Do you love the look of painted baseboards but currently have oak, pine or some other wood in your home?

Not to worry, painting your baseboards and getting a beautiful finish is an easy job than any Do-It-Yourselfer can handle with a little bit of time and patience.

This tutorial is written to home owners / painters who are not own or plan on using a sprayer. A separate tutorial for spraying baseboards is in the works.

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Tools & Materials Needed

Materials Needed

Step 1: Clean and Prepare Your Workspace

If you read any of my “How To” posts here on DIY Painting Tips, you’ll start to notice a familiar theme to the beginning of these posts. Always start any project by cleaning out the room of anything you can, furniture, decor and anything else that is moveable. A clean open workspace is a key ingredient to a great looking finish.

Also, lay out a small 4′ x 5′ drop cloth that you can set up your tools and materials on so they are organized and you know where they are at at all times.

Step 2: Prep Your Floors

Before you start making a mess with any paint, caulk, compound or sanding, you’ll want to make sure you get your floors properly prepped and protected.

For Baseboard on Carpet

To properly tape off the carpet so that no paint gets on your carpet in any way, you are actually going to be tucking the tape under the baseboard by 1/4″.

For this step you will need your roll of 2″ painters tape and your painters 5-in1 tool. Start by roughly a 2′ piece of tape and placing it down onto the carpet next to the trim. But rather than butting the tape directly next to the baseboard, actually place the tape so goes up onto the baseboard about 1/4 of an inch and the rest goes onto the carpet next to the baseboard.

Next, with one hand, grab the side of the tape away from the baseboard and pull it away slightly from the wall. At the same time, with your other hand, use your painters tool to push the edge of the tape that was butting up against the baseboard and push it down until it tucks under the bottom of the baseboard. This may take you a few tried to get the hang of it, but once you do, your tape should be nicely tucked about 1/4 inch under the baseboard.

For Baseboard on Wood, Linoleum or Tile

Taping off a non-carpeted floor is much easier, but is also easier to get paint to seep in-between your tape and trim and get on the floor.

Take your time and carefully place your tape right up against the baseboard without any flooring showing or without the tape climbing up onto the baseboard. Once you are done taping the floor, use your 5-in-1 tool and firmly press the tape down next to the trim so that it makes a nice seal. Double check that there are no gaps between the tape and trim where you can see any floor and that there are no spots where the tape climbs up the trim.

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Step 3: Clean and Sand Baseboards

Before you sand your baseboards you are going to want to make sure they are clean from dirt, dust and grim. Do this with a rag and hot water if they aren’t too dirty. If your baseboards have a bit of grease and grim on them, then add some TSP to your hot water to really remove the grim.

Once your baseboards are clean and dry, I always like to start by giving them a good sanding before I do anything else. This removes any remaining grim, scours and smooths any old finish and knocks off any potential splinters from old nail holes. I like to use 3M’s medium grit sanding sponges for this as the sponge with form around the shape of your baseboard and evenly sand the entire piece.

Step 4: Fill Nail Holes With Spackle & Sand

When you paint your baseboard, you want to fill any old nail holes in the board. If you do not, each hole will show as a dark shadow and contrast with your new paint. The exception is dark colors such as brown or black, if you are painting your baseboard either of these colors, you can probably get away with not filling nails holes if you want as they won’t be visible in the end.

Take your DAP spackling paste and fill every hole in the wood. I put a small amount of paste on my 5-in-1 tool and then just use a finger with a bit of paste to fill the holes. Allow it to fully dry, usually an hour or two.

Once the paste is dry, take a fine grit sanding sponge and sand all of the wood with extra attention to smooth out all of the spackling paste. Once you are done sanding, vacuum off all of the dust created using a shop vac and a brush attachment.

If any of your nail holes are not filled 100%, you may need to do a second coat of spackling paste. Go ahead and take they time to do the second coat if needed, it will make your final product look a lot better!

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Step 5: Caulk All Gaps and Corners

For the same reason I recommend spackling nail holes, you should caulk all of the corners and gaps between your baseboard and the wall as well as in the corners where your baseboard changes direction.

To get a nice bead of caulk and not a large gooey mess, you need to start with a high quality caulk gun with a high thrust ratio of at least 12:1. A thrust ratio, simply put, is how hard you need to squeeze the trigger to get material to come out. The higher the thrust ratio, the more gentle you can be with the gun and thus get a really nice bead of caulk on your baseboard.

