Bathroom Renovation: How To Install Baseboards & Trim

With all of our shower/tub and floor tile set, grouted and sealed, it really felt like the bathroom was finally coming back together. But the absence of one major finishing accent was still making the room look under construction: baseboards and trim. Take this pre-grouting shot of the floor for instance:

During demo, I started with the naive notion of salvaging the existing trim around the window and doors (both the main door and the linen closet). But I quickly realized that pipe dream was a lot more trouble than it was worth (many pieces were splintered, broken, or otherwise worse for wear). Not to mention that I couldn’t avoid installing new baseboard around the floor anyway, since it had once been a tile border back when the walls were also tiled. So thanks to my handy crowbar and a hammer, out it all came… leaving things like the window looking like this:

So once the grout had set for 24 hours and had been sealed a couple of times, re-installing the trim became my #1 task. Having borrowed my dad’s miter saw (have you noticed a theme here? thanks for all the tools dad!), I was mostly set in the “supplies” department. And, I’ll admit, having another power saw to play with was basically all I looked forward to when it came to this task. Okay, that and the bit of math and measuring that I got to do too along with it (yes, I am a nerd thankyouverymuch).

Once I measured everything (lengths of each wall, each side of the doors and around the window) we headed off to Home Depot with samples of our old trim in hand. We wanted to get something similar so it matched the rest of the house, though we did opt for slightly wider versions of the same style, just for a bit more crisp presence. Home Depot, like most home improvement stores, sells trim in HUGE strips. Fortunately, they also offer a cutting station to hack the pieces down to transportable sizes. I actually spent a good 30 minutes at the station cutting every single section we needed, leaving a bit of extra on each one and even going as far as to label the backs of each piece with things like “44 inches, back wall under window” or “35 inches, spare.” This came in handy when checking out because I could quickly add up how many feet I was buying without making the checkout girl suffer through measuring thirty-some sections of trim.

Rather than detailing my step-by-step process for all thirty-some sections that I installed, let’s use the window as an example. First, I located the sections that I had roughly cut for each side and marked the inside edge of my cut with a regular old ballpoint pen. Honestly, the hardest part of this step was holding the camera and the pen at the same time.

Then I marched through the house, out the sunroom, across the driveway and into the garage where I had the miter saw set up. This is a path I would travel quite frequently as I cut (and re-cut) everything. The miter saw is designed to easily cut angled (or mitered) cuts, so things like molding and trim can meet perfectly around corners and edges. Being new to the miter saw, I found it really easy to use. You just swivel the saw base to match the angle you need (I was doing all 45-degree angled cuts, fortunately), lock it into place, and then line the piece of wood flush against the guides. Oh and even though my dad’s saw was equipped with a laser guide, I always pulled the saw down in power-off mode to see for myself where the blade would contact the trim first- just to be sure before firing her up and making my cut.

Cutting each piece was a cinch. And like the wet saw, I found it easy to come back and finesse each cut if I saw things were a bit too long once I got back inside. I live by the motto “it’s a lot easier to cut more off than to put more back on,” meaning I’m sometimes very conservative on my first cut and end up trimming things fairly frequently. It might not be the most efficient method, but it’s definitely easier (and cheaper) than running out to buy more trim if you mess up and cut too much off from the start.

When it came time to affix the perfectly cut piece into place, we opted to go low tech. Rather than spring for some sort of power nail gun for such a small job, we bought a small 10 oz hammer (so we weren’t swinging our usual monster anywhere near our tile when it came to the baseboards) and a small “nail set” to recess each nail into the trim without bashing in the trim with the hammer. Again, it might not be the fastest technique but it got the job done with zero damage to the rest of the room (and kept us blissfully under budget). Basically we just used the hammer to drive some finishing nails most of the way into the trim (leaving about an 1/8th of an inch sticking out).

