Do I really need to hire a professional to re-install baseboard trim?
September 6, 2016 10:56 AM   Subscribe

I have baseboard trim that was installed in a few rooms of my house, removed to do some floor work, and now needs to be re-installed. Do I really need to hire a contractor to do this, or is it something I can do myself? If the latter, what do I need to know? Any recommended how-to guides appreciated!

This is NOT a case where I have to deal with the hassle of measuring and cutting trim to size; the trim was previously installed so it should still fit in the same space (right?). Before starting I will double check that all of the pieces still fit. Is it just a matter of hammering it back in place with some long finishing nails, covering the nail heads with some wood filler, and repainting? Or is there more to this than I realize? Contractors are incredibly hard to book in my city for small jobs like this, and I don't mind learning a new handy skill around the house if this isn't a challenging weekend project. Thanks for any thoughts!
posted by joan_holloway to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Yep, that's pretty much all you need to do. As long as each piece goes back in the same spot it came from it will be very easy. If the nails are still in the trim (and not bent) it will be even easier.

You'll want to nail them back in places where there are studs behind the drywall, though since they basically sit on the floor it won't be the end of the world if you miss a stud or two. In some cases you can use the hole the previous nail was in but it might be too loose if the nails are the same size.

You'll need a hammer and a nail set, to get the nail down slightly below the wood surface.

If you're not painting, then the bare nails might be less conspicuous than the filler, unless you get a perfect match. If you're painting, it doesn't matter.
posted by bondcliff at 11:01 AM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Is it just a matter of hammering it back in place with some long finishing nails, covering the nail heads with some wood filler, and repainting?

Yes. The big effort in installing baseboards is cutting them to size, getting the edges squared against each other, etc.

If you already have baseboards that fit, and don't mind hammering in a bunch of finishing nails, then go for it.

You'll want to use a level to keep the boards straight and flush with the floor and wall while you work along.

To make things go fast, I'd personally use a pneumatic finish nailer and air compressor. This will also keep you from damaging the soft wood of the baseboards with a hammer. But I have easy access to one of those. You can probably rent one at a hardware store.

Disclaimer: I only did this once. But installing the boards was a piece of cake once we got them all cut properly. Others might know of more caveats.
posted by dis_integration at 11:03 AM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Whoever did your floor work should have done this as part of the job. If they took it off but didn't put it back on, they did not finish the job.
posted by kindall at 11:04 AM on September 6, 2016 [12 favorites]

Is it just a matter of hammering it back in place with some long finishing nails, covering the nail heads with some wood filler, and repainting?
I am not even close to a professional contractor, but I have installed a fair amount of DIY trim in our house and that is pretty much all there is to it; the cutting and fitting is the hard part, the nailing in place is the "fun," easy part. (A finish nailer is a really wonderful tool for this as dis_integration says... I'm sure local rates vary but you can rent this cordless one for about $35/day from some Home Depots - well worth the cost for the time saved, fingers not hammered, and trim not dented.)
posted by usonian at 11:11 AM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's definitely a DIYable thing. If you have a hammer and know what a finishing nail is, you're most of the way there. In addition to double-checking the fit, I'd recommend that you:

Plan the order of installation such that you don't have to try to wedge a piece in behind the mitered ends of two already-installed pieces (as you would if you did the side walls of a closet followed by the back.) Doorways and outside corners should come last.

Use a nail set to put the nail heads below the surface of the molding to leave room for caulk. (Or use a pneumatic nail gun if you have access to one, they're easy and safe and make the job go much faster.)

Pre-paint the molding before installation, and then just go back and touch up after you caulk. This is much, much easier than masking and painting in place and gives better results.

Traditionally you'd use paint for the moldings that is one step glossier than the wall paint. Consider using an additive such as Floetrol in the paint, which will reduce brush marks at the expense of increasing drying time.

This might be a good time to consider adding decorative plinth blocks at the bases of your door casement moldings. You'd have to trim down the baseboards and casements to make them fit, but it would just be straight cuts and they can make a big difference in the look of the room with very little expense.
posted by contraption at 11:18 AM on September 6, 2016

Yes, nailing is the easy part of installation. Use a nail set for the last hit with the hammer, to push the heads of the finish nails below the surface of the wood to give you a nice hole to fill.

