Baseboards and construction sequence

marshallvJanuary 28, 2012

Hello all,

I have a question about baseboards. We are buildig a 2600sf house with 5 1/2 base throughout. 3BR's are carpet; greatroom and foyer will be wood; kitchen, laundry and bathrooms to be tiled.

We are to the point where the builder wants to put the base down throughout the house, then paint all the trim & walls and then flooring.

I think the walls/crown/etc. should be painted then put the floor and save the base for last. I just haven't seen a good end product where the base went down and then flooring. Too many gaps around & under base filled with grout, etc. Just doesn't look right to me.

Builder says that if we put flooring down first we will not be able to get a spray finish on the base because painters will have to do base by hand AND it will be more expensive.

He also said the floor guys actually do better when they have to go up to a finished edge like the base as opposed to just going to to the wall +/- 1/2 inch. That makes no sense to me. He's adamant it won't be as good as finished product. I get the impression he just doesn't want to upset the flow, etc.

So, what is the best practice here? flooring first (maybe except for the carpet) THEN install, caulk, paint base as the final step? Should that be more expensive?

Thank you much!


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The proper sequence is to do all the trim, let the painters paint all at once whenever possible, then at the very last turn it over to the flooring guys. Then, nobody has to step over anyone else. Your way requires multiple visits by the carpenters and the painters, which will lead to lost time, extending the project.
Also, the carpenters will be working on top of your new floors which opens up the risk of accidents.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 9:55AM
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Putting base down before flooring also decrease the apparent height of the base by the thickness of the flooring.

Not bad for sheet goods, can be significant for carpet and hardwood flooring.

Not everything is about construction convenience.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 11:03AM
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Base first for all the reasons mentioned by mongrel.

But you have to have your flooring picked out first and leave samples for the carpenters so they know how much space to leave between the base and subfloor. Depending on colours and materials, I use no more than an 1/8 round to none at all to cover the space between flooring and baseboard.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 11:14AM
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We installed baseboards AFTER the floors which are either 3/4" hardwoods or tile. With tile floors, when the baseboards go down first, it seems like you ALWAYS wind up with a "perimeter grout line" clear around the room which I think looks tacky. I also don't like gaps at the ends of floorboards.

But our baseboards are stained instead of painted so we weren't worrying about the convenience of the painters.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 5:43PM
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If you know ahead of time what rooms are getting hardwood, and you know the thickness, have the baseboards set at that height above subfloor plus an additional 1/8".

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 8:23PM
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We are doing it the same way bevangel did. Our floors are hardwood, marmoleum and cork. Floors went down first and then the baseboards. Our baseboards will also be stained and there is no shoe molding.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 9:41PM
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We are doing floors first then baseboard.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 12:08AM
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THanks for all the input. Just as i'd found researching at other places, this is an issue that can go either way.

I still think floors first is the way to go, but it'll be an uphill battle with builder.
Thanks again.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 8:14AM
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this is an issue that can go either way.

Not for professional builders! The exception is for ceramic and stone which are usually much harder to damage than wood, let alone carpet.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 10:09AM
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"Not for professional builders!"

They run solely on efficiency, not what might produce a 'better' installation.

If the baseboards are tight to the floor without shoe or quarter round they likes had the flooring in before the baseboard.
Even with floor samples it is very hard (easier now with laser levels, but still time consuming) to get baseboard tight to finished flooring over entire rooms.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 10:35AM
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In our build, baseboards where there was carpet (selected) and hardwoods went down before the flooring. Tile went down before baseboards in areas where there was tile to avoid the gap discussed by bevangel.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 2:24PM
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We have built two homes now and base went down after hard surfaces but before carpet. We have painted trim. They can spray the trim pieces outside or in the garage then install them. Then they can go back and caulk, fill holes and do a quick hand painting over it. Better quality in my opinion since it isn't just sprayed and easy to touchup since you don't have to worry about brush lines on sprayed surface. Also don't have to worry about the gaps or grout lines which doesn't look right IMO.

