Every house has baseboard which is installed when a house is built. You might replace your baseboard when remodeling or refinishing your floors. If your house floods, replacing baseboard will be one of the many things needed to return your home to it's pre-flood condition. The big question is when to remove the baseboard?
Unless you've lived through a remodeling project, you probably aren't familiar with what is hiding behind baseboards.
Benefits of Baseboard in Home Construction
Baseboard is used to cover up the joint where the wall surface material (typically drywall) meets the floor. It can help hide the uneven flooring next to the wall although I remember discussing during the remodel of my 100 year old Victorian (floors not perfectly level between old and new subfloor), if we should:
- Place the baseboard on top of the new tile flooring or …
- Install the baseboard and butt the tile up to the baseboard?
Baseboard can be decorative but once installed, it protects the walls from damage due to furniture, kicking or rubbing against the walls.
Replacing Baseboard – Removing Damaged Baseboard
After a house floods, the priority is to dry everything out as quickly as possible. You only have 24 to 48 hours to lower moisture levels before mold will start growing. It's typical that baseboard, drywall and insulation is removed quickly to dry out the house. When you open up the walls, you're able to dry out living areas and wall cavities where mold with enough humidity, will grow on drywall paper. Here's what that looks like …
Here are the steps involved in removing baseboard. They're comprehensive for those who plan to reuse their baseboard as well as those who need to replace the baseboard due to damage from flooding. Many thanks to James Kruger's video, Baseboard Removal the Best Way, which you can watch to gain a better understanding of each step outlined here.
- Use a utility knife to cut the caulking, to separate the baseboard from the drywall as cleanly as possible. You can see below what happens when you let the water force the baseboard away from the drywall.
- Cut the caulking between adjacent pieces of baseboard before you try to remove the baseboard.
- Use a 5-in-1 painting tool to lift the baseboard up until you can slide a prybar into the space. Put something down to protect the floor from the prybar. This will also make it easier to clean up dust and debris.
Note: Most people will insert the prybar behind the wall at the top of the baseboard using a hardboard to protect the drywall. By inserting the prybar at the bottom, you avoid damaging the top of the board which is more fragile and visible when re-installed.
- Place the prybar behind the baseboard and twist it without touching the wall, to pull the baseboard off.
- With the baseboard off, pull out nails or if they're really short, hammer them into the wall. Run your 5-in-1 along the exposed drywall area to make sure you didn't miss any nails.
- Carefully using a 5-in-1, remove any caulking left on the drywall.
- Clean caulking left on the baseboard if you plan to reuse it:
- Scrape caulking off the back of the baseboard.
- Carefully plane caulking off the top of the board and along the mitre corners.
- Use a file to shave down the “blow out” where the nails penetrated the baseboard.
- Number each piece of baseboard and the wall where it came from, so you know where it belongs when re-installing the baseboard.
Here's the mess you own when you (or the water mitigation company hired by your insurance company) doesn't remove baseboards in a flooded house.
Replacing Baseboard – Installing New Baseboard
Replacing baseboard implies you're installing baseboard where there was some previously. If you're installing the baseboard against old drywall, make sure it's clean and smooth before you start (see tips above). Thanks to Jessie from CanaDIYan's video, How to Install Baseboard and Corners Like a Pro … for help with some of the details. Of course I always have my personal 2 cents to add:
- Check the moisture content of the baseboard you're installing. Wood should be less than 8 percent while MDF (medium-density fiberboard) should be less than 5 percent.
- Lay out your baseboard before you start installing to minimize the number of cuts needed, especially if you're using baseboard shorter than 16 linear feet. You can plan cuts (recommend scarf cuts) in less visible areas, like those behind furniture.
So let's get started replacing baseboard like I'll be doing in my home shortly.
- Buy pre-primed baseboard or make sure to paint it before installing.
- Place baseboard up against wall or door trim, then mark the other end about 1/8″ longer than you need. That allows for mistakes and if you have to shorten the board, it's easier to cut the straight edge.
- Mark the board where you want to start and end your cuts, then cut the baseboard.
- Slide the board into place to check the fit. Shave off (one/multiple cuts) just enough wood for a perfect fit.
- Glue outside mitre corners (one hour to dry) and tape in place, to hold them tight before you start nailing. Use painters tape which is less sticky and won't leave residue on your boards.
- Carefully remove the tape and nail the mitre corners first, offsetting the nails on adjacent boards.
- Use a stud finder to find the first stud from the corner. Verify the next stud is 16 (or 24) inches on center and nail the rest of the baseboard at each stud, 2 nails per stud.
- Because MDF swells up, take a putty knife and shave the tops off to flatten them out.
- Fill the nail holes with spackling (drywall) compound (pink, turns white when it's dry).
- Caulk the seams while the drywall compound dries. Use a trim and baseboard silicone (more expensive because it's very flexible) … but watch the video for even more detailed tips.
- Paint the nail holes with a quality brush for a nice finish.
Now you know what's involved when replacing baseboard. If you're handy and it's a small job, you can certainly do this with the enough time and patience. For my 2,200 sq ft home with more than 500 linear feet of baseboard, there is no way I want to get involved in replacing the baseboard!