How Far Up Do You Put a Baseboard Before Carpet Is Laid?
The baseboard at the bottom of a wall should always be installed slightly raised from the floor's surface. There are two reasons for this gap, which is generally required by building codes. First, in the event of carpet installation, the gap will need to be there for the edges of the carpet to be tucked under. Second, drywall would wick up moisture from flooded floors or carpet.
Wall Base Construction
The bottom of most interior walls is formed with either a two-by-four lumber sill, lying flat against the floor, or its metal framing equivalent. These pieces are nailed to the subfloor and joists, making them permanently secured. Above this, the wall studs rise vertically with their butt ends on top of the sill. When drywall is installed, it is installed with a 1-inch gap at the bottom to allow wet floors to dry without the moisture soaking up into the drywall. This leaves a gap, through which the sill edge can be seen.
Baseboards are often installed before flooring, since they must be finished in place with either stain or paint and this is much easier without worrying about staining the hardwood, tile or carpet. Cut the baseboard to the correct lengths using a handheld cutting tool. To accommodate finished flooring, the baseboard is typically installed with its bottom edge even with the bottom edge of the drywall. This is usually accomplished with a spacer board of the correct thickness laid onto the floor horizontally, which the baseboard is then installed directly on top of. The spacer is then removed and the resulting gap is filled with base shoe, or quarter round wood, which is installed after the flooring. There is no hard and fast rule as to how high the baseboard must be installed.
When installing baseboard before carpet the easiest thing to do is to install it even with the bottom edge of the drywall, as previously described. In some cases this will not be possible, since not all drywall is spaced above the floor in residential construction, although ideally it should be. In these cases it is best to follow the carpet manufacturer's recommendations for baseboard mounting. Most of them recommend 1 inch to allow room for both pad and carpet. It is also best, if possible, to nail down any tack strip before installing the baseboard to prevent damage to the baseboard from errant hammer strikes. Nail baseboard in place with 2-inch finish nails and a hammer, or an air-powered pin nailer. If base shoe or quarter round is being installed, nail it only to the baseboard, never the floor.
Baseboard installed on top of carpet should be installed at approximately the same height, with this exception: If you are not intending to install quarter round, or base shoe, the baseboard should be installed snugly on top of the carpet. Use a level to help keep the top edge of the baseboard even, since floors may vary in height along the length of your wall. Set the level on the top edge of the baseboard and adjust it until the bubble is centered in the indicator. Nail the baseboard only into the wall, never the floor. Keep your nails less than 1 1/2 inches from the floor to nail into the edge of the wall sill, rather than anchoring to drywall only.
Mark Morris started writing professionally in 1995. He has published a novel and stage plays with SEEDS studio. Morris specializes in many topics and has 15 years of professional carpentry experience. He is a voice, acting and film teacher. He also teaches stage craft and lectures on playwriting for Oklahoma Christian University.
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.
When trim is installed, it needs to be placed so that there’s room for the carpeting underneath. This can make it difficult to know which goes first. Opinions can vary wildly on how to do the installation and why, so it can be difficult to know for sure. Should you start with the carpet or the trim?
Should you install carpet or trim first? You want to install your trim before the carpet. This will make it much easier to paint or stain the baseboards without worrying about dripping on or ruining the carpet.
The good news is that people actually install carpeting and trim in either order, so there isn’t any big reason to worry about it. However, most contractors prefer the trim to go first. Let’s dig into why and how to do it correctly.
Do You Install Carpet or Trim First?
You can actually install carpet and trim in either order. So, if you’ve already done one or the other, no worries. However, if you have the option, you really want to do the trim first. Otherwise you’re going to have to be really careful of the carpet when you’re painting or staining the baseboards.
Does the Order Matter and Why?
Since installs of carpeting and trim are frequently done by different sets of contractors, they’ll often recommend that whatever portion they’re responsible for be done first. That’s because the first one is always easier.
If the carpet is done second, it needs to be tucked underneath the baseboards instead of being just rolled out. And if the trim is done first, then there’s no need to lay out plastic or protective sheeting to protect the carpeting. If you’ve got the choice, then putting up the baseboards first is going to have the least chance of causing further difficulties or complications.
