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I have paid to have new flooring and baseboards installed in my home. I have 5 inch baseboards with flat edges. Rather than cutting the edges at angles as I’ve seen in all previous places I’ve lived, they have simply cut the ends flat, as shown.

They told me they would wood putty and paint the ends so it would look nice and that this is a standard way to install these types of baseboards. I think they are either being very lazy about it or truly don’t know what they’re doing.

At this point, I’m wondering whether I should even try to get them to fix it, since I don’t trust they’d do it correctly, or just ask to not pay for the baseboards or something. Any thoughts or advice?Here’s a corner where they have puttied and painted

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    I don't think Norm Abram or Tom Silva would approve. AFIK outside corners are supposed to be mitered. Inside corners either coped or mitered. They have coped the outside corners! The end grain is exposed on one board and it does not look like thay got the joint tight, lotsa caulk. What to do at this point? I have ideas, but some expert carpenters need to weigh in on this. Jul 14, 2023 at 3:59
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    He wants to know if others think his concerns are reasonable. Jul 14, 2023 at 4:03
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    I have been the the trade for 50 years and have only seen non-carpenters do that sort thing. I am trying to be nice here. I would call this guy something else for passing on the BS line that it is normally done this way. Besides @jsotola what you say is correct, if the homeowner doesn't like it, since they hold the purse strings the "carpenter" fixes it.
    – Jack
    Jul 14, 2023 at 4:06
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    It looks like DIY job, not professional
    – Traveler
    Jul 14, 2023 at 5:12
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    This probably is normal for them. I bet they do every job like this, but that doesn't make it an industry norm or even acceptable.
    – JPhi1618
    Jul 14, 2023 at 14:47

4 Answers 4

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That is not the way it is normally done for carpenters. Carpenters miter the corners, it is actually easier, in my opinion, let alone a better way to do it and make it look good. It takes a lot more effort to get a butt joint like they have, to make it look as good as a mitered joint.

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  • This, a thousand times. It’d have to be a very peculiar regional quirk to argue that an outside butt joint is acceptable. Jul 15, 2023 at 3:09
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What you call "cutting the edges at angles" is called a miter joint. It's really easy to do when walls meet at exactly 90-deg, but takes some skill to do when the walls are at any other angle from each other. Not a big amount of skill, mind you, but something that takes a few hours to teach an apprentice. And you need to bring a miter saw, which is heavy and cumbersome to maneuver inside of a house. And if you don't want to bring the saw inside (after all, you have new floors), then you have to walk the pieces one by one outside, cut, bring them back in, etc. All of this takes time. It is also true that sometimes square baseboards are cut square, like did yours. I just installed new floors and changed the baseboards on a house built in the 50's that had the original baseboards cut square, like your flooring guy did (it's a long explanation, but the old baseboards could not be reused in this case.) Of course, I did miter joints and took care of all of the details, but I'm a carpenter, not a flooring guy (the house sold in 24 hours, several bids in, way over asking price, so I guess people do notice a quality job.)

Having said that:

  1. It's easier to do miter cuts than to add putty, wait to dry, sand, add more putty, wait to dry, sand, prime, then wait, then paint. So I don't know what your contractor was thinking.
  2. There's no excuse for a flooring contractor not to learn a minimum of finish carpentry.
  3. You are the customer, and you could request that they be redone. But since one of the boards at every corner was cut too short, he will have to buy new boards. If he can't do a miter joint, he sure won't know how to join two boards seamlessly. I know, that's his problem. But he's got a (minor) point in that it is sometimes done like he did. He should have asked you before cutting the boards.
  4. If you should request a refund for the baseboards and/or call a finish carpenter to do the job as you want, it depends on how much you paid for the flooring job. If you selected the lowest possible bid, the only way those guys can make money is by doing everything super fast. They charge by the square foot, but it's the details that take time: corners, closets, entryways, masking when you are painting (which they obviously did not do, as you can see the paint spots on the new floor), and doing the miters. So they charge the same for a 2,000 sq ft job with lots of difficult corners, walls which are not square, etc. than for a square 2,000 sq ft room. They make money on the easy room and lose money on the project with lots of corners. Midway through the difficult job they hurry up and the result is what you got. So if you paid bottom price, then lesson learned and let it go. If they charged top price, then top price includes all the bells and whistles, so ask them to come back and re-do it, clean up the paint spots, and this time mask the floors when painting the boards.
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  • What about cutting off the longer board in place square and squaring in place the end of the shorter board by cutting no more than 1/16" and inserting corner blocks? The corner blocks would be slightly proud of the base on sides and on top. Corner blocks are sold for this express purpose. Normally they would be put in before the base but could be retrofitted here. Whoever did the original job on this might not be willing or able to do this, but someone could. Jul 14, 2023 at 15:45
  • Another possibility would be to cover the corners with a properly mitered corner. This would presumably be thinner material (3/8"?) designed to mimic corner blocks. It would be proud of the face of the base but not proud of the top. Jul 14, 2023 at 19:53
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    I like the idea of corner blocks.
    – Cheery
    Jul 14, 2023 at 19:57
  • Another possibility is decorative metal corner covers. These would attach by 18 ga brad nails or by screws. Screws would allow them to be taken off for painting. Could be wrought iron, galvanized steel, bronze, brass, copper, or tin. Jul 14, 2023 at 22:31
  • Any kind of corner cover would mean the original boards would not have to be cut. If wooden corner covers were used it could be three pieces. The third piece would be on top to complete the simulation of corner posts. Jul 14, 2023 at 22:36
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oak base with corner blocks

