Fitting Skirting Board

Skirting boards are the decorative finish (normally timber) around the bottom of walls which hide the joint between the wall and the floor; it also offers protection to walls from bumps and knocks.

In older property the skirting boards were normally quite deep and often ornate, however in more recent properties the skirting board is typically fairly plain and 100mm to 150mm high.

When selecting new skirting board to fit, it is a good idea to match the new style and size with the existing fitted elsewhere in the property - fitting plain, modern skirting to an old house is usually an error, as is old style skirting in modern houses - but there are always exceptions.

Measuring, cutting and fixing skirting board can be quite tricky as corners may be found to be out of square and cutting accurate mitres across the width of the board can be quite difficult especially where wide boards won't stand up in a mitre box or fit under a mitre saw.

Fitting the skirting board can be a bit of an art, you want the board to be uniformly parallel with the floor all the way around a room and the joints to be neat.

Skirting board around a room With external corners, such as the front corner of a chimney breast, the skirting board on each side should be mitred to get the best results. For the internal corners, the joints are not mitred but the end of one side is shaped to butt up to the other timber - this avoids the joints subsequently opening up due to shrinkage of the timber. Where the skirting abuts the architrave around a doorway, the ends of the skirting are normally cut square.

Individual lengths of skirting board should be cut as you fix it around the room.

For an internal joint, the 'back' piece should first be measured, cut and located, then the profiled end marked and cut to shape. Once the profiled end has been shaped, the other end can be cut as appropriate to length with a mitre or whatever is needed.

Internal corners

Internal corner for skirting boardFor internal corners, a profiled joint is used - this is where one side of the joint is a piece of skirting board cut square at the end and the end of the other piece is shaped to the profile, so that when the second piece is pushed upto the first, the end abuts the front.

The profiled end should always be cut before the other end to ensure a neat fit for the length of skirting board.

Profile for internal corner of skirting To establish the front profile for the shaped end, cut a piece of skirting vertically at 45 degrees, the edge of the cut on the front face is the profile required.

Make yourself a template by lining up an edge of a piece of card with the bottom of the skirting board, fold it to the profile and mark, then cut out, the front edge of the cut. Once you have this template, it can be used to mark the profile on the front of others ends you need to mark and cut.

The type of saw(s) used to cut the profile will depend upon the style of skirting board; where the profile is straight from the edge, a tenon saw can be used but where any part of the profile is not straight, a coping or jig saw should be used. Care needs to be taken to ensure that the saw is held vertically to ensure a snug fit between the cut and the adjacent piece of skirting.

External corners

External mitre joint for skirting board External corner joints should be mitre joints formed by the pieces of skirting either side of the corner being cut vertically at 45 degrees (assuming a true, 90 degree corner).

Some external corners will have been rounded during the plastering which will produce a shall gap behind the skirting on the corner; this should be filled with a suitable filler.

Where the mitre cut is on the other end of a profiled end (for an internal corner), the profile should be cut first, then the skirting board placed in position and the corner of the wall for the mitre cut marked on the back. The mitre can then be cut using the marked line as a guide.

Where a length of skirting board is mitred at both ends (such as across the front of a chimney breast), one end should be mitred and then the length established by placing the board across the chimney breast and the other end marked across the back - this mark then being used for the second mitre cut.

Fixing the skirting

Traditionally, skirting boards were fixed by nailing into timber plugs which had been driven into the vertical joints of the brickwork at roughly 450mm (18 inch) centres. More recently skirting boards, were fixed by using masonry nails into the brickwork itself.

While either of these options can still be used on solid masonry walls, they are not suitable where walls are drylined or the wall is of low density blocks. The modern trend is to use a 'grab' adhesive spread on the back of the skirting board before it is positioned on the wall regardless of the type of wall - where the skirting board is to be stained or varnished, this has the added advantage that there are no nail heads in the front face.

Fixing skirting board to stud partitioning can be done by nailing through into the stud work itself using lost head nails.

Once the pieces to form an external corner have been fixed to the walls, use a lost head nail across the corner so that the two pieces are joined.