How To Install Skirting

  • How To Install Skirting

Install classic trim at the base of walls to give a room an extra dimension. 

Most walls feature skirting boards at the joint where the wall meets the floor. Skirting covers gaps, protects the base of the wall and conceals imperfections. 

Decorative skirting also enhances the look of a room by breaking up the flat surfaces of walls and floors, in the same way other trims such as dado rails, cornices and architraves do.

When adding skirting to a new wall or in an extension, install boards that match the ones used in the rest of the home to maintain the style. 

If the standard profiles don’t suit, install rectangular boards, then add skirting and quad moulding to the top and base to make customised trim.

Where the skirting isn’t long enough to cover the entire wall, join two pieces with a scarf joint, cutting the lengths of timber at a 45° angle with a compound mitresaw and joining them with adhesive and nails. 

Most trim is made from solid timber like Tassie oak or finger-jointed pine, with primed MDF also available. The combination of profiles we used here costs about $15 a metre.

If you can’t find or make skirting boards to match the existing ones in your home, moulding specialists can cut them for you, but this can cost up to three times as much.   

Preventing dips 

Skirting tends to dip in at the base because of the recess at the base edge of plasterboard, or if the plasterboard stops short of the floor. To prevent this, drive screws into the wall framing so the heads align with the main part of the wall before installing the skirting.

prevent dips in skirting, handyman magazine, DIY,
To prevent dips drive screws into the wall framing so the heads align with the main part of the wall

Step 1. Cut the skirting

Mark the location of the wall studs with masking tape. Cut the skirting about 50mm longer than each wall, laying it in position around the floor’s perimeter. Starting with the longest wall, cut the pieces 1-2mm too long to get a tight fit. For inside corners, butt the skirting together with 90° cuts.

Step 2. Determine the mitre angles

For the outside corners, mitre two offcuts to determine the correct angle, adjusting if required. It’s best to overcut the mitre, leaving the back slightly open. This will ensure the front of the mitre is tight and leave a slight gap at the back that will be covered by the skirting moulding.

Step 3. Mark the cuts

Once the correct angle has been determined, hold the skirting in position and mark the back at the corner of the wall using a pencil. Set the mitresaw to the appropriate angle and cut the pieces to create the mitres. Check for a tight fit, trimming from the opposite end, if required.

Step 4. Attach the skirting

Nail the lengths of skirting in position at the wall stud locations, using 70 x 1.5mm bullethead nails. Apply a little adhesive at the mitres, then cross-nail to secure using 40 x 1.2mm bullethead nails. TIP Drill pilot holes for the nails to avoid splitting the timber.

Step 5. Cut the skirting moulding

Fit the skirting moulding in the same order as the skirting, starting with the longest wall. Use mitres for the outside corners and scribed joints for the inside corners. To make a scribed joint, first cut one piece square and the other at a 45° angle with a mitresaw, as for an inside mitre.

Step 6. Match the profile

Cut along the contour of the moulding using a coping saw, following the line formed by the mitre. Angle the coping saw back slightly to get a tighter fit on the face of the moulding profile. TIP Practice making scribed joints using offcuts to avoid mistakes.

Step 7. Add the skirting moulding

Check the fit by butting the profiled skirting moulding against the adjoining piece in the corner. Mark any high spots with a pencil and trim using a half-round file. Attach the lengths of skirting moulding to the wall studs using 40 x 1.2mm bullethead nails.

Step 8. Fit the quad moulding

Attach the quad moulding to the skirting with 40 x 1.2mm bullethead nails, using scribed joints for the inside corners. Where it meets the architrave, chamfer back the edge at a 30° angle. TIP Don’t nail quad moulding to the floor, as gaps will form when the floor expands and contracts.

Step 9. Finish the skirting

Punch in all nailheads and fill the holes with putty coloured to match the timber. Press the putty into the holes with your finger, or use a small putty knife, and wipe off the excess with a cloth. Lay drop sheets and apply masking tape to the walls and floor, then stain or paint the skirting.

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