"It's in the details" certainly rings true when it comes to building or remodeling a house. It's not the big things that make a house a home, but many, many small things that make all the difference. One of these details is baseboards. There are so many great options out there when it comes to selecting the perfect baseboard for your home. We have done some research and compiled a sizeable list of standard baseboard types and terminology for you.
Baseboard types can be confusing, as they often overlap, and can be defined by multiple characteristics. However, we have made an effort to simplify the terms for you. Baseboards can be found in any one of the following styles:
- Rounded or stepped baseboards
- Flat baseboards
- Mid-height sculpted baseboards
- Tall sculpted baseboards
- Rapid fit baseboards
Baseboards are available in a variety of materials as well as a variety of styles. Residential baseboards can be made from any of the following materials:
- Finger-joint wood
Here we have the basics when it comes to baseboards. However, as we stated above, the lines can be pretty blurred when it comes to baseboards, so be sure to keep reading to get a better grasp on each of these baseboard styles!
Okay, let's look into each of the types of baseboard that we mentioned above. These are also called baseboard "profiles," referring to the look of the baseboard when it is viewed from the side. Sometimes, architectural styles such as colonial, farmhouse, modern, ranch, etc. are used in reference to baseboards. However, multiple baseboard profile types can be used within a particular style, such as farmhouse. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the typical baseboard profiles.
Rounded Or Stepped Baseboards
These are also referred to as bullnose, 3-inch molding, or 3-inch baseboards, and are the most common baseboard used. They gradually taper towards the wall, finishing out with a rounded edge. Typically found at a height of 3 1/2 inches, rounded baseboards are no-fuss and offer a moderately ornamental and very modest trim.
Flat, square, or block baseboards have no rounded profile. In other words, when seen from the side, they are flat. Flat base trim is often seen in farmhouse style houses as well as craftsman and modern architecture. Flat baseboards do not taper towards the wall as rounded baseboards do. Although some homeowners prefer a square top, it can also be paired with shoe molding and a base cap to create a more decorative trim. Flat baseboards are usually 3 1/2 inches- 4 1/2 inches tall, but can be shorter or taller.
Mid-Height Sculpted Baseboards
The embellishments of sculpted baseboards add interest to a room and the scallops and stepping create visual appeal. Although it is more elaborate than the flat baseboards, it is still simple enough to be appropriate for many homes of varying formality. The typical height for this trim is 4-5 inches.
Tall Sculpted Baseboards
This is the style to go for if you want to go all out with the embellishments in your home. These baseboards can sit as high as 7 inches, and have ornate scallops and designs near the top. More elaborate architectural styles such as Victorian and Gothic often use these type of baseboards.
Rapid Fit Baseboards
Rapid fit baseboards are genius. If you're updating your house, upgraded baseboards can be an absolute lifesaver. These boards fit right over existing baseboards, eliminating the need to rip outdated trim out.
Now we come to the materials used to make baseboards. Gone are the days when baseboards were all made of wood. Today, we have baseboards made of a variety of materials. Each has its pros and cons, and each option has a time and place where it is best used.
Hardwood baseboards provide a beautiful, natural look in a home. Since they are made of solid wood, they do not warp over the years and will last a very long time. The primary downside of this type of baseboard trim is that can be pricey, but many homeowners say that it's worth the extra money! Different kinds of hardwoods include:
The grain on hardwoods is often stunning, and usually, these baseboards are stained and finished to showcase the beauty of the wood itself. When properly installed, hardwood baseboards can be a work of art.
While hardwood trim is lovely, many homeowners prefer to use softwood baseboards. These are lighter than hardwoods both in color and in weight. They are also lighter on the pocketbook, which makes them a little more commonly used. You can stain and finish softwood baseboards, so these are a more affordable option for natural wood trim. They can also be painted, if you prefer white baseboards. Common softwood includes:
The primary drawback to softwoods is in the name - SOFTwood. These woods are softer and more easily dented, which is something to be considered in areas prone to heavy traffic.
The finger-joint is a popular method of connecting two different pieces of wood. Using this technique, manufacturers are able to piece together multiple smaller boards to form one continuous board, thus eliminating excess waste. Baseboards made in this way have the benefit of being made of real wood, with the drawback of unsightly joints. These joints really dampen the visual appeal, so it is very uncommon to leave these as raw or stained wood. When painted, finger-joint baseboards have all the benefits of real wood but are much more economical. These baseboards usually come primed, so that's one finishing step that's already taken care of!
