How to cut, fit & fix Skirting Boards - everything you need to know 

This section contains everything you need to know about installing skirting boards to a high professional standard. There's so much to know, I've added separate pages for various aspects and quick links to those are in the right hand column of this page.

What skirting boards are and how they are fitted

Also known as Base Boards (in America) they are the tall decorative moldings mitered, scribed and fitted around a room to cover and tidy the join where the wall meets the floor. They also protect the walls from getting battered by the vacuum cleaner!

When joining skirting boards at an external corner they will be mitered. At an internal corner one board is cut in tight to the wall and the second is cut and 'scribed' to the exact profile / shape of the first board. This is called an internal scribe.

There should only ever be an internal miter if the angle is very shallow, less than 22.5°, like in a bay window for example.

When planning where to start in a room try to avoid having a scribe on one end and a miter on the other if possible. If the wall is so long a single board isn't long enough you will need a Lengthening Joint.

I never Butt join two boards together end to end square, I always join them together with a miter. This helps to hold the two pieces flush, gives the joint a large surface area to glue and they can also be fixed (pinned) to one another. 

It doesn't have to be a 45° miter, as long as both pieces are cut to the same angle it can be slightly less. Anything above 22.5° normally works well and looks neat too.

If you are fixing skirting boards to Stud Work walls, make sure you position the join where there is a timber stud behind that you can fix the end of the overhanging board to. It will look a bit like the below picture, the marker pen on the floor is there so I know the position of the timber studs.

How to fit skirting boards at corners

In a square room, I would normally choose the wall straight in front of me as I walk in to place the first board. The techniques are the same for all the different moldings available and also apply when cutting decorative Dado and Picture Rails.

Taller skirting/base boards can be prone to ‘cupping’ and like the more decorative moldings may need a little extra attention, I’ll show you how to get a perfect fit on those too.

Common types of Molding

You can actually use almost anything as a Skirting Board. You can if you're feeling creative even make your own with a Router and some cutters. Manufactured timber boards often have grooves cut in the back to help prevent cupping and are sometimes double sided with one Molding type on each. MDF tends to be flat but doesn't warp or twist at all.

Some of the common types of Skirting Board Moldings available off the shelf though include;

  • Square
  • Bullnose 
  • Chamfered 
  • Pencil Round 
  • Ovolo
  • Torus 
  • and Ogee

They are available in several different materials too, like

  • Softwood (Pine, Douglas Fir for e.g),
  • Hardwood (Oak, Mahogany, Bamboo for etc)
  • and MDF.

Complete list of the skirting board tools I use 

I've put together a list on this page of all the skirting board tools you need if you want to get perfect joints, miters, scribes and to fix the boards firmly to each other and the walls. Each tool has a quick description of where/why I use it:

  • Mitre/Chop saw
  • If you are a DIYer or new to carpentry, think about investing in a chopsaw. I've got a huge Dewalt saw but you don't need to spend loads of money there are cheaper ones available. Cutting Skirting boards is possible with a hand powered mitre saw, but really only a power saw can cut the tiny amounts off for absolutely fine tuning perfect mitres and scribes.

  • Tape Measure
  • Self explanatory, for trim/finish carpentry work like skirting boards I use a 8m pocket tape measure.

  • Compass and a Jigsaw
  • I've got a Faithfull 200mm Square Leg Divider/ Compass also to scribe internal corners. Quite often boards are cupped (curved) and not 100% flat/upright. In these instances the compass can be used to scribe the exact shape onto the next board for a perfect fit. Once the shape is scribed onto the next board, if it's not straight I use a jigsaw and/or coping saw to cut it out.

  • Coping saw
  • The coping saw is like a hand powered jigsaw with a finer blade. Essential for cutting the intricate details when scribing internal corner joints. I use a Fat Max coping saw.

  • Wood Glue
  • I use Gripfill or no more nails to stick skirting boards to walls, PVA to glue the miters together. There's more info about the most common types of wood glue and their best uses here.

  • Sharp Pencil
  • You need a sharp pencil to mark accurate lines to cut to. Instead of using chunky carpenters pencils I use a sharp HB.

  • Nail-gun
  • If you're a DIY carpenter, unless you do a lot of carpentry work you might not be able to justify the cost of buying a nail-gun. If you can, get yourself a Dewalt nail-gun. I used to have a Paslode 2nd fix nail-gun, but it always needed servicing and would often not fire, really annoying when you're holding timber in position ready to fix. It's so frustrating when you've spent a lot of money on a tool and it lets you down. I'm sure the new ones have got a lot better since my old one, but my Dewalt fires nails faster than I ever need and the only thing that's gone wrong with it since I bought it is that the firing pin bent - because I fired into hard masonry. It was my fault, and it cost me £12 to fix (around $20). Other than that all I pay for is nails, no gas or regular servicing like the old Paslode. For skirting, I use it to pin mitres together and also with long nails to fix MDF skirting boards to the walls. The pins hold it in place while the 'no more nails' (a type of glue) sticks it.

