First Floor Remodel Update: How to Install Baseboards

After finishing up the laminate floor installation our next big project was installing baseboards with quarter round.  This project took us forrrreevveerrrrrrr  We started in on it feeling ambitious and chipper (as usual), then received very short notice that JG would need to leave for a month to Ft. Irwin (blehhhhrg).  During JG’s trip I spent most of my time in Oregon with family.  After JG returned from said trip we had two weekends at home before JG took off again for another training.  Fast forward 4-5 months and we are finally done with the baseboards (only downstairs)!!

This is what we were working with before. . .  Carpet, tan walls and tan-ish/brown-ish skinny baseboards.  The tan skinny trim goes throughout the entire house.  So, we still have to replace the trim on the 2nd level.

We picked out a fairly basic “tall” baseboard, pre-primed 5-1/4″ X 9/16″ X 96″) ($9 per 96″)with a little detail at the top.  We also picked out pre-finished white quarter round molding (¢94 per linear foot) to go at the base. Some people use shoe molding instead of quarter round; I didn’t realize there was a difference until we started researching.  We had to use quarter round regardless to properly cover our gaps between the floor and wall.  I found this Shoe Molding vs. Quarter round blog entry by Hardwood Floors helpful in explaining the differences between quarter round and shoe molding and why you might choose one over the other.


  • Baseboard
  • Quarter Round
  • Paintable Caulking
  • White wood filler
  • Sand Paper 220 Grit
  • Paint
  • Painters Tape


  • Miter Saw: We use our electric miter saw, but you COULD use a hand miter saw, I wouldn’t recommend it for a huge project.  That would be absolutely terrible.
  • Nail gun: Or hammer + nail punch. Again if you’re doing a small project the hammer + nail punch would suffice.  However, with a huge project this has potential to be terrible.
  • Hammer
  • Nail Punch: Although we had a nail gun, we needed a nail punch and hammer to drive in a few nails that didn’t go in all the way.
  • Stud finder:  Not 100% necessary but having one handy makes life easier.

Step 1: Calculate how much baseboard you’ll need

Before we went out and bought our baseboards we made a rough sketch of our downstairs to estimate how much material we’d need.  Make sure to include inside closets, pantries, door frames, window frames, etc (anything you plan on putting trim on).  We actually kept a separate list of door measurements because we decided to go with a different trim around the doors (except the front door).  So my advice is to keep your door measurements separate.  Also, quarter round isn’t needed for door trim.

Add all room measurements together and divide by 12 to figure out the linear square footage needed for your project (do the same for your doors).  We added an extra 10 percent to our total to cover our rears for mistakes we were bound to make during the installation process.

Step 2:  Purchase Supplies!

Since the 16′ boards weren’t going to fit in our trusty Volvo we waited for Grandpa P (from here on out Grandpil) to bring up his rusty truck to help us haul it home.

REAL trucks have scratches and dents right? . . and lots of rust….. right?  I love the fact that Grandpil’s truck is an old beater.  We don’t have to be overly worried about scratches when we borrow it for projects.  You should see the looks we get while riding around in it 🙂

If you want to be really on top of your game, you should bring your baseboards and quarter round inside to acclimate… Our baseboards sat in the garage, and that seemed to be fine for us…

Step 3: Finding Studs

 Note: Some tutorials suggest starting at the longest wall with a scarf joint (Scarf joint will be explained later).  We decided for us it would be best to start in our dining room, it just seemed smaller and less daunting.  We did make sure to reserve enough long pieces for the long sections (you don’t want to start in on shorter walls and end up with a bunch of short pieces for long sections).  Also, before starting some tutorials also suggest  establishing a baseboard height.  Again, we went rouge and didn’t do this and ended up fine.  However, we live in a fairly new(ish) house and things aren’t terribly uneven.  If you live in an older house that happens to be crooked, this is probably worth doing.
This is what we started off with.  We left the spacers in after installing the floors.  We nailed the spacers in so we had to pry them out with a crow-bar.  We also trimmed the underlayment  still sticking out. Check out the wall coat rack we made with the left over wall spacer scraps!

Next, we marked off studs with painters tape.  We used a stud finder, ours is a Zircon MultiScanner i520 and we really like it, no complaints.  If you don’t have a stud finder you can find studs via nail fishing (our own name for it).  Basically hammering a nail where you think a stud is and based on how the nail goes in you figure out if a stud is there(not an ideal method).  We did a lot of nail fishing while our stud finder was missing somewhere in our chaotic garage.

If you don’t have a stud finder, here are some tips for finding studs:

  • Electrical boxes (electrical boxes and switches) have a stud on one side
  • You will find studs on either sides of windows
  • Most of the time studs have a spacing of 16″ Once you find a stud, you should be able to measure out 16″ between each stud center
I die… Seriously, BH is cute .  Doing home improvement is hard, and with a baby it’s harder.  I can’t wait until BH is old enough to teach him how to build stuff/use tools (obviously a long ways off).  He loves the stud finder.

