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Should Carpet Go Under Baseboard?

If this is your first time taking on a DIY carpeting project, or you want to make sure the hired professionals do the job right, the task at hand may seem daunting. After all, there are so many conflicting opinions and questions about the right way to lay carpet. One of the most common questions asked is, which comes first --the carpet or the baseboard? If you ask many professional carpet installers this same question, they might say that it depends on your personal preference, so we've researched to find the best practice method for you.

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While it is true that you can do the job in either order, placing the baseboard before the carpet is the most practical solution. This is partly because it's easier to paint or stain the baseboard beforehand without fear of ruining the new carpet. 

Now that we've established the basic layout order, let's take a look at some essential how-tos. We'll discuss the proper spacing between carpet and baseboard and some tactics to keep the gap if it's still too broad after installation. Finally, we'll look at replacing the baseboard while leaving the carpet in place. 

Living room with gray patterned carpet flooring, white baseboard, and a white painted wall, Should Carpet Go Under Baseboard?

How Much Space Do You Need Under The Baseboard For Carpet?

A general rule for the space needed underneath the baseboard is 3/8 of an inch to one-inch, depending on the pad's and carpet's thickness. This space creates enough room for the carpet to be tucked underneath the baseboard. Before tucking, it must be nailed to the tack strips, stretched, and trimmed. 

Click here to see carpet tack strip on Amazon.

Tack strips are fixed around the room's edges and have teeth that anchor the carpet securely to the floor. After laying the padding and carpet down, a knee kicker helps force the carpet flush with the wall, and a stretcher smooths out any wrinkles. Trimming the edging can be done with a specialty tool or a very sharp blade.

Click here to see knee kicker on Amazon.

Finally, using a chisel tool or putty knife, go around the perimeter, doing one section at a time. Here, the trick is to hold the chisel or knife slightly at an angle while gently pushing the carpet underneath the baseboard molding; this prevents the baseboard from getting scuffed, chipped, or broken. If done correctly, there won't be any frayed edges poking out, making for a clean, professional finish. 

Can You Replace Baseboards Without Removing Carpet?

If the baseboards need replacing for any reason, there is no need to remove the carpet. You can complete the replacement with a few tools and a little bit of knowledge.

Start by scraping caulking residue, if any left behind on the baseboards, with a putty knife or other dull blade; this will make prying the boards less likely to ruin your paint job. Using the same knife, carefully loosen the nails from the baseboard. A pry bar can be used in a back and forth motion to release the wallboards. It may be necessary to sand off any remaining glue left behind on the walls. 

After measuring and re-measuring the room, the baseboard will need to be cut. The recommended method for cutting is 45-degree angles for each corner piece and 30-degree angles for middle joining pieces. As mentioned earlier, it's a good idea to paint the baseboard first. Resting the baseboard directly on top of the carpet, nail each board in place, making sure to not place the nails too far against the edges as this may cause the wood to split.

Check out "What Is The Best Paint For Baseboards? [4 Actionable Suggestions]."

How Do You Fix A Gap Between The Baseboard And Carpet?

Besides being aesthetically pleasing, covering any unwanted gaps serves a functional purpose by keeping out dust, dirt, and insects. If you notice any small cracks between the top of the baseboard and the wall, fill with caulking or wood putty. There are several options for filling gaps where the baseboard meets the carpet. These include caulking, foam sealer, shoe mold, quarter round, and extra carpet padding. 

Caulk & Foam Fillers

Use acrylic latex caulk for bottom cracks if they are 1/4-inch or smaller, but it's apt to leave a messy appearance for larger gaps. The carpet must first be untucked from underneath the baseboards and pulled away from the tack strips to use the foam sealer. It is then carefully sprayed underneath the baseboards and left to dry before replacing the carpet. 

Check out "How Long Does It Take Caulk To Dry Before Painting?"

Shoe Molding & Quarter Round

Shoe molding and quarter round are essentially the same things: they're both decorative strips that run along the baseboard's bottom. The difference between the two is shoe molding has a square outward shape while the quarter round is round, as its name suggests.

Click here to see shoe molding on Amazon.

Extra Padding

Finally, extra padding is placed underneath the gap to bulk up the carpet. Again, this means untucking the flooring from the baseboards and tack strips then resetting when completed.

Costs of Filler Vs. Molding Vs. Padding

So, which of these choices is right for you? Well, that depends on your budget, time, and personal style. The most cost-efficient alternatives are caulking and foam sealer. The materials, including painter's tape (vital for protecting your floor), will only set you back by about $50. Plus, even the timidest beginner can tackle it in a day.

With many designs to choose from, shoe molding and quarter round give your home a personal touch. On the higher end of the price spectrum, these base moldings average $9 per foot. Assuming you hire a professional, the cost will be around $1,200, including old baseboard removal and disposal.

Extra padding costs will vary greatly depending on the type, density, and thickness. The price ranges from $ .50 per foot for bonded foam and two dollars per foot for rubber padding. Since rubber padding is best for high-traffic areas, the cheaper bonded foam will suffice for your needs.

Whichever option you choose, it's best to consult with a flooring professional for material, labor, and disposal costs. 

The Takeaway

In conclusion, we now know that it is correct to place the baseboards before the carpet. Doing so allows for a tidy paint job and clean, seamless edges. If you decide to replace your carpet years down the road, you won't have to worry about replacing the baseboards as well since they're already at the right height.