Fitting Skirting Boards

How to cut, fit and fix boards

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.

Skirting boards

On this page you will learn;

  • Some of the more common molding types available
  • Complete list of the tools and fixings I use
  • How to cut perfect internal corners
  • How to cut perfect external skirting miters
  • How to fix boards (different methods depending on wall and skirting type)
  • Some of the ways I end boards abruptly, like in the picture above
  • What they are and how they are fitted

    Also known as Base Boards they are the tall decorative moldings mitered, scribed and fitted round 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!

    How to fit Skirting boards

    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° 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:

    join Skirting Boards

    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 boards often have grooves cut in the back to help prevent cupping and are sometimes double sided with one Molding type on each.

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

    Tools to use for accurately fitting MDF and timber Skirting Boards;

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

    There's a page that lists all the tools I use. Set your tools up and make sure you can support long lengths of Skirting Boards either side of the saw too.

    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.

    cutting skirting boards

    Tips for cutting, fitting and fixing Base Boards

    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

    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. Only once that's perfect can the miter be marked. To do that, I hold it in place like in the picture below and mark a line up the back of it.

    external skirting miter

    Place the Baseboard onto the saw bed face down so you can see the pencil line. Tilt the miter saw over to 45 degrees (check with a square) and 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 for more info about how I fix Skirting Boards to different wall types.

    external miter

    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 to Finish Boards

    Quite often you'll come across areas other than straight forward Butts, Scribes and Miters. Below is a picture of small 75mm Bullnose base that I joined to Quadrant that runs on the stair string. 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.

    cutting skirting boards

    The picture below 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 it flows more naturally.

    cutting Skirting Boards

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

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    Internal corners

    internal skirting corner

    Ending boards

    Ending skirting boards

    Fixing boards

    cutting roof rafters

    Plinth blocks

    Architrave plinth blocks

    Pipe boxing

    Skirting pipe boxing