One possibility to remedy the wrong carpentry on the outer corners is to retrofit corner blocks. Purchase the blocks and measure them so that the existing boards can be cut off in place to receive the blocks. Alternatively, blocks could be sawn on site from appropriate stock of whatever wood is considered appropriate: pine, poplar, oak . . .

Cut off the longer board in place square and square in place the end of the shorter board by cutting no more than 1/16" or whatever to achieve symmetry for inserting corner blocks. The corner blocks would be slightly proud of the base on sides and on top. Corner blocks are sold for this express purpose. Normally they would be put in before the base but could be retrofitted here. Whoever did the original job on this might not be willing or able to do this, but someone could. It would be satisfying finish carpentry.

In our house we used corner blocks because we did not want sharp outer corners to get battered and to cause injury. These were attached at the corner with black finish screws with square drive heads left exposed, but could be nailed and set for painted base.

These are very expensive factory prefinished oak base boards and in case of a flood (e.g., a burst water heater) I want to be able to quickly pull the boards off to dry the walls and the base boards. We bought the blocks unfinished and stained them to match the base. I relieved the sharp edges before staining and finishing the blocks.

Used thinner blocks at straight joints (no scarf joints) and blocks at inner corners work together to allow the base boards to be pulled off without damage, starting anywhere. (Remove the side blocks with a screwdriver on the face screws, then pry the ends with a minipry bar, etc.) No caulk anywhere. Stained base means gaps on top don't show, at least we don't care if they do.

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Ugly or Weak?

There is a functional argument and an aesthetic argument. I will try to explain why this matters. The other answers here provide some good ideas for the fix itself.

Inside corners can be joined straight ended.

Outside corners are mitred to prevent the board-end from showing.

The baseboard material matters too.

Straight ends at the corner would be functionally acceptable if the material is solid wood (as I believe is your case). Primed MDF baseboards, in stead, have a protective priming finish which provides a strong shell and a smooth finish. Exposed (straight) cuts in MDF boards thus require the extra step of applying such protection after the install. A mitred cut, in stead, would not expose the softer MDF core.

If the boards were MDF and the protection is not applied, the install would be weak for an outside corner which is expected to be exposed to wear.

What Standards to Apply

There is no "code" or "manufacturer's prescription" for such finishings, and whether it is normal or not is determined by surveying baseboard corners in other homes as you might see in the myriad of "how to" books and youtube videos.

Collect many of these examples, and let the installer make their own case and show you where they believe it is taught that their install is normal.

Resolving it with the Installer

Your current install cannot be mitred without replacing one of the boards at each corner: the butting one is too short to be mitred now and has to be replaced. So expect unresolvable resistance from the installer, not because they are right, but because correcting it means redoing more than half the work (incl. new boards and filling & repainting the new corners).

The alternative is to replace just the corner, as proposed in the answer by Jim Stewart. It would be acceptable to ask the installer to perform the fix at no additional cost.

The filling in the picture also looks imprecise, but rejecting this part of the work is a battle that is even harder to win.

If you have not paid yet, you have leverage. If this heads to small claims court, the arguments will be based on the evidence provided in books, videos, magazines and manufacturer's brochures.

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