Baseboards BEFORE flooring install? How does that work?

loralee_2007June 26, 2007

Our painter/stainer has "insisted" that all baseboards and casings be in place before the flooring is installed, and only then he does the actual painting. DH is a commercial GC and apparently they do it the opposite ie: flooring goes in before baseboards so there are no gaps, and as a Type-A personality, this is REALLY bugging him lol.

After checking with a few industry sources, including our ID, it appears this is not an unusual request with residential painters (about a 50/50 split), however DH is questioning how this is finished if there are gaps after the flooring is installed? Also, what is the rationale for doing it this way?

We are doing maple casings/baseboards on the main floor and mdf on the 2nd story, with a combination of carpet/hardwood/porcelain, and since DH is installing the baseboards/casings it would obviously be easier (and faster) for him if the baseboards were installed after the flooring as he is used to.

We don't have the option to change painters (price too good, and comes very very highly recommended for the precision staining we need), so I'm hoping there are some here who have installed baseboards before flooring who can provide some insight.


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they did our baseboards before flooring, and covered gaps with the quarter round. Looks great. My only concern is that the baseboard is now sandwiched between wall and floor which means removal for any reason will be tough.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 10:10PM
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In new construction, the wood floors go in before interior doors... which then get casing...then the base butts to that casing. You can also put wood shoe in for an even nicer look.

You don't want wood floors after interior doors, do you? No, you don't want to trim wood flooring around the bottom of the door jambs....really foolish.
You would never make it look right doing it that way. Also, trim carpentry is a trade that installs the interior doors and the casing and base. You want them in their to do all of that....after the floors are in. Also, you want too see the full height of the baseboard you spent money on, not have 3/4" of it buried behind the flooring.

There really is no alternative , unless this is remodelling you are referring to.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 10:22PM
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Whatever the sequence of installation, the flooring should not be tight to the wall or base around it's perimeter. Therefore, if the base is installed first, a quarter round shoe molding must be added after the flooring is installed. Is your painter telling you how to trim your house? He sounds like more trouble than he is worth.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 10:39PM
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I put the wood floors in last. The floor installer uses an undercut saw that trims the door casings to length.

I dislike the clutter of quarter round. So I insist on having the baseboard as tight as possible to the floor. That way any gap that is covered needs as small a trim as possible. Where I've put in dark stained oak baseboard I have been able to avoid any quarter round. Ditto on tile and stone floors.

The last person I want working over finished wood floors is the painter; unfinished, it doesn't matter.

Since your dh is an experienced tradesmen and it's your own house, where presumably you will be very careful, do it your way!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 11:52PM
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In the method I use, the trim carpenter leaves a gap between the bottom of the baseboard and the subfloor so the finished floor can be slid underneath. No baseboard is "buried".

    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 11:55PM
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Our trim carpenter also left a gap (1/2" if I remember right) just like worthy is saying. Painter could be as sloppy as he wanted on the floor and we didn't have to worry about the floor getting ruined. We still have the full height of the baseboard showing We put our prefinished wood flooring in at the last possible minute.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 12:12AM
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Our baseboards were installed before our floor was installed also. The painter (who did a fantastic job) sprayed all the trim so the finish is fabulously smooth. I wouldn't want him spraying anywhere there is flooring. He then painted the walls and the floor was installed after that. Our trim carpenter left a small gap for the wood floor to slide underneath hence no gaps.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 7:59AM
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Our hardwood was installed before baseboards.

The baseboards were installed before carpet.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 9:25AM
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I think it also depends on the finish of the flooring. If its unfinished - there is little risk of installing it before baseboards. If its pre-finished flooring, then I'd want that last - after trim, after paint. It would be impossible to keep clean and undamaged through the trades for pre-finished to be installed that early.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 9:56AM
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Thanks everyone for your responses. I failed to mention in my post that we cannot use quarter round to finish off the boards. It is just baseboards which have to be spaced correctly so that the flooring fits underneath, but isn't so high that there is still a gap after the flooring goes in.

Mighty, it's not that our painter is being a PITA. I can't fault the guy if that's the way he does it, he's trying to protect our floors. If he was doing it "wrong", then certainly we would correct him, but it doesn't make sense ticking off a subtrade by forcing him to paint in a way he's not comfortable with. DH has already run in to several instances where commercial building methods are different than residential, but he's up to learning new methods, he's just nervous installing the baseboards as he's not sure what spacing to use.

Worthy, what you've described is exactly how the painter wants it done. We have hardwood and porcelain tile on the main floors and carpet w/underlay upstairs....can you please advise what typical gap spaces you use for these materials? Or is it more complicated than that?

