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I'm pulling out wall-to-wall carpet and installing solid hardwood floor. I am also removing the old baseboard and repairing the bottom of the wall with drywall compound to take out any weird ridges the old baseboard may have left. The way I see it I have 3 choices for edging the floor:

  1. Install the hardwood floor first, then install the baseboard over that.
  2. Install the baseboard first, all the way down to the subfloor. Then install the hardwood floor. Then install shoe molding.
  3. Install the hardwood first, then install just shoe molding over that - no baseboard.

3 seems the easiest. Any drawbacks?enter image description here

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Baseboards provide a useful function in a house. They are not purely aesthetic. They protect the bottom of the drywall from being damaged, they build a stopping point for dirt, they keep drywall/paint from being damaged by feet (shoes). Anyone buying a house with drywall walls would expect some sort of minimal baseboard.

Shoe molding has three issues. It isn't big enough to protect anything, since you need a gap between drywall and flooring it would be very hard to install, and then since you have this gap the shoe molding will surely get pushed into it, since it is usually flimsy.

Install your floors and sit you baseboards on top of flooring. If you cut out bottom of drywall so that the drywall depth acts as expansion gap for wood, you don't need shoe molding.

Note: Think about what type of house you have when you put up molding and what you have in each room. If this is every single room and you have a nice house I would at the very least put up 4"+ baseboards. There is usually very little difference in price and installation and staining/painting isn't really any harder. If you want cheap and fast go with the primed pine from the big boxes. These usually take one quick coat of paint and good to go.

  • Thanks for the explanation of the baseboard function above and beyond appearance. What's the most effective way to cut out the bottom of the wall for an expansion gap? If it matters, I actually happen to have plaster, not drywall. – Greg Smalter Dec 6 '14 at 22:39
  • Just a utility knife and pull it out - if you a saw it can get messy and you might hit screws/nails. I actually will cut deep and pop them out with a 10" putty knife. Probably don't have to cut out more than a half inch. You don't have a picture of yours but you might not even have to. Many builders cut drywall an inch short on the bottom. You just need about 1/8 of an inch above the flooring. – DMoore Dec 7 '14 at 3:19
  • Hm. Just posted a picture above. Looks like I have wood along the bottom. – Greg Smalter Dec 7 '14 at 3:25
  • How tall were your previous baseboards and what is the height from the floor currently to the top line? It really doesn't seem like you have drywall installed but I see a screw. So it goes wood (which I am guessing is just a face) then concrete, then drywall (or plaster?). – DMoore Dec 7 '14 at 3:31
  • 3 3/4" from floor to top line. Old baseboard was just under three inches. I definitely do not have drywall. I have plaster over Sheetrock. What you are seeing as a concrete middle layer may just be the raw Sheetrock showing. – Greg Smalter Dec 7 '14 at 3:35
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Traditionally in my area is hardwood, then baseboard and shoe molding.

For sure I would put down the floor first. Otherwise whatever baseboard you put in can't be changed out easily, if it's wedged between the wall and the baseboard.

Maybe google it and look at photos, pick what you like best.

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The "correct way" to install this is (in this order) to install the drywall, paint, install baseboard, install flooring, finish baseboard and flooring (assuming it's not tile or carpet), install shoe molding.

The drywall should not touch the floor. The baseboard both protects the drywall and hides this gap (which is there to allow for expansion).

Wood floors expand and contract and that's the reason for the shoe molding. Some people say, "oh you just use that to hide mistakes". While it can be for that, there are going to be gaps at different times of the year, regardless of how good a craftsman the installer is.

Shoe molding also allows you to easily remove just the shoe molding, replace the floor, and then just re-install shoe molding without damaging the wall.

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It's just a matter of aesthetics. Shoe moulding with no baseboard isn't really considered very nice, but there's certainly no reason it won't work, as long as the shoe moulding you choose is wide enough to cover the expansion gap you leave between the wall and the flooring.

However, there's no reason you have to throw away the old baseboard if there's nothing wrong with it. You would follow #1, remove the old baseboard with care, and then simply re-install it after your flooring is in.

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I prefer baseboards with no shoe molding. I think it looks cleaner. I believe that show molding is usually installed when adding flooring later. It may be when carpet is replaced or when a flooring guy comes in later during new construction. Baseboards are usually thick enough to cover any expansion gap for the floor.

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