It probably will make sense to use the existing holes in the trim wood rather than filling those and nailing new ones.
posted by aimedwander at 11:21 AM on September 6, 2016

On caulk: I always use white silicone caulking applied with a gun, then wipe away the excess with a damp rag. You can use the same stuff to fill nail holes and to fill up any gaps between the top of the molding and the wall. Wood filler is not necessary for this application unless you're staining the baseboards, if they're just gonna be painted caulk is easier and looks just as good.
posted by contraption at 11:22 AM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Like others said:
The number 1 time suck is measuring.
The number 2 time suck is finding the studs.
The number 3 time suck is putting in the nails if you use a hammer, hence using a nailer.

You shouldn't need to worry about finding studs since the previous nail holes will act as a guide, but for people who might be in this thread and are putting in brand new baseboard, it helps to put down pieces of masking tape on the floor/wall, where the studs are.

You may find that the baseboard is warped because baseboard tends to be cheap ass wood if it is meant to be painted. If it has been in place for a while, time may have corrected this, but if this is not the case, nail one end then take 2x4, rest it on the top of the baseboard and step/kneel on it (or otherwise put weight on it) as you nail it in.
posted by plinth at 1:16 PM on September 6, 2016

Very doable. I actually recently decided to teach myself how to install baseboard the hard way: measuring and cutting with my brand new miter saw and a bunch of youtube videos! And it turned out quite nicely. Cutting correctly is the hard part (and I made more than a few mistakes). But you don't even have to do that part. Installing is by far the easier part, but don't underestimate how much of a number all that bending over can do on your back if you're hammering by hand. If I were to go back and do it again, the one thing I'd do differently is use a finish nailer.
posted by GorgeousPorridge at 1:31 PM on September 6, 2016

Absent an unusual situation such as unevenness in the floor, trim is definitely a great candidate for DIY, and reinstalling existing trim is generally very easy as long as the existing material hasn't been damaged.

We periodically redo rooms in the house, and fresh trim is something that's fairly easy to do that really adds to the "new room" feel. Staining and finishing new wood trim requires some space, time, and a little patience, but most (usually all) of the cutwork can be done with a hand miter saw, and it will inevitably teach you the wisdom of "measure twice, cut once."

If you do "not mind learning a new handy skill," reinstalling existing trim is very modest on the difficulty level scale, and even prepping and installing new trim only qualifies as a weekend project because the staining and finishing process requires time to dry. I imagine that these days there are some great YouTube videos to cover the details. So definitely tackle the reinstall yourself if you feel confident after watching a few, and then once you've done that, you're likely to feel confident tackling other more complicated jobs in the future, if any come your way.
posted by jgreco at 2:44 PM on September 6, 2016

I took off a piece of trim for painting and replaced it with me material. Some of the corners were pretty ragged, and I basically sculpted the finish shape out of spackle. Still looks fine after a couple decades.

Point being that most any little error can be patched up.
posted by SemiSalt at 3:36 PM on September 6, 2016

For some demo and instruction, the blog yellowbrickhome is always installing baseboard and trim. Here's the results when you search their blog for baseboard. You might also try searching 'trim'.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 6:17 PM on September 6, 2016

Yes, this is very easily DIYed. Hammer (not too big), nail set, 2" or 2 1/4" finish nails (just use the existing holes), wood filler, sand, prime, paint, done. If the existing trim has nails in it still you can often just carefully push and hammer them back into place if they are reasonably thick finish nails. If they are thin brads from a nail gun, pull them out the back or just snip them off flush at the back.
posted by ssg at 9:00 PM on September 6, 2016

Seems pretty low risk to try it yourself. Worst case scenario is probably ugly trim. You don't want to do an amateur installation of natural gas, electricity or sewer. But baseboard trim probably won't hurt you even if you do a terrible job.
posted by reeddavid at 10:14 PM on September 6, 2016

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