Anthem, my hardwood is pre-finished. We really don't have much left to do though so I'm not worried about them getting wrecked by trades. Once DH finishes the baseboards, it's just paint (one guy), flooring install (2 guys), then appliances/fixtures and we're done.

Thank you to everyone for your advice. I'll have DH read this again tonight for your responses.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 10:44AM
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Our real wood, unfinished walnut floors and all floor tiles were installed before baseboards. The carpet will be installed after the baseboards. It makes me absolutely sick to my stomach to see the beautiful raw walnut floors absolutely covered in sawdust right now from the trim carpenter's work. But I have been assured that the floors will be fully cleaned and will finish beautifully.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 10:59AM
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See if the painter will compromise. Install your flooring then place paper or house wrap on the floor running up the wall and stapling in place. Then install the baseboards over the paper. After everything is painted, rip out the paper.

That's how we are doing our baseboards because we have stained concrete and it has to be done first.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 11:35AM
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We had our baseboards installed before the wood flooring and crossed our fingers that we wouldn't need any shoe molding or quarter round as I really hate it!!! I gave the trim guy a sample of our flooring, and he used it to judge where to put the baseboard. It looks AWESOME!! No shoe molding was necessary in the wood areas or the tile areas.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 12:21PM
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I personally installed our prefinished hardwood floors prior to the baseboards. These were the last things done in the house and no one else would be working in the house. I did leave gaps for expansion at the walls, but brought the flooring close enough that the baseboard would cover the gap. That eliminated the need for shoe mold, but did not in any way prevent the use of shoe mold if desired. We are pleased without the shoe mold. I vacuumed the subfloor often. Just before the baseboard, I sprinkled boric acid in the perimeter gap for insect control. Tablespoon, tapped with a finger, worked great. This is the most insect-free place I have ever lived. We saw ants at one place briefly and do have a few flying insects. The baseboard was pre-primed and finish-painted after installation.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 12:51PM
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Our baseboard went in last, but I do not like shoe molding we did not use it. I have seen lots of houses without shoe molding. I disagree that you have to use shoe molding.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 1:29PM
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It can be done either way (right or wrong ;-) but, over the years, I find it makes no sense to put wood floors in after doors and trim, including prefinished. We protect them with rosin paper and keep a few extra boards around, in case there is accidental damage.
The undercut sawing of door jambs and casing is not trim carpentry, and the undercut saw does not fit into corners.
It can rip laminated door jambs and millwork up a bit, especially in the hands of a floor installer.
If you really want the baseboard to sit tightly on top of the wood floor without shoe, put in in last.
By the way "quarter round" is NEVER used on baseboard, at least where I am. We use either colonial or ranch "shoe" molding, which is an entirely different shape than quarter round. (The profile of quarter round molding is 1/4 of a circle).

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 4:01PM
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I should also mention another reason for putting wood floors in before doors and trim ,,kitchen cabinets. We like to go under them with wood flooring and then we use real baseboard instead of plywood toekick to finish them. It is possible to install wood floors after cabinets, but is is just another thing that is out of the sequence of new construction.

Our painter sprays the interior doors and trim after taping the walls and the floor off. If you don't have a painter that will do this, then you have to do it the way you can to get it done. You have to have close coordination between the trim carpenter and the painter any way you look at it.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 4:12PM
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Adding to my earlier comments, my doors were installed first. Split jamb-prehung. Painted before the flooring was installed. I used a thin fine-tooth pull-cut saw with no tooth set (Japanese) (hand-powered) to cut the jambs and casing to the proper height by using a scrap of flooring and placing the saw on it. No problem at all.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 5:24PM
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"No problem at all."
Yes, that is not that difficult, but it is unnecessary work that does not produce a better result.

Installing the wood flooring does get more complicated when you have to go under all the door jambs and casing and base. It is also more difficult to install wood flooring after base cabinets have been installed (especially where the recessed toe kick is). If you have five doors in wood floor areas, and no wood flooring where base cabinets are, this is no big deal. If you have 20 or so doors and wood flooring in the kitchen, it isn't the best idea to install wood flooring last, in my experience.
When you subcontract a home, you have to have a schedule with a plan of how to get things wrapped up without calling people back and forth. For the finish, I have the wood floors installed (and cover them if they are pre-finished), then call the trim carpenters to set the cabinets, install interior doors and all trim. At that point, I turn it over to the painters. They spray, and no one would want to be in there working when they are there, believe me. It isn't the only way to finish a place, but it works every time.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 7:21PM
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