Guide to skirting boards

Guide to skirting boards

Skirting boards, also known as baseboards, are the narrow wooden boards that run along the bottom of interior walls.  They provide a barrier between the furniture and the walls to protect them from damage, and give the room a much more streamlined finish.

Can I install skirting boards myself?

If you are good with DIY, then yes it is possible to install them yourself.  Otherwise, this is probably a job for the professionals as it will most likely be very obvious if the skirting boards aren’t fitted well.  Corners are very difficult to do properly, and often walls turn out to be uneven.

Once you have chosen the material and style of the skirting boards, you will need to cut them to the exact measurements you need with a mitre saw.  They will also need to be cut at a 45-degree angle on the corners where they meet.

This is a job that requires two or more people, as the skirting boards will need to be held level against the wall for a few minutes while the adhesive sets.  After the adhesive has fully dried (it needs to be left for a day or so), any gaps will need to be filled with caulk.

Although it looks like a fairly straight forward job, installing skirting boards can take a while and you may not end up with the finish you want.

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Can I paint them?

You can paint skirting boards to fit in with your interior decor, whatever colour you choose.  General rules are that skirting boards in a darker colour than the walls have a modern look, and help to hide any dust and/or markings. Painted in a lighter colour, they can make the room look bigger.

Make sure you have the right type of paint, as it does make a difference.  Gloss is a good choice, as it is hard wearing and easier to scrub.  Alternatively, choose a satin finish for a more subtle look that is still durable.  You will need a good quality primer as well.

When painting the skirting boards, always make sure you have protected the room properly first.  Use painter’s tape on the walls and for the flooring or carpet, masking tape and some protective sheets or coverings.  Paint splatters very easily, so always cover a bigger area than you think you need to!

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Do I have to have them?

Skirting boards are not essential, it’s completely your choice whether to have them in your home or not.  They aren’t just for the aesthetics though, they do have practical purposes.

Firstly, they help to protect the walls from damage that can be expensive to repair.  As they stop furniture, and other household items like toys and vacuums, getting too close to the wall, they prevent marks and scrapes.  Replacing skirting boards is far cheaper than repairing damage to the walls.

Hiding unsightly wiring is another advantage to skirting boards, and it helps to protect the cables.  You can even make them into a light source by using LED skirting.  Plus they can hide any gaps between the floors and walls, which can happen when flooring has been installed.

If you’ve moved into a house that already has skirting boards, you should be able to remove them by carefully prying them away from the wall, but be careful in case there are cables behind.  In older houses, cables may well be tacked on top of the skirting boards, so remove them first.  Always take extra care with cables as they may have electricity running through them.

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George Ryland