We marked stud centers off with painters tape.   At first we marked the studs on the wall and then realized that the marks would be covered up by the baseboard when we started nailing it in…duh.

Step 4: Make Your Cuts!

After finding and marking out all the studs you can finally start the installation process!!

Doing mitered cuts always seemed daunting to me.  It’s something I can do, but have always felt uncomfortable making the cuts.  Taking on the baseboards has been fantastic for me (Dorris) because it forced me into making tons of mitered cuts.  About a million cuts later I feel like an accomplished miter cutter 🙂

Our house has straightforward corners, nothing fancy.  All of our cuts were basic 45° angles.  I’m glad all cuts were all 45°, I think my brain would have melted if I had to figure anything beyond a 45° angle.

Below are examples of the different types of cuts we made.

Outside Joints (AKA Outside Corners):

For outside corners we made a pencil mark on the board to indicate where the wall ends.  We also made a mark to remind us which direction the cut needed to go.  You’d think it wouldn’t be hard to remember which way your cut should go.  You WOULD think. . . but I can not even tell you how many times each of us came back with our freshly cut board only to find that we were idiots and cut it the wrong way and had to start over on a new piece.  Since I didn’t take great pictures, here’s a diagram (This diagram should work for baseboard or quarter round)

When you get to an outside corner, set the first piece so it extends past the outside corner; mark it
When you encounter the doorway, measure the distance between the door casing and the wall. This piece will butt against the door casing with a 90-degree angle cut.

Inside Joints (AKA Inside Corners)

Scarf Joints:

When installing baseboards/quarter round the goal is to run a single unbroken length on every wall.  Sometimes that isn’t possible because walls are longer than your baseboards/quarter round pieces.  So instead of just butting two 90 degree angled boards up against each other it’s best to create a scarf joint by  cutting one baseboard at a 45 degree angle (bevel facing the room) with the second piece cut at a 45 degree angle (facing the wall.  After that glue and nail the pieces in and you’ve completed your scarf joint!

I didn’t take any good pictures of this cut. . . So this will have to do. . . .

Door Casings:

Please excuse the terrible paint job on the left (the floor boards haven’t been painted yet, it’s a long work in progress)

For the front door we decided to do something different.  Instead of installing regular door casings, we decided to continue the floor boards up around the door, kind of like a picture frame.  We would have done this for all the doors, but the baseboard wouldn’t fit around most of our doors.  I tried doing some Google research to see if there was a reason why floor boards shouldn’t be continued around the door but couldn’t come up with anything.  Does anybody know why this isn’t ever done?  Other than preferring the regular door casing look over the picture frame door casing?

Eventually these doors will both be painted.  All our interior doors are the ugly faux wood on the left, and the exterior doors are all metal and painted tan.  The interior doors will eventually be white.  Any thoughts on what we should paint the exterior doors?  We’re leaning towards a dark blue at the moment.

Cutting Quarter Round Returns, or End Caps

Instead of having the quarter round just end when meeting a door casing, we cut quarter round returns, also known as end caps.  These were a pain to do, but worth it.  After cutting we nailed and glued the pieces in.  Here’s a video to show how to make this cut.

Step 5: Nail Baseboards and Quarter Round in

Nail your baseboards into the previously marked studs!  We used our nail gun for this. We used 2-1/2″ 16 Gage for the Baseboards, and 1-1/4″ 18 Gage for the quarter round.   We nailed the baseboards twice, one near the top, and one near the bottom where it would be covered by the quarter round.  The quarter round got nailed once.  We had a nail and nail punch handy for when the nails didn’t go all the way in.
If you don’t have a nail gun, you can use a hammer and nail punch.  If you’re just doing a small job using a hammer and nail punch is doable.  If you’re doing a big job I’d consider renting or buying a nail gun.  We would have lost our marbles using a hammer and nail punch to get this job done.

 Step 6: Fill in Nail Holes and Gaps

Next we filled in any holes and gaps with caulking or white wood filler.
Inside Corners we used caulking.  Outside corners and nail holes we used white wood filler, to fill any holes or gaps and sanded after it dried with 220 grit sand paper.  To help protect our laminate floors we caulked at the base of all the baseboards and quarter round.  It’s really important that we keep moisture from getting underneath the flooring.  So we figured it would give it a little extra protection.

Step 7: Paint!

This is where we’re at right now.  Painting is an absolute terrible chore.  We chose ultra white high gloss for the paint.  The kitchen baseboard/quarter round is paint matched to the off white we chose for the cabinets.  For now I’ll share the dining room picture since the paint is done in there.  We love the baseboards.  It really gives the downstairs a a finished look.  We can’t wait until we’re completely done remodeling, it feels like the end is finally in reach.

The finished product (I’m too lazy to clean up more than one room for pictures, so here’s the dining room :-))