Painting your baseboards is one of the top remodeling projects you can do for a room that takes less than four hours and will help it sparkle like nothing else.
Which one should you tackle first? If you look at the outline of your room, baseboards represent the widest, longest, and most visible lines. In addition, baseboards suffer the most abuse and scuffing of all trim. So it makes complete sense to give them a little love every now and then.
Always Clean Before Painting
Nowhere is it more critical to clean the surface prior to painting than when it comes to baseboards. Remember, dirt and grime collect at the bottom of walls. Wipe down with trisodium phosphate (TSP), a non-toxic powder that produces a mild but effective cleaning solution when mixed with water.
Especially be sure to clean the top of the baseboards, as dust naturally collects on horizontal surfaces.
If you are the type that is averse to cleaning before painting, baseboards are one area where you should make an exception due to the huge amount of debris that accumulates on them.
Should You Remove Baseboards to Paint Them?
It is tempting to dispense with all of the taping, masking, and careful painting, and just remove the baseboards so that you can paint them on a couple of sawhorses outside.
This one is a judgment call. In cases of older homes that have many layers of paint bridging that wall-to-baseboard juncture, you will most likely end up damaging the wall. Baseboard paint will rip upward, taking with it wall paint and, in some cases, gypsum or plaster. Scoring along that juncture with a utility knife can reduce damage, though.
With new homes or homes that have not been extensively remodeled over the years, removal can be as easy as prying the baseboards off with a thin pry bar and your fingers.
Finally, if this is a room that is being remodeled and baseboards have not yet been installed, you should paint the baseboards before installation. Minor damage will occur during installation; this is par for the course. But the majority of the painting will already have been done, so touch-ups will be the only task left.
Which Is Best: Cutting in or Taping?
The "cut in" painting technique (painting without masking off surfaces) is difficult enough on accessible door and window trim, but far more difficult on baseboards because of their location.
It is very easy to mask off baseboards because of that top horizontal surface.
Mask Walls and Flooring
Use low-stick painter's tape to mask the lower edge of the wall, right above the baseboard. Even though masking off the wall and floor is time-consuming, it will result in a faster and cleaner paint job.
But masking is not exactly a slam-dunk. You still need to be careful with your paint, because excessive paint slop on the flooring-side masking tape will make the tape difficult to remove.
For the baseboard-to-wall area, using masking film ensures that baseboard paint will not splatter on the wall. Run the masking tape edge of the film along the top of the baseboards. Then spread the film upward. The film will stick to the wall on its own with static electricity.
Patching Gouges and Nail Depressions
Before you pull out the paint, be sure to patch and fill those big dings and holes that developed over time with wood filler
Nail depressions can be filled or left unfilled. If a brad nailer was used and sink depth was perfectly calibrated, you'll find it easier just to paint over those tiny holes. If the baseboards are nailed by hand with finish nails, you should fill those holes.
Which to Paint First: Baseboards or Wall?
This point is debatable, but if you're doing this project in conjunction with wall-painting, you may find it easier to paint the baseboards first. Baseboards are typically white, so any excess on the wall can easily be covered with the wall paint color.
Another technique that some homeowners adopt is to paint baseboards the same color as the walls. To assure that the baseboards have maximum protection, consider painting them a glossier sheen than the walls. So if you have satin, eggshell, or matte walls, you would want to paint the baseboards a semi-gloss sheen.