you notice the baseboard is pulling away from the bottom of the wall, you may have a different issue that needs to be dealt with. First, check for the location of the nails in the baseboard. If they are missing from the bottom, this could very well be your cause. However, if the baseboard is installed correctly, there may be an underlying issue that is much more severe.
There is a chance that your foundation is the cause of this baseboard movement. If this is the case, it is likely not something that you can self-diagnose and will need to call in the help of an expert. Again, this may not be a huge issue to fix, but you should seek guidance from a foundation expert to ensure there is not a hidden problem. (Source: AMC 911)
Baseboards look phenomenal in a home and can help to add character; however, if they are improperly installed or older, they can start to pull away from the wall. This is quite common with a variety of simple fixes that can be done with minimal cost and effort. If, at any point, you are questioning the cause of the pulling, seek the help of an experienced contractor.
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