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I've installed some new baseboards, though I'm not really sure I have the right method down. Here's what I do:

  1. Paint baseboard
  2. Paint walls
  3. Cut and install baseboard (using brad nailer and/or liquid nails)
  4. Sand outside corners so they're not as pointy
  5. Go over nail holes and straight joins with putty, and seal corners with caulk
  6. Sand putty with high grit (just to smooth it out)
  7. Touch-up paint on all the putty/caulk

The downside of this method is that there is a (in some places) small but noticeable gap between the top of the baseboard and the wall. Pretty much anywhere if you wanted to, you could push a piece of paper behind the baseboard. Most new construction I've seen doesn't have this gap, and generally if the walls/trim is re-painted at some point, that also seals up the gap.

Is there a step I'm skipping where people caulk the top edge all the way around? Or am I doing this completely wrong?

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7 Answers 7

up vote 11 down vote accepted

You would usually caulk the gap between the baseboard and the wall. This is why I usually don't bother painting the trim before putting it up (unless I'm staining it).

Usually I would prime the wall first, then put up the trim, putty/caulk, paint the trim, then finally paint the walls.

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I just installed baseboard through my entire house. I caulked the top of the baseboard, as you are thinking.

I used a paintable silicone caulk, like DAP Dynaflex. Once it dried, I went back with a detail brush and painted the caulk the color of the baseboard.

It's a few extra hours of work, but it looks great.

Our painter did a couple rooms, and this is how he did it as well.

Other than that, I think you have the process down. The reason you paint first is so that you can roll on the paint in long sections. Trust me, painting the baseboard after installation is crazy. Also, painting after cutting the baseboard takes a lot longer than painting the entire strip of baseboard prior to cutting.

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The baseboard in my house is white so when I have had to replace/remove some I find the original builder had put caulk along the top. So when I put it back, I too add a line of caulk along the top edge to fill in any gaps and I also think it really gives it that finished look. Of course this would not work as well if your baseboard is not white (and probably I would not recommend doing it then).

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+1 You can use colored caulk if you have natural or stained trim. –  aphoria Jul 28 '10 at 14:50
    
Latex caulk is paintable, and I've not seen paint not adhere to it. –  Rod Fitzsimmons Frey Jul 28 '10 at 19:40
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The step are:

  1. Sand pre-primed trim
  2. Install trim
  3. Putty nail holes and caulk top of trim and any other place at the edge of the wood. Window stops, quarter round, casing, door stops . The only exception is where the floor meets the base.
  4. Sand out putty.
  5. If you spray the trim, tape off all windows.
  6. Paint trim. If brushed, add paint additive Floetrol to reduce brush stroke lines.
  7. Roll and cut in walls.

For doors, you want to brush in the details and use a small banana roller to roll the flat area.

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I recently re-trimmed my closet door and there was a slight gap at the top thanks to shifting or settling. I nailed up the trim and then used Elmer's white wood putty to fill in the gap. It comes in a variety of colors and paints over really well. Easy to spread out as well, I just used my finger to smooth over the gap and after a little paint you can't even tell it's there.

I wouldn't consider it a "step" in installing baseboard, you probably just have a slight defect or warp in either the baseboard or wall. Just one of life's little things.

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If the gap is not too large I would just leave it. If the gap is noticeable and bothers you I would remove the baseboard and trim/sand out anything behind it that is holding it away from the wall, keep in mind you may still have slight gaps in places where the wall or baseboard are not perfectly straight.

You could also install the baseboard at a very slight angle (using shims) so that the top touches the wall leaving no gap, but the bottom is out a very small amount. make sure the angle is very slight otherwise it will be noticeable, but for the most part nobody will notice a slight angle on the baseboard.

The only place I would use caulk on top of a baseboard is in the bathroom/kitchen, just to make sure water stays out from behind the baseboard.

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I do remodeling, and flood/fire damage repair for a living. Most jobs require drywall, flooring, trim, and painting. The best way to do it is-

  1. Prime, and 1st coat of paint on drywall/trim
  2. Install trim
  3. Putty nail holes and caulk edges/corners
  4. 2nd coat of paint on everything

This makes the priming and first coat easier, and a solid finish coat. Painters putty should be applied so there is no excess to sand (it says "do not sand" in the directions on the container). If you make a ball out of it, push it on the nail hole, then rub the ball a couple times over that spot, it should get rid of anything above the surface

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