Whether you’re cleaning, caulking, or painting them, baseboards deserve a special place in the homeowner’s hall of shame. I’ve never met anyone who really enjoys doing their baseboards, and I’m not going to attempt to change that with one blog post. What I AM going to do is share with you a little trick to make the job easier on your knees and your back.
Who knows, maybe if it weren’t such a pain to clean them, I’d do it more often? (I hope you realize I was laughing at myself even as I wrote that last sentence.)
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The other day, as I stood surveying the miles and miles of baseboards that needed caulking in my home, I thought “There’s got to be a better way.”
Sidenote: Why did my baseboards need caulking? I’m embarrassed to admit it, but we’re all friends here, right? After redoing our floors about two years ago, we put the trim back on, and never got around to finishing it off. If you’ve never installed baseboards, you should know that after painting, measuring, cutting, and nailing them in place, you still have to go around the tops of them and caulk that little seam between the trim and the wall. After such a long project, we ran out of steam before that step, and said, “we’ll do it next weekend.” About 100 weekends later, here I am, staring at those boards.
As I was contemplating how best to take the lazy way out, my 8-year-old zoomed by me, riding her skateboard through the house. I was so excited by the idea she gave me that I didn’t even bother to scold her. I realized what I needed was something that I could sit on and ride around as I worked my way around the edges of the room. Rather than a skateboard, which only goes in two directions, I settled on a potted plant holder. You know the kind that has four wheels on the bottom? They’re built for carrying heavy planters full of dirt, and the wheels roll in any direction. I found one that wasn’t in use (because I can’t keep a plant alive) and plopped down on it. It didn’t collapse under me, so I decided it was perfect!
I piled my caulking supplies on a baking sheet and spent the afternoon scooting around, dragging my tray of tools behind me, happily caulking the baseboards. Well, OK, maybe I still wasn’t happy about it, but I was pretty proud of myself, and that always makes me happy.
If you’re caulking baseboards, read on for the how-to guide. If you’re painting or cleaning yours, then good luck and happy scooting!
How to Caulk Baseboards (or anything else!):
Caulking is one of my least favorite jobs. But it makes such a huge difference to the finished product, that it’s always worth doing. And it really isn’t as hard as it looks. You don’t need any fancy tools, just caulk, your finger, and a damp paper towel.
Note: I used a caulk gun for most of this project because it was so big, but for smaller areas, or if you just want to have a little more control and not have to learn to use the gun, you can buy the same caulk in squeeze tubes. They look like overgrown toothpaste or icing tubes and they’re easier to use (for the beginner) than a caulk gun. The drawback is your hand might get tired of squeezing if you have a large project.
The trick to getting a smooth, even caulk line is to work in small sections until you get the hang of it. As you get used to the process, you can work in longer sections.
- First, make sure any leftover caulk has been removed, leaving a clean surface for the new caulk.
- Use wire clippers or strong scissors to cut the tip off the caulk tube at a 45% angle. Be careful not to cut too much. The size of this hole will determine the size of your “bead” of caulk. That means how wide the line of caulk will be. For filling small cracks like these, you only need about 1/8 inch bead.
- If you’re using a gun, slide the tube into the gun and pull the trigger to set the stopper.
- Squeeze a line of caulk along your baseboard, about a foot long. (Or longer if you’ve done this a few times.)
- Wet the tip of your index finger on the damp paper towel. Run your fingertip along the caulk bead, smoothing it into a groove.
- Rub any excess caulk off on your damp paper towel.
- Repeat steps 4-6 ad nauseum until you’ve filled all the cracks.
Use bright white caulk for white trim. If your trim is lighter wood color, you can use almond colored caulk. For dark trim, you may not need any caulk, since any cracks will be less visible against the dark color of the trim.
Make sure your finger is damp when you smooth out the caulk. If it’s dry, you’ll make grooves and messes in the caulk as you go.
If you’re using a caulk gun, be sure to release the trigger every time you stop, or your caulk will keep squeezing out and make a huge mess. (Learned this the hard way!) On my gun, there is a little lever behind the handle, about where your thumb meets your hand, that releases the pressure.
Keep the paper towels handy! In fact, I kept one clean damp towel for wetting my finger, and one dry one for cleaning off the globs of extra caulk.
Bonus tip: for easy-to-clean baseboards, paint over your caulk once it’s dry. Later, any dust will wipe right off with a damp cloth.
Caulk Gun (This dripless model looks a lot better than the one I use!)
Acrylic Caulk (10.5 tube for gun)
Acrylic Caulk (Small squeezable tube for smaller areas)
Rolling Plant Stand or Mechanic’s Creeper
Don’t be afraid to try caulking! You can use this method to clean up the seams in your bathtub, fill cracks before painting cabinetry, or just make any wood project look seamless and professional. With a little practice, you’ll be a pro. Let me know how it goes…