My husband and I have recently bought a new flat. It is tidy with clean plastered walls the same laminate throughout – basically it’s a blank canvas. All very nice and tidy – but not very homely. It is a bit overwhelming for us, where do we start and how do we create something that has some style or personality?
As we have begun to decorate we are realising that it is all about good quality small touches that make the difference; lighting, door handles, taps and skirting boards. These things can easily be overlooked for flashy pictures and big items like sofas. However, they are the bits of your decor that you really notice and often touch too so the quality (or lack thereof) can’t be missed.
Since we have never written an article on skirting boards I thought I would share what I have learned with you today. First of all skirting boards do several things; they protect the wall from kicks, bumps and scratches, they tidy up untidy edgings and they add to the style of your room.
You may have come across the term ‘Architrave’. It is similar to a skirting board but not quite the same. It is the wood or moulding that is used to frame doorways. You should try to match up the shape of your architrave and skirting boards to create a cohesive flow.
Skirting Boards and Architrave come in a variety of profiles. They can be a simple plank of wood or be shaped and moulded into various designs and styles. There aren’t any standard terms for skirting board shapes but you can get an idea of the range of shapes available from any good skirting board retailer.
As with any DIY job, to get a good result you need to have the right tools. Skirting boards last a long time so you need to fit them right. If you can’t afford to buy the right tools then borrow or hire them. If that is not possible then you are best paying a carpenter to do the job for you. To fit skirting boards well you need to be able to cut exact lengths of wood cleanly. Doing this with a hand saw is nearly impossible so you really need a ‘mitre saw’. These tools have circular blades mounted in a handle that you can move up and down over a fixed plate. The fixed plate will have various attachments to help you fix the wood in place before cutting and also so you can measure exact angles. Professional mitre saws are expensive but can pick up a basic domestic version for about £60.
Obviously, this tool has the potential to be dangerous if you don’t operate it carefully. You should always read the manufacturers manual before you operate it. It is also a good idea to practice making some cuts on spare wood before you start so you can be confident of obtaining clean precise cuts safely. Although the saw looks quite intimidating, because the blade is fixed in a housing and you can secure the wood before cutting, it is actually much safer than using a hand saw or axel grinder. So use some care but don’t be put off.
Precise measurements are essential. You will need a good tape measure and a sharp pencil for marking out the wood and floor. It will be hard to measure accurate lengths on your own so a second person to secure the measure at one end while you work at the other is ideal.
For an external corner, you should push your skirting board against a wall and run your pencil along its edge at the corner and past the wall edge. Do the same on the other wall and where the lines cross is where your skirting boards need to be cut to. Measure your boards carefully and then use the mitre saw to cut a 45-degree angle. For internal corners, the process can be more complex and you may need to ‘scribe’ or use a ‘profile gauge’ to get a good fit. The video below is a comprehensive guide to the more complex techniques.
This a technique for getting skirting boards to joint securely and neatly or fitting the skirting over imperfections in the flooring. It is much better to understand this technique with imagery. The video below is only a couple of minutes long and explains the process simply.
If you have modern, flat plastered walls then you can often use wood glue to fix your skirting board to the walls. This is a simple and fast way to fit your carefully measured and cut skirting boards. Apply the glue to the reverse side of the boards in a zig-zag pattern, after fixing to the wall carefully wipe off any excess glue. You will need to hold the boards in place with weights or heavy furniture while the glue dries.
In some cases, you may not wish to use glue or your walls might be uneven making glueing impossible. In these cases, you will need to nail or screw the skirting boards into the wall. If you have stud walls then you should use a stud finder to work out where the wood supports are behind the plasterboard and connect your skirting boards to the wood rather than trying to nail or screw them to the plasterboard. It can be helpful to drill pilot holes into the skirting board planks before you place them against the wall and fix them in place. Note that if you use nails or screws you will need to fill or paint the boards afterwards to hide the fixings.
You will need to use a wood filler to finish off the job. All your corners will probably need to be filled. No matter how carefully you measured and cut – imperfections in your floor, walls and the wood planks will mean there are gaps where the skirting board should meet. There will also probably be gaps at the top between the skirting board and wall and maybe between the floor and skirting too. It is best to carefully fill these gaps when you fit the boards. If you don’t the skirting will look messy and the gaps will accumulate dirt over time, which will which look terrible.