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Residential Baseboard Types:

Wood, Composite, Vinyl Cove, and Baseboard Heaters

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Empty rooms with hardwood floors

There are many varieties of residential baseboard molding. In this article we’ll focus on the four types you’re most likely to encounter: wood, composite, vinyl cove, and baseboard heaters.

Which Baseboard Molding is Right for Your Home?

So how do you choose? This depends on your budget, the look you’re going for, if you’re concerned with green building, functionality, and how much work you’re able to put into installation. Let’s take each one at a time and narrow down your requirements.

Wood Base

Wood is the most traditional kind of base. It’s a fairly broad category in itself so you have choices. The type of wood figures heavily into the cost of material. Hardwood such as oak are more expensive than soft woods such as pine.

If you’re planning on priming and painting it, pine is fine. But for a natural finish, a hardwood is the way to go. Unlike pine, oak stains well and has beautiful "pin" grain.

Enhance Your Wood Base

Wood baseboard molding is arguably the most versatile material. It’s easy to get creative and make your walls as fancy or as subdued as you wish. If you’re equipped with a router table, you can create your own pieces. Otherwise, play mix and match at the home improvement store.

Options? There’s plenty! As opposed to simply making a 45 degree miter on corners, you can use trim blocks and butt the base to the block. Another option to give your trim a more enhanced dimensionality is to add quarter-round at the floor level.

Another way to dress up the room, especially dining rooms, is to add matching chair rail on the wall and crown molding at the wall/ceiling juncture.

Budget Hardwood

But what if you’re on a budget? Go with a less expensive hardwood such as poplar. Just buy 1” X 4” stock and use your router table or cove cutting table saw jig to give it your own distinctive style. I bought mine at Rockler Woodworking Hardware.

Installation is quite straightforward and the tools are cheap. Learn about installation by coping baseboards.

Composite Materials

MDF Baseboard Molding

Composite base as the name suggests, is man-made. The most popular is MDF (Medium Density Fiber Board). It’s very inexpensive and is best suited to cases where you’re going to paint it with a glossy sheen.

It sports a very slick surface to show off the shine. Also, it’s very flexible, goes up quickly with an airless finish nail gun, and won’t rot.

Vinyl Cove Base

Even though Vinyl cove is most often seen in commercial applications, it works quite well in the home. You probably wouldn’t want it in the living room, but it works well in utility rooms and walk-in pantries.

Cove base (sometimes called rubber instead of vinyl) usually comes in 4’ strips and is 4” tall. It goes up fast; just butt the ends in the field and on inside corners, and bend it and use a utility knife to shave the thickness for outside corners.

It goes up by applying a cove base adhesive to the back with a notched putty knife.

Baseboard Heaters

This is where the issue of function really comes in. The heat is produced by gas, electricity, or water. Obviously, this would only be a choice if you live in a climate that would warrant it.

And to be totally honest, they’re not technically baseboards at all. But since if the homeowner chooses to put them in place permanently, they certainly take the place of baseboards.

The electric ones are most common and they work by convection. Since warm air rises, cooler air is drawn in from the bottom.

And So...

There’s the ends and outs of the four basic types of base, the wall trim that makes your walls shine. Got opinions? Share them with our readers in the comment section below.

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