Unsightly cracks, chips, and pops can build over time as a house settles. Learning how to repair and caulk baseboards is easy and painless even if the baseboards are painted already. This step-by-step guide will offer you the tools to DIY the project and end up with professional results!
If there is one fact I know about older homes, it’s that the poor baseboards and trim take far more of a beating than they should. All those pretty wall pictures on Pinterest with the stunning crown molding and crisp baseboards? I have yet to move into a house like that.
But gaps and cracks in baseboards and trim aren’t only unsightly, they can create inefficiencies in heating and air as well as pathways for pests.
From repairing windowsills to building a custom closet or adding picture frame wainscoting, beautiful trim and baseboards really can make a wall stunning. It’s those little details that make a difference and this is an easy fix!
Both sets of stairs were badly cracked, but the baseboards themselves seemed to be in decent condition. Replacing them seemed like an extra step we didn’t need.
Supplies for Caulking Baseboards
- silicone caulk –This caulk is my favorite. *Make sure it is paintable caulk made for trim*
- a quality caulk gun tool
- a caulk scraper and a plastic putty knife
- scissors or utility knife
- painting supplies (paint brush/roller/Tape)
Best Tip #1: Buy a Good Caulking Gun
It’s only a few dollars for a better tool and the benefits are so, so worth it. This is one of the caulk guns that I use and love because:
- With cheap caulk guns, the caulk often drips long after you have released the trigger, wasting caulk and a bunch of paper towels every time you set it down. I only use dripless caulk guns! No wasted caulk.
- It comes with a handy pin attached that easily pierces the foil barrier inside the tube.
- The trigger spring allows for more even caulk distribution.
Pro Tip: If you use viscous materials (such as sanded caulk or adhesives), have a BIG job, have poor hand strength, arthritis, or would just like something that doesn’t require you to squeeze as much, get a high thrust caulk gun. This is the one that I use as well for bigger jobs.
How To Repair Baseboard Trim Step-by-Step
You can print the instructions easily in the tutorial card at the bottom of this post, so I utilize the area for an in-depth look at our project along with more tips for the best results.
Begin by scraping off the old caulk.
If the caulk is still attached in places, cut it with a razor knife to loosen from the wall. I love this caulk scraper because it won’t gouge the wall or tile. Scrape or sand any excess texture off to create a smooth surface.
Do I need to tape off the wall?
I like to tape the front of the baseboard over the edge. It makes it easier to wipe off. If I want a really crisp line, I will tape the wall as well. This helps give me a guide for painting later.
Pro Tip: Make sure to burnish the edges. This means running your finger along the edges just before you caulk to make sure that caulk won’t push under it.
Step 3- Prepare the caulk.
Step 4 – Lay a Bead.
As you are caulking, hold the gun so that the tip is completely flush with the baseboard. I usually caulk an entire side end to end.
Tips to Smooth out the Caulk.
My personal favorite tool is my fingertip to smooth out the caulk. Put on some latex gloves and make sure they are tight fitting around your finger (no ridges or ripples). Use your index finger at an angle with light, but consistent pressure.
If you don’t have latex gloves, you can take a little Dawn dish detergent, dilute 1:1 with water so it doesn’t bubble, and dip your finger in the water mixture.
However, I generally recommend this wedge tool if you do not feel confident with just your hands.
I make about two passes – I wipe the most of excess off of several feet to make sure I covered well. The second pass is end to end with a little more pressure to make sure the final look is good.
Pull the tape while still wet.
Before pulling the tape, make sure you can see the edges of the tape well. Otherwise, the tape will not have a nice edge.
Oh, I love a good reveal! Don’t you?
This is the mirroring staircase, and it was in exactly the same condition before we repaired it. See what I mean? Those clean lines really look professional!
Who knew baseboards could be this exciting?!
How To Caulk Baseboards After Painting
The steps are essentially the same. Here are some tips for caulking baseboards after painting:
- Make sure to remove any grease or dirt well.
- Remove any previous caulk and perhaps sand the surface where the new caulk will go for the best bond, but this is optional.
- Do be sure to use crack resistant caulk to keep it from pulling away from the paint to last longer.
Tips for Caulking Baseboards
While caulking your baseboards can be a pain, there are plenty of tricks and hacks that can make the process easier and even less painful on your back.
- Choose the Right Caulk: Use a high-quality acrylic latex caulk that matches the color of your baseboards. This ensures a seamless finish. Remember, make sure it is a paintable caulk made for trim.
