Tutorial: Painting the Baseboards

Window and door casings, as well as crown molding, are just a few examples of interior trim that can be painted to give a room a new, modern look. And the same logic applies to baseboards. One of the most noticeable changes you can make to the look of a room is to paint the baseboards. You can't

Window and door casings, as well as crown molding, are just a few examples of interior trim that can be painted to give a room a new, modern look. And the same logic applies to baseboards. One of the most noticeable changes you can make to the look of a room is to paint the baseboards. You can't beat the way a freshly painted baseboard makes a room look.

You can paint baseboards with either latex or oil-based paint, but latex (water-based) paint is much more maintenance-friendly. Whether you're using latex or oil-based paint, you can choose from a variety of sheen levels, but a slightly glossy finish is recommended for baseboards because it's more scratch-resistant and easier to clean than a flat finish. Baseboards look best when painted in a semi-gloss or high-gloss finish.

In most cases, baseboards are painted after they have been installed. When painting the baseboards, it is sometimes more convenient to remove them and do so in a different area.

To remove the baseboards from a house that is either brand new or has not been extensively remodeled over the years, all you need is a thin pry bar and your fingers. In fact, baseboards are typically removed and replaced by professionals who sand wood floors as standard procedure. A lot of the time, it's not much more work and the end result is much more pleasing to the eye.

Always paint the baseboards before installing them if they haven't already been done. It's to be expected that the paint job will sustain some minor damage during installation. Installing the baseboards comes after most of the painting has been completed.

Wall damage may be difficult to repair if the baseboards are removed from an older home with many layers of paint covering the wall-to-baseboard joint. The wall paint and possibly the drywall paper or plaster above it will be ripped up with the baseboard paint as it is ripped. Scoring along the seams with a utility knife can reduce damage as you pry free old baseboards if you decide to remove them.

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  • TSP, or trisodium phosphate
  • Masking tape
  • Film for masking (if necessary).
  • Wood putty
  • The use of a sanding sponge or fine-grit sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Latex paint, either semi- or highly-glossy

Margot Cavin's The Spruce.

  1. When painting over previously painted baseboards, it is especially important to clean the surfaces thoroughly (open-pore wood baseboards should not be cleaned with water). One of the dirtiest parts of a home is the area near the floor, where dirt and grime accumulate.

    Drop cloths should be laid out to shield the floor. Trisodium phosphate (TSP) should be dissolved in water in a bucket, as directed by the manufacturer. Scrub the baseboards with the cleaning solution and a sponge. Dust collects easily on flat surfaces, so wipe down the tops of the baseboards.

    TSP is a powerful chemical cleaner and deglosser that can be used on many different surfaces. Due to the slight etching action, glass, mirrors, and aluminum can all be damaged. Furthermore, it has the potential to dull high-gloss floor finishes. Skin and eyes are especially vulnerable to TSP's toxicity. When handling TSP, it's crucial to always wear protective gear like goggles, gloves, and long sleeves.

    An excerpt from Margot Cavin's The Spruce

  2. Wood filler applied with a putty knife can be used to patch and fill large dings and holes that have developed over time before painting is removed. The depressions in your nails should be filled, but the tiny ones at the tips can be left alone. It may be simpler to simply paint over the tiny divots left by a brad nailer if the sink depth was properly calibrated. Wood filler should be used to cover nail holes in the baseboards if they were installed with finish nails.

    Author(s): Margot Cavin.

  3. Before priming, smooth any areas where wood putty or filler was used and any rough spots on older baseboards. In most cases, sanding by hand with a piece of sandpaper is adequate, though a flexible sanding sponge may also be used.

    With older baseboards that have likely seen multiple coats of paint, sanding is more of a necessity.

    Margot Cavin's The Spruce

  4. The lower edge of the wall right above the baseboards, as well as the transition between the floor and the baseboards, should be taped off with low-stick painter's tape. It takes time to mask off areas to be painted, but the end result is a job that is done more quickly and with fewer brush strokes. A single strip of painter's tape along the baseboard may be all that's necessary to prevent paint from seeping through if you're a careful painter. Because of the difficulty in removing the masking tape from the floor after the paint has dried, careful application of the paint is still required, even when using masking.

    Use masking film to prevent paint from seeping under the baseboard and onto the wall. Spread the film upward from the point where it meets the wall and baseboards using the masking tape edge as a guide. Static electricity will cause the film to adhere to the wall by itself.

    To avoid the use of masking tape, some painters prefer to "freehand" when painting baseboards. Painting baseboards using the cut-in method (without masking off surfaces) is much more challenging than painting easily accessible door and window trim. The horizontal plane of the wall makes masking off the baseboards a breeze.

    Author(s): Margot Cavin.

  5. Always prime baseboards before painting, whether they came with primer already applied at the factory or not. Priming baseboards that have been primed or painted before is sometimes necessary, but not always necessary if the surface has been properly cleaned.

    To prepare the primer, combine its components thoroughly. Prime the baseboards using horizontal strokes after dipping the brush in the primer (but not too deeply, or you'll get drips and runs).

    Holding the brush between thumb and forefinger like a pen, and moving it in a horizontal motion with the tips of the bristles slightly depressed against the baseboard, is the most effective way to paint. Fill the brush to about a third of the bristle length. It's best to paint with long, slow strokes. Keep a wet edge as you work your way along the baseboard, going back over freshly painted edges before they dry. Helps avoid unsightly lap marks

    Please follow the manufacturer's instructions for drying the primer.

    "The Spruce" by Margot Cavin.

  6. You may want to take your paint can in for a good shaking if it has been sitting for more than a few days. Or, after you've opened the can, give it a good stir. Put the can's top in a safe location away from your desk.

    Similar to priming, avoid dipping the brush more than a third of the way into the paint. Use less paint than you think you'll need for the first coat. Use long, sweeping strokes to paint along the baseboards. Always keep a wet edge as you overlap your strokes to avoid creating lap marks.

    Wrap your paintbrush in plastic food wrap or an old plastic bag and secure with a rubber band to keep it from drying out between coats. The paintbrush should be kept in a cool, dark place or the refrigerator's isolated crisper drawer between coats.

    The baseboards need at least one full day to dry after the first coat. Apply another coat of paint once the first one has dried. Before applying a second coat of high-gloss paint, some artists prefer to give the surface a light scuff with fine sandpaper. This provides "tooth" to the smooth surface, allowing the second coat to better adhere.

    Put the painter's tape back on after it has dried as directed.

    Author(s): Margot Cavin.

  7. Wash your paintbrushes, rollers, and storage containers with soap and water before you use them again. Take care of your brush and it will last you for years.

    Author: Meg MacDonald; Title: The Spruce

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