MDF, or medium-density fiberboard, also called composite, is a form of engineered wood that is very budget-friendly. Because it is available in very long boards, it is a great option if you need one baseboard to span a good length. It is available in a variety of styles and also comes primed. However, because of the makeup of MDF, it is not at all tolerant of moisture and tends to swell, making it a poor choice for damp areas.
This synthetic baseboard material has a lot going for it. It is sturdy, flexible, and water-resistant. Because of this, it is ideal for areas in your home that tend to have more humidity or water splashes, like bathrooms, laundry rooms, or kitchens.
How Do You Choose Baseboards?
Now that you have all this information about the different types of baseboards, how do you choose which kind you need? There are several aspects to consider.
This is where those architectural styles come into play. Determine what style of house you have and choose baseboards that are suitable for that style. For example, if your home is a ranch-style home, stay away from tall, sculpted baseboards and stick with rounded or flat baseboards. However, if your home leans toward Victorian, with its tall ceilings and elaborate details, you can be sure that those tall, sculpted baseboards will fit right in. And that leads to our second consideration.
Room Size And Purpose
The size and purpose of your room will also narrow down your choices. A larger room with higher ceilings will accommodate taller baseboards, while small rooms and low ceilings do best with smaller baseboards. When considering material choices, be sure to take into account the purpose of the room in question. Will there be heavy traffic? Does the room tend to have higher humidity? Will MDF baseboards hold up or should you choose a hardier option?
Harmony With Other Textures
Among the factors to consider when choosing a baseboard is the overall harmony of a room. What other features already exist in your home? Find a baseboard that complements the door casings, crown molding, and other trim in the room that is already installed.
Of course, it is important to consider your budget when shopping for new baseboards. Will your allotted funds accommodate solid walnut baseboards, or should you look at more economical options?
What Is The Best Size For Baseboards?
The best size for baseboards depends mostly on the home in which it is to be installed. However, across the board, the most widely used baseboard is around 3 1/2 inches tall. This is a suitable middle ground between smaller, less decorative trim and the larger, more ornate baseboard moldings.
What Is The Most Popular Baseboard Trim?
The most popular baseboard style is the rounded or stepped design made with MDF. This material is the most cost-effective, and because of the tapered, stepped design, it fits well in almost any home.
Are Baseboards Expensive?
The cost of baseboard trim is based on the material used, the height of the board, and how much it is embellished. Prices begin around 91 cents per linear foot and go up from there.
What Can You Use Instead Of Baseboards?
The primary purpose of baseboards is to hide the joint between the wall and the floor. Baseboards help to provide a seamless transition, but several options can be used as alternatives to baseboards.
- Furniture grade plywood
- Any wood
Molding, such as quarter round or shoe molding, can be used as baseboards. A quarter round is 1/4 of a wooden dowel. The backside of a quarter round is a 90-degree angle. Shoe molding is similar to quarter round, but with a more graduated curve and sleeker appearance. Both are typically used along the bottom of baseboards. However, either of these can be used as a standalone trim if necessary.
If your room has a tile floor, tile is a great alternative to baseboards. Bull-nosed tile has a finished, curved edge and is an easy switch for baseboards. Some stores also carry stunning tile edging that adds a finished look to the top of regular tile pieces. Tile is ideal for bathrooms, where the floor is often moist.
Furniture Grade Plywood
If you're looking for a high-quality replacement for ready-made baseboards, furniture grade plywood could be the answer you're looking for. These boards can be cut into strips and used as baseboards. Because of the quality of the wood, they can be sanded and stained, providing a beautiful and economical alternative to regular baseboards.
Truth be told, any wood can and has been used instead of baseboards. 1x2s, 1x4s, and even furring strips have the potential to act as trim for a home. Whether they are sanded and painted, or retain their rustic features, boards of varying height can be used instead of baseboards to trim and accent a room.
Whether you're building a new home or remodeling an existing one, choosing the right baseboards is important. The decision as to what size trim, and what material it is made of is yours, and you are now well equipped to determine which type of baseboard is perfect for you.
While you're here, you may find these other articles helpful:
Should Ceiling Paint Match Trim? (Design Options Explored)