Before getting started, be sure that you look into your options. There are several
different types of baseboard. This article goes over
four of them.
Cutting and installing baseboards is one of the last trim jobs in a typical residential construction
or remodeling project. Baseboard is cut with a coping saw or miter saw.
In a perfect world, all the inside and outside corners of your walls would be perfectly square. You could
just use a table saw or a miter saw to miter all wood trim, baseboards included.
But alas, its not a perfect world and wall corners are rarely square. So, almost all baseboard
miters will have to be custom cut to get those sought-after professional results. Enter the coping saw.
In this article we will take a look at the art of coping baseboards as well as using a miter saw.
Use a Quality Coping Saw
A good coping saw is quite inexpensive; one can be had for under ten dollars at any hardware or
home improvement store. The coping saw is intended to cut on the pulling stroke. The teeth are
facing the handle, in other words.
This gives you more control over the more precise cuts. But a lot of carpenters like to fit their
blade with teeth pointing away from the saws handle so that it cuts on the push stroke instead. Try it
both ways and make up your own mind. Different strokes for different folks, as they used to say.
A Tool and Material List for Coping Baseboards
Compound Miter Saw
Wood files (half round and rat tail)
Paintable caulk (if you are painting it)
wood putty (if you are going for the natural color)
Hammer and nail set; or a nailer (I like an airless nail gun)
Different Kinds of Miters to Cope
There are basically three places where youll be mitering the baseboards. First,theres are the inside
corners where two walls intersect; second, you have the outside corners where the wall changes direction
or you have a case opening.
The third place to miter cut is on straight runs where you run out of one board and must start with a new one. This must be mitered at a 45 degree angle and is called a scarf joint; it is bad form to simply butt two lengths together.
Occasionally, due to the architecture of the home, you may have some oddly angled corners.
This is where your newly acquired coping skill will pay off.
Cut the Miter Joint with a Coping Saw
Your first step in the coping process is to establish your cutting line. What you are looking for
is a 45 degree angle to give you a good bevel. Although as stated before, this will vary since
no wall is exactly square.
Begin with a forty-five degree angle. Test fit your cope on the adjacent trim.
Sometimes your cope will be an exact fit right off the bat. But others will need a few minutes filing
and sanding to achieve a snug fit.
If your joint is nearly fitting, you will just need to sand down
the odd spots using sandpaper. To take off a larger amount of wood, use your wood files. It may take
several passes but dont worry, your coping skills will soon improve (pun intended).
Cutting Baseboard with a Miter Saw
Lets consider using a miter saw for cutting and installing baseboards. This is the way to
go when your walls are accurately framed and sheetrocked. Modern saws are very precise. The better
ones will cost a bit more, but youre buying accuracy and portability.
Some use a laser beam for precision.
Some have additional functionality, such as DeWalts new DW717
heavy duty 10 inch Double-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw. Its arguably the best model on the market
When you go to nail the baseboard up you will not always have a handy stud, thats alright;
remember that you can nail to the bottom plate of the
wood framing. Also, avoid nailing through the corner
bead because you might blast off bits of sheetrock compound.
You can use finish nails with a nail set or a finish nail gun. I prefer and use a Senco airless nail
gun. It makes it easy to nail something so low, sets the nail head automatically, and doesnt require
dragging an air compressor around.
Finishing the Trim Job
Once you've got all the baseboard installed, use the caulk or putty to put the finishing touches
on the job. Done properly, the joints will be virtually imperceptible.
Homemade Wood Putty Recipe
This is a little trick I love to use when Im going for a natural wood finish rather than a paint
job. Rather than use store-bought putty and try to match the woods natural color, I save the fine
sawdust from when I was making my miter cuts or crosscuts.
Then I make a putty using the sawdust and Elmers white glue (not yellow carpenters glue).
The glue dries clear and Im left with the woods own color. Its the perfect match!