Do You Install Baseboard Before or After Carpet? [Solved]

By thewriteDuffy •  Updated: 12/18/21 •  6 min read

If you’re planning to install new carpeting, either yourself or by hiring a carpet installer, you’re likely wondering what your game plan is. Between the carpet, baseboard, and trim, it’s not always clear where to start.

Of course, you can lay your carpets down first, but you’ll run the risk of staining them when you putty, paint, and seal joints in your baseboards.

The little bit of added difficulty of installing carpet after the trim isn’t worth the risk of damaging your brand new carpet.

Baseboard before or after carpet

When Might You Want to Install Carpet First?

When might you want to go against the grain and install your carpets first? The one exception I can easily think of is if you are opting for a very high-pile carpet and ultra-thick underpadding. Some carpets, such as thick shag carpeting, can be difficult to stretch and push under the baseboards if you’re doing it yourself; meaning may just want to lay the carpet down before installing baseboards.

When deciding on your carpet, speak with your carpet guy or carpet layer (if you’re having the carpet installed for you) to determine if there are any special carpet install considerations with your choice.

One last scenario were laying your carpet down first might be necessary is if there’s a delay in the trim delivery or with the schedule for having your baseboards installed.

Scheduling is one of those things that despite our best efforts, can sometimes go wrong.

What About Painting Baseboards Before Instillation?

You may be wondering if you can work around it and install your carpeting first if you paint your baseboards before their installation. Although it all comes down to how polished a finish you’re looking for, securing pre-painted baseboards to the walls requires nails, which can create chips and scuffs that would then need to be touched up after installation anyway.

This kind of defeats the point of pre-painting your baseboards to keep your carpets clean.

If you’re still unsure what order to work in, consider both sides before making your decision and go from there. Either way, one job will require a little more work if you do it second.

What if You’re Just Replacing Old Carpet?

If you are replacing an existing carpet, you do not have to remove the existing baseboards unless the new carpets won’t fit beneath the baseboards, which is unlikely.

Many home repair experts leave baseboards in place and proceed as if they’ve just secured the trimming before the carpets, which as we’ve discussed is the common practice.

How to Install Trim Before Carpet

If you’ve decided to follow tradition and install baseboards first, you’ll need to leave space between the bottom of the baseboard and the floor. This area will leave enough room for your carpet to align squarely to the wall.

Here’s a good video by eHow showing you exactly what that looks like:

How High Off the Floor Should Baseboards be Installed for Carpet?

In this video, it’s recommended to use two carpenter pencils, like these on Amazon, as spacers to help you place your baseboard. In our experience, this is a little low, but perfectly fine.

We prefer to use scraps of baseboard, which is about 7/16″ thick, as our spacers between the floor and baseboard. Not only does this give you a bit more room if you’re using a nice thick underpad like I always opt for, but it’s a little easier to work with because you can get some good pieces around 2-4″ long to use, which is easier to balance your trim than thin pencils.

A note here though, you do have to make sure your trim is about 7/16″ thick. Some trim can be thicker, up to about 3/4″; if this is the trim you’ve picked go with the pencil method.

Installation Steps: Trim Before Carpet

If you’re a list person like I am, here’s a quick list of steps for installing baseboard before carpet installation:

  1. Prepare the floor. Sweep, vacuum, and mop the floor ahead of time to prevent any dust or dirt from getting trapped beneath the carpet.
  2. Measure your wall, twice. Measure the each wall carefully to cut each length of trim you’ll need. As you’re going around the room, use a 45° angle for your corners, and 30° for your joints.
  3. Elevate before nailing in place. Position the baseboard in place by supporting either end with either scraps of 7/16″ thick baseboard or carpenter pencils.
  4. Nail the baseboard into place. Using a finishing nail gun and 6d (2’’) or 8d (2.5’’) 16-18 gauge nails, secure the baseboard onto your wall.
  5. Place the tack strips. Set your tack strip about ½ inch away from the baseboard, giving it space for you to slip the carpeting underneath. One row of tack strip is enough to hold down most carpeting, but for heavily woven Berbers and or woolen carpets, two rows side by side is best. Nail down tack strips around the perimeter of the room in one go so that you’re ready for the carpet.
  6. Place the underpadding. Line the carpet padding up with the tack strip and staple it into place using an industrial staple gun. The padding will add some cushioning below the carpet and reduce wear and tear over time.
  7. Lay the carpet. Lay the carpet down making sure that any pattern or texture is oriented correctly in the room. Using a knee kicker, force the carpeting into position against one wall. Move along the wall, striking the kicker with your knee until you’ve pulled out all wrinkles and slack. Make sure each wall has a few extra inches of carpet at the perimeter to play with.
  8. Press the carpet down onto the tack strips. Using a stretcher, continue to stretch the carpet tight to the wall; at the same time, using your hand, carefully but firmly press the carpeting down onto the spikes of the tack strips below. Don’t hammer the carpet into the tack strip as it will bend the tacks and the carpet won’t be as secure.

After it’s installed, vacuum the carpet to clear away any loose staples or tacks.

Conclusion

For the best results, you should install your baseboard trim after painting your drywall, but before you place your carpet into the room.

Adding trim before the carpets prevents any accidental paint or product spills and will keep your new carpet looking clean and new.

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.