What are Baseboards and Are They Necessary?

By thewriteDuffy •  Updated: 12/10/21 •  6 min read

If you’re completely new to building and renovating, some of the terms can get confusing. So let’s clear up any confusion we may have about baseboards here in this post.

What are Baseboards For?

While there’re certainly no mandatory requirements dictating that you install baseboards an open gap between your drywall and flooring is just plain ugly.

But this is just one of the jobs baseboards do. Baseboards are useful for several reasons, specifically to:

What’s the Difference Between Baseboards and Trim?

By now, you’ve likely run across two different terms—baseboards and trim. They are often used interchangeably when speaking about baseboards. But if you hear someone speaking about trim, don’t assume they are speaking about baseboards. Essentially, all baseboards are trim but not all trim are baseboards.

Think of trim like an umbrella term that for every added wall feature. Anything from baseboards to crown molding, door casing, and picture rails can be considered trim but only baseboards can be called baseboards.

What are Baseboards Made Of? What’s the Best Material for Baseboards?

As mentioned earlier, most baseboards are made of solid wood, vinyl, or MDF (medium-density fiberboard).

Let’s take a look at each common type of material to help you decide which might be best for you.

1. Wood

Baseboards come in a variety of wood choices to match your tastes including pine, poplar, oak, and maple. High-end homes may even have specialty hardwoods like bamboo, Brazilian walnut, or Teak.

The main benefits of wood baseboards are that they are very durable, able to take a lot of abuse and can be stained to match any decor.

The cost for wood will vary by type, shape, and height, but in general wood baseboards will be more expensive than MDF.

2. Vinyl

Vinyl (also referred to as PVC) is most commonly used in residential installations in basements and utility rooms since it’s durable and water-resistant. Traditional vinyl baseboards come in rolls and are fixed tight with industrial glue.

Today, you can get PVC baseboards that are installed on tracks and have some depth to them.

Vinyl baseboards are still less aesthetically pleasing choice over Wood of MDF, but are incredibly easy to clean and maintain and come in a rainbow of colors.

3. MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard)

MDF is the most widely used material for baseboards because of its sleek and clean look and low cost.

MDF is made from wood dust and resin to create a perfectly smooth and shapable material. MDF is also very easy to cut, making it easy to install.

MDF needs to be painted, but can easily be painted any color you like making it able to match any decor, or even blend into your wall when painted the same wall color.

How Tall Should Baseboards Be?

Most baseboards run between 3 ¼”– 8″ in height, but there are some larger options and many options in between.

So, how tall should your baseboards be? There are many schools of thought on this, with many designers saying not to put baseboards that are high in rooms with low ceilings, and others claiming that rule is outdated. If you’re wanting to play it very safe, you can use the seven percent rule. This rule states that your baseboards should equal seven percent of the overall height of your room.

For example, if you have eight-foot ceilings, your baseboards will look best at around six and a half to seven inches high. This height should include any cap molding placed on top of the baseboard.

Do Baseboards Have to Match Throughout the House?

If you have rooms with different ceiling heights or you’re doing a renovation, it’s natural to wonder if your baseboards have to be the same throughout the house. While there is no baseboard police out there, it is a good idea to use the same style of baseboards throughout your home.

Baseboards are thought of as an architectural element of your home, and so mixing and matching them throughout can give the impression that a house has been through multiple renovations by persons not concerned with the details. For some prospective buyers, this can be a red flag.

Should Baseboards Look Like the Other Molding in the Room?

Once again, for the sake of making your home look like one, cohesive and well-kept space, you should keep your baseboard style in line with the rest of the trim like casings and any crown molding.

Trim comes in many different styles like ranch, craftsman, provincial, etc. Generally, as long as you’re matching the basic style throughout your home, you’re good.

Here’s a graphic from WindsorONE to illustrate what we mean by styles.

A great place to have a look at the different trim styles is the WindsorONE website. Their website breaks down and groups the different styles.

Installing Baseboards Correctly

How you install baseboards will depend a lot on the room you’re installing it in.

For example, if you’re installing trim in a room you also plan to carpet, you’ll want to install them before the carpeting, just shy of where the carpeting pile ends. More information on installing trim and carpet can be found here.

If you’re installing trim over a wood, vinyl, resin, or other hard surface, you’ll want to make sure your floor and is installed first.

thewriteDuffy

April is a writer, author, and online marketer with 15 years of experience writing for newspapers and magazines, building online authority websites, and publishing books. She has a diploma in journalism and a post-graduate diploma in book and magazine publishing.