Can’t I Just Paint the Baseboards Before I Install Them?
Typically, baseboards are installed unfinished and are painted or stained in place. This is because, if you paint the trim first, you’ll get nail holes and scuffs in your paint job as you install. Painting first means that you’ll need to take another run through to cover all the defects that build up during installation.
Even if you think you can avoid ruining your carpet by painting the trim before installation. Keep in mind that you’ll still need to come in and touch the paint job up after installation. You’ll still need to protect your carpet during this step, and you can avoid the entire process by just painting the baseboards after they’re on the wall.
Of course, it is always possible that the carpet installers will scratch or scuff the finish on the baseboards, but this damage will usually be minor and easy to quickly cover up. One or two scratches just isn’t the same as nail holes in every board.
Generally speaking, you want to install the trim first and the carpet second. However, since there may be instances where you’re just replacing trim but leaving carpet or have a reason to do the carpet first, I’ll give instructions for both methods.
How to Install Trim First
As I’ve said already, this is the preferred method. The key is to leave a gap so that the carpet can be easily slid underneath the trim. You can do all the staining and painting before you bring the carpet in, so there’s no chance of a spill ruining your brand-new flooring.
- Cut the baseboard – Get your baseboard cut to the exact length of the space you’ll be putting it. If it’s going in a corner, cut a 45-degree angle into it. If the piece isn’t long enough to reach the opposite side, use a 30-degree angle to join the pieces. This will give a cleaner, more seamless look than simply butting boards up against each other.
- Elevate the baseboard – For most carpeting, you want the baseboard nailed in about a quarter of an inch off the ground. Be aware, this height depends on the thickness of your carpet and padding. You may need to install the baseboard an inch or more off the ground. You can use carpentry nails or wooden shims. Place your stoppers underneath either end of the baseboard so that it’s lifted and level.
- Nail it in – Use an air compressor hooked to a trim nailer or a hammer and some finishing nails. You want to place your nails at least two to three inches from the edge of the wood (to prevent splitting) and to place the nail closer to the base. Do this on either side. If you need to put a nail in at the top to keep everything even, be sure to line it up with a stud. Don’t push down on the board as you nail, just let it rest on the spacers.
- Tuck the carpet – Once you get your carpet, you can just tuck it underneath the baseboards. Believe it or not, a crowbar works great to help push the carpet into the gap.
How to Install Carpet First
There may be instances where you want to put the carpet down first. A really thick shag carpet can make it difficult to judge how high to place the trim. Or you may be replacing the baseboards but leaving the carpet. If you’re in one of these situations, follow these instructions to install the trim after the carpet.
- Install the carpet – Install the carpet all the way against the wall. You don’t need to leave any gaps. The trim will be installed on top.
- Cut the baseboard – Get your baseboard cut to the exact length of the space you’ll be putting it. If it’s going in a corner, cut a 45-degree angle into it. If the piece isn’t long enough to reach the opposite side, use a 30-degree angle to join the pieces.
- Place the baseboard – Simply set the baseboard on top of the carpet. You don’t need to push it down at all. Just let it sit where it naturally rests.
- Nail it in – Use an air compressor hooked to a trim nailer or a hammer and some finishing nails. You want to place your nails at least two to three inches from the edge of the wood (to prevent splitting) and to place the nail closer to the base. Do this on either side. If you need to put a nail in at the top to keep it all even, line it up with a stud.
Keeping the Baseboards Elevated
It may seem easier to just not worry about elevating the baseboards. Why can’t I just run the carpet up to the edge of the trim and be done with it? There are two reasons why this isn’t an option. First, you’d be able to see the edge of the carpet, and that just wouldn’t look good. Having the edges tucked gives a much cleaner look.
Second, it’s required by building codes for the trim to be elevated. This gap prevents drywall from soaking up moisture from flooded carpet or flooring. If the drywall were to soak up moisture, it could lead to a loss in structural integrity and cause much more significant damage.
Even though it may seem like a pain, for the appearance of your home and the safety of you and your family, be sure to do the installation the right way the first time. Whether you install the trim first or second, make sure that it’s elevated off the ground.
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