When I am fixing skirting boards I lean on an off-cut like below to push the boards down tight to the floor as I nail or screw them to the wall. Doing this helps get the boards really tight to the floor without any unsightly gaps.
Q: Do you use dowels, nails, Screws/Rawl plugs, or a strong glue like no more nails to attach skirting boards to the walls? The answer quite often, is all of the above!
It all depends on the type of wall I'm fixing to, and whether I'm fixing skirting boards made of normal timber or MDF. It might sound stupid but you use whatever you need to. If a nail won't hold, (maybe the board wants to spring back) then it needs to be screwed. And if beating a nail or winding a screw in even when pre-drilled and countersunk will split the skirting because it is so short or small - use no more nails or ideally Gripfill. Because I have all of these in my finish carpentry fixings tray I can use the most suitable for any given situation.
When fixing a lengthening joint or an external miter I always glue and pin the mitre together with tiny veneer pins or 20mm panel pins, depending on the skirting board. If it's hardwood or MDF skirting board a stronger pin is usually needed.
When attaching boards to stud-work walls I mainly nail them with 70mm lost-head nails. Sometimes I Pre-drill if I need to nail right on the end of a board to prevent it splitting. Even if the nail doesn't split it at first, sometimes punching the head in can, which is annoying! To pre-drill, use a drill bit slightly smaller than the thickness of the nail.
If a nail won't hold the timber back to the stud wall because the board has an outward bow for example, drill, countersink and screw with 70mm screws.
If I am fixing a small piece about two inches long and nailing or screwing is likely to split the board I use Gripfill or no more nails on the back, and maybe pin it with my nailgun as well just to hold it in place until the glue goes off.
There are a couple of different ways to fix skirting boards to masonry. There are also different types of masonry and so that may affect which method to use.
Before power tools like cordless drills a carpenter would use cut nails. These were thick propeller shaped nails that twisted as they were driven in helping to grip the material. They're very rarely used anymore as it's far easier and less likely to split boards by either using Rawl plugs and screws, or dowels and lost head nails. Screwing obviously leaves bigger holes to fill but nailing into dowels although it takes a lot longer it is a much tidier method. Especially if the skirting boards are to be stained and filling kept to a minimum.
When drilling, move the drill bit in and out every now and then while it's spinning to help clear the dust from the hole that will otherwise slow the bit down.
Red plugs and 70mm screws are usually large enough to get a good fixing. Or 10mm dowels (cut to about 40-50mm long) and 55-70mm lost-head nails (sometimes called bullet head nails). If you are fixing to soft brick or Thermalite blocks, drill with a 5-5.5mm masonry bit but don't use the hammer action unless absolutely necessary. I always test a hole first by drilling normally and if I don't get anywhere fast turn on the hammer action.
If the bricks are hard or for concrete blocks you have to use hammer action or else the drill bit will just burn and blunt within seconds.
Once the hole is drilled, push a plug through the skirting into the wall and use a screw and hammer to beat it through if need be. Buzz the screw up with a cordless drill, if the screw head just spins instead of pulling the board up tight remove the screw and put another plug in the hole before trying again. That normally solves the problem, unless the material behind has just shattered because drilling was too quick. In this case abandon the hole and try again.
The great thing about MDF is it doesn't warp, twist or bow so fixing skirting boards to metal stud walls is easy. Instead of grip fill which is thick and doesn't disperse well behind the board use No More Nails and run a couple of beads along the back of the board before attaching to the wall. Slide left and right a bit to spread the glue and get it to form a kinda of vacuum that holds itself to the wall, then if necessary pin with a finish nail-gun to hold in place until the glue goes off. I even use the no more nails as a caulk to seal the top edge of the board to the wall ready for painting.
For attaching MDF to uneven masonry walls, drill a pilot hole and countersink before using a masonry drill like before.
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