- Cut the Nozzle at the Right Angle: Cut the nozzle of the caulk tube at a 30 to 45-degree angle. Start with a smaller hole and gradually make it larger until you achieve the desired bead size.
- Use Painter’s Tape: Apply painter’s tape along the edges of the baseboard and the wall to create clean, straight lines. This will, by far, give you the cleanest straightest edge.
- Apply Even Pressure: Squeeze the caulking gun trigger evenly while maintaining a steady hand to create a consistent bead along the baseboard.
- Remove Excess: Have a damp cloth or paper towel handy to wipe away any drops or unintended drips.
- Utilize a Scooter: Using a scooter or knee dolly can significantly reduce strain on your back and knees. It allows you to glide along the baseboard while applying caulk without the need to constantly kneel or bend over.
- Pull when wet: For caulk, it is best to remove the painter’s tape just after setting up. This will give you the smoothest finish as long as you don’t have a good amount of excess over the tape line.
More Simple Ways to Improve Your Home
- Repair and Replace Windowsills
- Upgrade Cabinets by Installing Trim
- Build a Custom Closet
- How to Paint Old Kitchen Cabinets
- Kitchen Backsplash with Peel and Stick Glass Tile
I always paint my baseboards first because they are lighter in color. If you were using a darker color on the baseboards than on the wall, you may consider painting the wall first.
Cracks larger than ¼ of an inch may take more passes. The process is essentially the same as smaller gaps. However, make sure you fill deeper in the gap (not just flush with the surface). Allow the deeper caulk to dry completely before adding a surface bead to smooth out.
There are many good brands for trim caulk. Pay attention to whether the caulk you are using is intended for interior or exterior as well as whether it is paintable, as well as crack or shrink resistant caulk. Silicone caulk is not paintable.
My personal favorite tool is my fingertip to smooth out the caulk. It is soft enough to go over ridges and keep a consistent pressure. Put on some latex gloves and make sure they are tight fitting around your finger (no ridges or ripples). Use your index finger at an angle with light, but consistent pressure.
However, I generally recommend this wedge tool if you do not feel confident with just your hands.
I generally caulk between drywall and tile before adding baseboards in a bathroom to make sure water doesn’t wick up the drywall. However, wood flooring often needs an expansion gap, thus the baseboards cover the gaps between the wall and floor. I don’t recommend caulking between the baseboards and floor directly.
To caulk baseboards without making a mess, use painter’s tape to create clean lines, apply even pressure on the trigger, and smooth the caulk with a damp finger or smoothing tool for a neat finish. Have a damp cloth or paper towel on hand to wipe away any excess caulk immediately.
I suggest investing in two things to make caulking baseboards easier. First, a scooter or knee dolly to take the strain off of your back and knees. Second, a high thrust caulk gun that requires less strength to push the caulk out.
While you don’t have to tape before caulking baseboards, I do suggest it in order to get a professional looking finish.
Yes, you can fill baseboard nail holes with caulk. Simply apply a small amount of caulk to each nail hole, smooth it with your finger or a putty knife, and allow it to dry before painting for a seamless and finished appearance.
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How To Caulk and Repair Baseboards
- Silicone Caulk Make sure it is paintable caulk made for trim
- Sandpaper or Sanding Blocks
- Painter's Tape
- Well fitting Latex or Nitrile Gloves I get these from Harbor Freight
- Paper Towels
- Wedge Tool Optional
- Paint Supplies
- Remove the old caulk. I love this a caulk scraper because it won't gouge the wall or tile. Scrape or sand any excess texture off to create a smooth surface.
- (Optional) Tape off the wall. I like to tape the front of the baseboard to the edge It makes it easier to wipe off. If I want a really crisp line, I will tape the wall as well. This helps give me a guide for painting later.
- Prepare the caulk and gun. Cut the tip of the caulking gun at an angle. Pierce the inside seal with a skewer or some caulk guns come with a piercer tool.
- Hold the gun so that the tip is completely flush with the baseboard. Caulk an entire side end to end. Make sure to fill all gaps.
- Smooth out the Caulk. With a bit of practice, smoothing caulk with your index finger is a breeze. Put on some latex gloves and make sure they are tight fitting around your finger (no ridges or ripples). Use your index finger at an angle with light, but consistent pressure. If you aren't confident using your hands, a wedge tool helps. Make two passes – Wipe most of excess off of several feet to make sure it is covered well. The second pass is end to end with a little more pressure to make sure the final look is smooth. Use paper towels to wipe the glove between passes.
- Pull the tape. Before pulling the tape, make sure you can see the edges of the tape well. Otherwise, the tape will not have a nice edge.