We had all of the wall colors on before any flooring went in. Also keep in mind that the flooring guys are hard on trim, it will get dented and scratched which requires touch up. If the base goes in after then no worries there!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 12:11AM
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LilFlowers MJLN

I have a house where they put baseboards up BEFORE installation of floors and I DETEST seeing the gap between floor and baseboard. They didn't install shoe molding so it looks REALLY bad. I guess if you are using shoe molding it wouldn't look that bad if they did it beforehand but it's your house and you should be able to choose when your molding goes down. I just rather the look of baseboards installed after. It looks more finished IMO. Since when did we become a glutton for having things done the "fast and cheaper" way? The builder who built my current house for the previous owners cut SO many corners, I always tell people my house is round. You get what you pay for, I guess. I'm not complaining. I love my house but I know what I want when we build and it's not the "fast and cheaper" version. I guess that's why it's taking us so long to build.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 8:22AM
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I did my own, so no arguments about it at my premises. No carpet, mostly hardwood, some tile and some vinyl luxury tile. For all except the vinyl, baseboard was the last thing. Prime and finish paint one coat before install and another finish coat after install and caulk to the wall. For the vinyl, baseboard first, paint complete and oak shoe mold after the vinyl tile. Would not be low cost to hire it that way. Would not do differently if it had to be done again.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 9:23PM
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My family does professional painting (million $ homes and larger) we Always insist that the floors go in first, baseboards THEN paint. Because it is a pain to fix all the damage that the floor ppl will do to the walls. Painting baseboards by hand is not that big of a deal and a good quality painter will not charge a whole lot more. Actually we paint everything by hand except cabinets and ceilings and exteriors which are sprayed. Painting is always best done after everything else is finished, of course make sure floors are covered with paper and drop cloths are used to keep paint from getting on anything.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 11:43PM
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I just closed on a brand new house in a tract neighborhood. There is a model home and 14 lots in the subdivision. I was the first person to put an order in for a house to be built.

I elected to have hardwoods throughout, expect in bathrooms.

A few weeks ago I was at the house and all of the kitchen cabinets and walls were up and finish painted as well as the trim including the baseboards. The prefinished oak hardwoods I had chosen were not installed yet. I thought this was odd. I always thought baseboards went in last so there could be a slight, somewhat uneven gap between the hardwood floor and the drywall so the floor could shrink/expand and also so the oak planks wouldn't have to be cut with surgical precision at every wall. I noticed that the installed baseboard was a 1/2" or so (I didn't measure) higher than the subfloor. I assumed that this was for the hardwood planks to slide under.

Seeing the hardwood completely installed today, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it does NOT go under the baseboard at all (except at the doors, where it does go under the trim). It is simply pressed up against the baseboard on every single wall, kitchen cabinet and island.

The result is astonishingly close. Even with angled hallways, etc. the planks are extremely tight to the baseboards. On your hands and knees you can see the occasional 1/16" gap on some of the planks. The closeness, although not perfect, blows my mind. Once furniture is in it would be really tough to spot. There is no shoe molding or quarter round being installed, although a 1/8" quarter round would easily cover any gap.

My horrible suspicion (hopefully wrong) is that the trim carpenter didn�t install the baseboard high enough off of the subfloor for the oak planks to fit underneath. And then the builder/seller in order to avoid having the baseboards removed (which would require lots of painting, etc), told the flooring guys to simply use there skill to go as firmly against the baseboard as they could.

My hope is that this is the technique that they had planned for from the beginning and that this is the technique they used in the model and plan to use for the remainder of the houses.

This original post is the only place I�ve been able to find so far that even suggests "the floor guys actually do better when they have to go up to a finished edge like the base as opposed to just going to the wall +/- 1/2 inch."

My fear is that the floor, although nailed down well, will expand or contract, creating buckles or gaps.

We are talking about 1600 sq ft of hardwoods that look beautiful right now.

I�m hoping someone on this forum, preferably a professional builder, can tell me that this is a common and acceptable technique these days.

Thanks in advance.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 9:26PM
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