Last edited 01 Oct 2020

How to fit skirting boards

Skirting boards, also known as baseboards, are boards that run around the lowest part of an interior wall. Typically, they cover the joint between the floor and the wall surface. They are often made from timber but can also be made from mdf, plastics, vinyl. For more information, see Skirting boards.

In general, in order to ensure a neat finish, skirting boards should be installed after flooring has been laid unless it is to be carpeted, in which case it is preferable to fit skirting boards first to enable the carpet to be fitted to a clean, straight edge.

If skirting boards are being replaced, the old skirting should be carefully removed, avoiding damaging any adjacent wall surfaces. This can best be done by placing a bolster chisel to prise away the top edge before using a crowbar to remove it fully.

The next step is to measure the length of wall being fitted with skirting boards. It is advisable to add a contingency of 20% onto the final figure.

Each piece of board should be marked on the side that is intended to be outward facing so as to avoid inconsistencies. If the boards are timber, the back should be coated with preservative before being fitted (some skirting is pre-primed and does not need further protection on the internal face).

The first board to be fitted should be one that has square-edged cuts at either end. The top edge of the board should be marked to indicate where to cut it. Using a mitre saw or mitre box, the board can be cut straight.

The wall construction will determine the type of fixing. Masonry nails or screws are the most suitable for masonry walls, while oval wire nails are most suitable for stud walls. If skirting boards are replacing old ones, the existing fixing points can be used again. If fixing to a plasterboard wall, the skirting can be fixed using a drill at the position of the timber studs. If fixing to a solid wall, the skirting can be drilled at regular intervals, after checking for pipes or cables behind the fixing positions. Adhesives are also commonly used, and should be evenly spread over the back of the board, pressed and held in position, using props if necessary.

On internal corners, a mitre saw or mitre box should be used to ‘scribe’ the next board, that is cut the end to match the profile of the first board so it can be slotted into it. This can be done by cutting a mitre on the end of the board, then cutting along the profile of the mitre and removing that part.

For external corners of walls, where boards meet, both pieces should be mitred at a 45-degree angle, in opposite directions, in order to achieve a neat join.

The reason a double mitre is not used on internal corners is that skirting boards may shrink over time, and a scribed corner will tend to expose this shrinkage less than a mitred corner.

Once all the boards are fitted, decorator’s caulk can be used to fill any gaps between the top of the board and the wall. Once this is dry the boards can be painted.

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