Baseboards: Functionality Meets Fashion

They’re in every room in the house, but did you ever give much thought to your baseboards? We usually don’t even think about them, until guests are coming over or it’s time to sell the house and you realize how dirty they are. But, baseboards are more than just dust and dirt collectors. They serve an important function and give a polished look to your home.


Baseboards, also called baseboard molding or skirting, are the strips of molding along the bottom of your walls, where the wall and the floor come together.

The primary purpose of baseboards is to cover gaps and imperfections that are found within the building. In construction, it is very difficult to keep everything lined up and square, and even if all of your materials are straight, eventual settling will cause walls to shift. Also, hardwood floors expand and contract (also referred to as “breathing”) with temperature fluctuation. Therefore, it is necessary to allow space for this movement, and the gaps at the end of the floors are the best place for this. The baseboard moldings cover those gaps up.

However, today, in addition to the functionality provided, the skirting can also be customized for an added design element.

Choosing Baseboards

First, you need to decide whether you are replacing the entire skirting of the room, or only repairing a portion. If it is a repair job, you’ll want to match the current molding as closely as possible. You’ll need to look at the height and width  of your current molding, and match accordingly.

If you are choosing completely new molding for the entire room, you want to look at the height and width of the baseboards you want. The width will be based according to the gaps in your floors. You’ll need to make sure your boards more than cover the inconsistencies or gaps between your flooring and walls.

As far as the height, choose baseboard that is tall enough to be attractive without overwhelming. A general guideline is to use molding that is 5-1/4 inches tall for a room that is 8 feet tall. Use taller baseboard in taller rooms.

Choose a style you like. Decide whether it should have a modern, sleek-looking profile or a more elaborate, historic design. You can look at various skirting at hardware stores, design stores, or specialty mill shops if you want something more elaborate. Many types can be painted, and that is generally the best option. Other kinds are stained which can be a good option as well, although scratches and dents can not be covered as easily.

Although baseboards sometimes feel like a hassle, when they are clean and repaired, they give a great polished look to the house and are crucial for maintaining home value and resale value.