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We just had a carpet layer come in for measurements and a quote. We've not put in the baseboard or door casings yet, but the carpet layer has suggested that this will make things easier.

Is this true / good advice? Are there any pitfalls to watch for when we go to install the door casings / baseboard?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

It makes it easier for the carpet installer because they don't have the baseboards in the way when they're nailing in the tack strips next to the wall.

On the other hand, it makes things a little more difficult to install the baseboard later because the carpet and tack strips are in the way when you're trying to nail the baseboard to the sole plate in the wall. This is much more of an issue if you're nailing by hand than if you're using a brad nailer. (I've done it both ways; use a nailer.) If you're doing a long wall, it can make lining up the pieces of baseboard a little trickier because the tack strip and carpet can get in the way.

On the whole though, I'd follow his advice and use a nailer to install the trim.

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My two cents worth..... We always install the base trim and door trim first. If you have split jam doors with the casings already attached, you must install them first or you will have a real problem fitting the jams to the floor between rooms. As mentioned, sometimes the carpet installers can scratch the finish on the baseboards, however it is usually minor and easy to touch up after. The problem I see with putting the trim on last is that depending on the style and thickness of the carpet and pad, you can have a bit of a ridge over the tack strip. Of course you can nestle the trim down into the carpet, but some of the bottom square edge of your trim may still show. It is also much more difficult to maintain a level line and make splices on longer runs. If the corners are not perfectly aligned, then coping the base won't match properly. Since the trim should outlast the carpet, anytime you need to re-stretch the carpet or remove it, the trim will have to be removed first as it is impossible to do either with the trim in place. Now that is an absolute nightmare and rarely will you be able to salvage all the trim to re-install.

My advise, install the trim and doors first and stress to the carpet installers to be as careful as possible. You can also put a strip of 2 inch delicate work painter's tape on your trim before the carpet goes down. Leave about a half inch at the bottom of the trim uncovered, then remove it after the carpet is installed. This will help prevent some of the minor scratches the edge of the carpet can cause before it is chiseled behind the tack strip.

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+1 completely agree on the trim first. We also install our trim 1/2" above the floor using some small wood spacers to save us the measuring. The carpet can then be installed so that any excess goes under the trim. – BMitch Nov 22 '11 at 19:33
Our carpet installer said wanted the baseboards installed first as well. I did not notice any damage to the baseboards, but it would have been easy enough to touch it up after the fact. – auujay Nov 22 '11 at 19:40
Good hint on the spacing BMitch. The carpet guys got you all trained well. LOL Does make it a lot easier for them to tuck the edges. – shirlock homes Nov 22 '11 at 21:14
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that this would be your advice for "built-in" cabinets, too? – Andrew Theken Mar 24 '14 at 12:57
Absolutely correct Andrew – shirlock homes Mar 24 '14 at 20:39

If you put the baseboard/casings in first, the carpet has to be fit around them. And in my experience, the carpet installers will damage the baseboards as they stretch the carpet.

If you wait until the carpet is installed, your baseboards can go in on top of the carpet, which will help keep the carpet in place (not usually a problem but hey...) but at the same time make removing the carpet more difficult (but not much so) in the future.

I cannot say there's a specific right way to do it.

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There is no reason they'd damage the trim unless they weren't being careful. Their tools don't need to touch the trim as they all grip the carpet directly. – Zach Dec 9 '11 at 17:17
Well there is the carpet edger that needs to cut the carpet as closely to the wall as possible... – The Evil Greebo Dec 10 '11 at 3:56

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