How to install skirting boards

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Skirting is one of those room features to which you never pay much attention unless it is done badly – if there are gaps, damage or it is coming away from the wall, it can ruin the whole appearance of the room.

To avoid that happening to you, here is a handy guide to installing skirtings in your home, to provide a finishing touch that looks smart and professional.

Equipment

The exact tools and equipment you will need depend on the type of skirting and the means by which you are fixing it, but you are likely to require the following:

  • Workbench or vice
  • Skirting board mitre
  • Tape measure
  • Jigsaw
  • Mitre saw
  • Hand saw
  • Pencil
  • Glue
  • Hammer
  • Bolster chisel
  • Crowbar
  • Stud detector
  • Nail gun
  • Electric drill
  • Nails, screws, wallplugs and other incidentals.

Preparation

Most modern skirting comes pre-primed in MDF, but in the event that you are using untreated wood, paint the back of it with wood preserver before you fit it, or it will rot from the back to the front over time.

If you have old skirting in place that needs to be removed, do so carefully. Gently hammer a bolster chisel between the skirting and the wall to make a gap, then slot in a crowbar. Place a wooden block behind the crowbar to protect the wall, and carefully lever the board away. As it comes off, you will be able to see whether it is nailed or glued in place.

Where nails have been used into studs, mark the positions from the old skirting to the new so that you push the nails through in the right place. Or alternatively, just use glue.

Cutting the skirting

Do the longest wall first. Measure from corner to corner along its internal corners and mark the top edge of a length of skirting. Fit your mitre tool into a workbench or vice, and cut each corner. Make sure you place a piece of hardboard under the thumbscrews to protect the face of the skirting board from marks or damage.

Nailing or screwing

If you are attaching the skirting board with nails or screws, try to use the existing mounting points from the old skirting where possible. Alternatively, place one fixing every 60 cm or so, at the highest possible flat point on the skirting board. Always check first that there are no pipes or cables behind the fixing points.

If you are screwing the boards in, drill pilot holes first and insert wall plugs. For stud walls, use a stud detector to find the right spots and then hammer in oval wire nails.

Gluing

Gluing might seem easier, but the trick is to make sure the skirting is held properly in place until the glue has had a chance to set. All too often, things start to get messy.

Spread the adhesive evenly across the back of the skirting board and use props made from off cuts to hold it in place while the glue is drying.

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