Start by cutting a 30 degree angle on the tip of your bottle of caulk. You don’t want a hole any bigger the size of the tip of a pen, this will keep the bead of caulk coming out small and under control. Place the angled caulk in between the baseboard and the wall and slowly pull the trigger, try to get no more caulk than needed to fill the gap and no less. 

Every 5-10 feet, stop caulking, take a wet rag, wrap it around your finger and run it over the caulk line you just made. The wet rag will smooth out your bead of caulk and make it look like a professional job.

Running a perfect bead of caulk takes practice, so don’t get discouraged if it feels like you are making of gooey mess. It is always a good idea to start in any closets to get some practice in on areas that won’t be highly visible.

Step 6: Brush On Your Primer Coat

There are not a lot of industry secrets or tips when it comes to brushing on your primer coats, just a few quick simple things.

First, make sure to always work on top of a drop cloth. You don’t want to be cleaning paint out of the carpet when you are done.

Second, re-vacuum all areas to be painted. The removal of any dust and debris is important.

Third, your goal is to get a thick coat brushed on, but not thick enough to run.

Fourth, use straight even strokes as you brush on the primer. The smoother you can make your brush strokes, the smoother your final product will be.

Finally, and this is the GOLDEN RULE OF ALL PAINTING, look over your work as you go. Many people rarely take a glimpse at areas they have finished until they are done with the whole project only to find out it looks terrible. If you stop every 5-10 minutes and really inspect your work, you will see if you are too light, too heavy, too anything and adjust.

Step 6: Brush On Your Primer Coat

There are not a lot of industry secrets or tips when it comes to brushing on your primer coats, just a few quick simple things.

First, make sure to always work on top of a drop cloth. You don’t want to be cleaning paint out of the carpet when you are done.

Second, re-vacuum all areas to be painted. The removal of any dust and debris is important.

Third, your goal is to get a thick coat brushed on, but not thick enough to run.

Fourth, use straight even strokes as you brush on the primer. The smoother you can make your brush strokes, the smoother your final product will be.

Finally, and this is the GOLDEN RULE OF ALL PAINTING, look over your work as you go. Many people rarely take a glimpse at areas they have finished until they are done with the whole project only to find out it looks terrible. If you stop every 5-10 minutes and really inspect your work, you will see if you are too light, too heavy, too anything and adjust.

Step 7: Brush on the 1st Top Coat

After your primer coat has had ample time to dry you’ll want to take one of your fine sanding sponges and sand it as smooth as possible without sanding through the primer and back to bare wood. When done sanding, you will need to vacuum all of the wood again to remove any dust.

This is the time when I like to double check all of the baseboard to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Do any gaps need to be caulked or re-caulked, any nail holes not filled 100%? If so, now is the time to fix these issues.

When brushing your fist top coat, follow the same steps as described above in step 6. Do your best to get an even coverage and have smooth, even brush strokes. Allow your first top coat to dry, usually at least 4-5 hours.

Step 8: Brush The 2nd Top Coat

Brushing your second topcoat is only slightly different from brushing your first. This is where I switch from the fine sanding sponges to the extra fine sanding sponges. You don’t want sanding scratches to show in your final coat, nor do you want to over sand your top coats, so fine sanding sponges are perfect to use in between top coats.

Once you have sanded, make sure to vacuum all the dust from the area and begin your 2nd coat.

Again, remember to make smooth, long brush strokes, apply even coats and watch for runs.

Allow your 2nd coat to dry thoroughly.

3rd Coat – If a 3rd coat is needed, and it usually is, repeat step 8. 

Step 9: Inspect, De-Prep and Cleanup

You’ve now completed painting your baseboard, but one thing remains, you need to closely inspect for any imperfections. If you find any issues, now is the time to fix them. If you wait until after you have cleaned up, odds are you won’t have the motivation to actually fix any of these issues.

3Once you have determined that no issues remain, start pulling your tape and cleaning up.

Congratulations, you’ve painted your baseboards.

Baseboards is a great place to get started and learn how to get a good looking paint job. Once you are comfortable painting your baseboards you can move on to door trim, window trim, windows and maybe even cabinets!

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