    • Nails, punches, screws and a battery drill

    I've written a whole page about fixing skirting boards because there are so many different types of boards and walls, the best method to fix them to the wall is different for each.

    You've got to have the right tools for the job!

    I've got an extendable stand (below) but if you don't have one or anything similar you can improvise with things you can generally find on site.

    Put the Chop Saw on trestles and planks or scaffold boards and use timber either side the same height as the saws bed to support the ends of the Skirting Board.

    Step by step guide for cutting, fitting and fixing skirting boards to the walls

    • Step 1: Get set up, determine how you will fix the Boards to the wall                                 

    To find out what the walls are constructed of and so what fixings to use, bang a nail into the wall somewhere it will later be covered by the skirting. (Make sure you don't do this below an electric socket or anywhere else there may be a cable!) 

    For masonry, either drill, plug and screw them or use cut nails. Sometimes even both.

    For Stud Work, use 75mm Lost Head nails and/or screws.

    When fixing MDF Baseboards to Metal Stud Partition walls, like in new houses I use a glue like ‘No More Nails’ or Gripfill and then fix in place with my brad nailer to hold them until the glue goes off.

    If you are fixing to Stud Work then before you start anything else locate all the studs (when building stud work you can save yourself time at this stage by marking the position of the studs onto the floor). There should be one in every corner and then at equal distances of either 400, 450, 500 or 600mm apart. Bang a Brad Awl into the wall, again below the height of the Skirting so the hole won’t be seen later. Once you’ve found two or three, you can measure the distance apart they are to help find the rest.

    A safe way is to use a Stud Detector that locates pipes as well, it could save you thousands. Mark all of the Studs onto the floor so you know where to nail/screw later(you can put a faint pencil line on the wall if necessary).

    • Step 2: Cut the first board

    Normally the first board to cut in is tight in between two walls. 

    When I measure this board I hold the tape off the floor at the same height as the top edge of the Skirting Board. Normally I add 2-3mm and mark this on the top edge of the board, you can always cut more off if it’s too long but usually that extra couple of millimeters digs into the plaster a little if anything. I cut the ends slightly out of square so that the bottom edge (that touches the floor) is 5-6mm shorter overall than the top edge.

    cutting Skirting Boards to length

    No one will ever see this as the next boards will scribe into these corners and cover them. I always do this as plasterers often leave more plaster at the bottom of the wall and this allows the top edges to fit tightly in between the corners without the bottom getting in the way. 

    Also, because I add a couple of millimeters and the board may need to dig in to the wall a little, it's much easier for it to dig in if it's only the top corner of the board and not the whole edge.

    This isn’t always necessary but cutting it out of square every time saves you going back to the saw on occasions when the plasterers have been lazy!

    Nail or screw this tight to the wall. I fix two nails in every stud when they are 400mm apart so aim for a similar amount of fixings in masonry. If there are still gaps put more nails/screws in. When fixing close to the ends of the Boards drill Pilot Holes for nails or blunt the tip of the nail with a hammer first to help avoid splitting the board.

    • Step 3: How to cut the corners

    Click here to see how I scribe perfect internal corners using a compass.

    90° Outside corners get mitered at 45°. The miter is cut last, so I fit the opposite end first (that could be butting into a wall or scribed into another piece). Only once that's perfect can the miter be marked.

    To do that, I hold it in place like in the picture below left and mark a line up the back of it.

    Next, place the board onto the chop saw bed face down so you can see the pencil line. Tilt the miter saw over to 45 degrees (check with a square) and slowly cut the Skirting miter, keeping the saw blade to the 'waste side' and leaving the pencil line in.

    Repeat the process for the opposing miter, put them in place and push the two together to make sure they fit, trim a bit more off if they are too long.

    • Step 4: Fixing Skirting Boards

    I glue and pin the miter together with panel pins and plenty of wood glue before fixing the two pieces to the wall.

    Click here to go to a whole page about how I fix Skirting Boards to different wall types.

    Once that's fixed together neatly I screw/nail the Boards to the wall. Punch the nails under the surface and sand off any remaining pencil lines.

    Other ways I use to Finish Skirting Boards 

    Quite often you'll come across areas other than straight forward Butts, Scribes and Miters. Below left is a picture of small 75mm Bullnose skirting board that I joined to Quadrant that runs up the stair stringer. This means the molding shape carries on continuously from the door at the bottom of the stairs all the way up to the one at the top and looks really good.

    The picture below right shows how I did the same with my Torus skirting boards at home as well. Ideally when you fit stairs you should cut the string off at the same height as the bottom of the Molding so you don't have the step and it flows more naturally.

    Continuous skirting boards up the stair stringers

    Click here for more of the methods I use when <b>ending boards.

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