Installing Baseboard Molding
LESLIE: Kyle in Iowa needs some help installing some trim. Tell us what you’re working on.
KYLE: We just put in some new Willamette wood floors a couple weeks ago and we decided to rip out all the old – you know, the construction trim that comes with the newer homes and …
TOM: Baseboard molding?
KYLE: Yeah, the baseboard molding. And we’ve decided to upgrade to – I think it’s about a 5¼-inch tall, almost ½-inch-thick baseboard, to kind of upgrade the look around the house.
And I’m just having a hard time. I’m using my buddy’s miter saw and it’s not tall enough to do a vertical cut for my outside corners. And every time I lay it horizontally and try to tilt the miter saw to cut it, there’s no real clamping mechanism on it to hold the boards in place. And every time I push the miter saw into it, it moves it just slight enough to where my angles for when I try to do a scarfing or an outside corner – it just kind of pushes my angles off on it just a little bit and it’s making the process harder.
TOM: Well, let me ask you this: when you’re making your baseboard cuts for an inside corner, are you mitering it?
KYLE: For the inside corner, I’m doing a cope.
TOM: Oh, good. OK. That’s what I was concerned about.
KYLE: And the coping turns out to be easier than the outside corners for me, so …
TOM: Now, actually, when you do the outside corner, the only part of the miter that’s got to be perfect is the top edge of that board. As long as you have a straight line, if you end up taking up a little bit too much wood on the inside of that cut, nobody is ever going to see that. In fact, many times, when I’m doing that type of a corner, I’ll sometimes cope out the back of the miter cut, take a little bit extra meat out of that so that it kind of gets out of the way and I can pull it together really nicely, tightly at the corner. As long as I have a crisp line that pulls together on the corner, then I’m happy with that.
I understand you’ve got challenges with your tools. I’m not going to be able to give you a solution, because you don’t have the right tools. What you really need is a compound miter saw that’s sort of half miter saw, half radial arm saw. And that will give you the exact capabilities that you’re looking for. But to do this by hand with a regular hand miter box is just going to be a challenge.
KYLE: So, it’d be easier maybe to try to find someone to borrow a compound one from?
TOM: I think so. Yep. Yeah, you’ll be very happy. Because it sounds like you’ve got the skills. If you know how to cope a joint, then you’ve got the skills.
And for those that have no idea what we’re talking about, when you put up baseboard molding or any kind of molding or even crown molding in a house, you don’t cut a 45-degree angle much like you would for a picture frame. You actually put one piece in whole and square it to the wall and the other piece, you cut that 45 as if it was going to be a miter but you take a coping saw and cut out the back of all of that wood, except for that crisp line that’s on the front of the angle of the miter. When you push that together, you get what appears to be a perfect, mitered cut but it’s actually not; it’s actually a butt joint but it looks like a miter.
And it’s the best way to work with trim because it allows you to work with a house that’s not quite straight, because none of them are. And the other trick is I like to cut those boards just a little bit longer than what you need, because then it puts additional pressure on the joint and brings it together nice and tightly.
So I think you’re on the right road. You just need to get some better tools to help you get there, OK?
KYLE: OK. Thank you, guys.