Then we came back with the nail set, a short metal piece that’s (not by coincidence) the size of the nail head on one end. That way you can drive the nail all the way into the wood without damaging the trim around it with the wide and unwieldy head of the hammer.

We actually drove the nail just slightly deeper than the surface of the wood so we could easily hide it with caulk later.

Oh and while the trim we bought is white, that’s only because it’s pre-primed, not painted. Some people choose to paint before installing their trim, but we’ve painted already-installed trim so many times that it’s practically second nature to us (there’s no whipping the paint out twice- once before installation and once afterwards for all the touch-ups- instead it’s all one go at the end).

Anyway, once I got all of the pieces installed around the window, it looked 98% perfect. The trim was a little smudgy from all of the handling and, try as I might, the pieces weren’t flawlessly flush in all spots but they were close enough. And that’s where caulk and paint come in.

We chose to use white paintable door, window and trim caulk to fill our cracks and nail holes (we tend to like Dap as a brand, since we find it’s among the easiest to work with). Here we are applying a generous strip at the corner seam of the window.

After squishing it into the seam with our finger and then wiping away any excess, it comes out looking pretty seamless.

And once all of the caulk dried on the corners and nail holes, we put on a couple of coats of No-VOC Freshaire white semi-gloss paint and TA-DA!

The trim around the linen closet and door were pretty much the same process, so here’s a quick before (complete with trim pieces I was checking the lengths of)…

…and after: all caulked, painted and ready to rock.

Now the floors were a slightly different task. Here I installed baseboard along the base of all the walls, including the interior of the linen closet, followed by quarter-round shoe molding to really finish everything off. I was excited by this part because it meant I got to cover up all the spots where my tiling wasn’t exactly flush to the wall. Plus, I got to experience the miter saw’s ability to make bevel cuts (these are still 45-degree angles, but they’re made by tilting the saw blade to the side, rather than rotating the saw base). These bevel cuts allow pieces of baseboard to meet in the corners like this:

Meeting in the corners perfectly wasn’t a big fear, since caulk would help me hide small flaws. My biggest fear was hammering so close to our precious floor. So as a safety measure I kept a towel under the hammer zone at all times for at least a little bit of a buffer and I used my smaller 10 oz hammer which was easier to control than our usual heavier and larger one. Here’s a peek into what the project workzone looked like.

You’re probably wondering why there’s a big, missing piece of baseboard on the long wall. No, I didn’t forget. That’s where the vanity is going and, since we want it to sit flush against the wall, we didn’t want baseboard in the way. So we placed the vanity in the room earlier to figure out where we wanted it (and where the plumbing forced it to go). Then we just marked the walls and measured and installed the baseboard accordingly.

After getting all of it in, we measured and cut the quarter-round the same way. The only difference was that we attached the quarter-round with Liquid Nails (ok, and a couple of real nails too) because despite wanting a flush fit everywhere, I was too chicken to manually hammer that close to the marble if I could avoid it. And we’re happy to report that it worked like a charm.

A little bit of caulk and two coats of paint later… presto-change-o.

In the end it was about a five hour process. And just like grouting, the difference was amazing. More and more it was starting to look like a real bathroom. Imagine that. Next on the agenda was installing the toilet, building the vanity and then we’d practically be done (stay tuned for our DIY vanity play-by-play later this week). Can’t you just taste the finish line? Us too, and it tastes a little bit like silicone caulk.

But enough about us, what are you up to this week? Any fellow bathroom re-doers? Anyone hanging trim or baseboards? Let’s commiserate.

Psst- Wanna read about the first few chapters of the big bathroom makeover? Check out Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, a little teaser post, Chapter Four and Chapter Five right here.

Comments

  1. tara says

    Is it totally weird to be excited that we have the same kind of bathtub?

    At any rate – looks amazing guys! Gives me hope for a bathroom reno. of my own.

  2. candace says

    It looks beautiful – you are on the home-stretch! Thank you for the play by play – I have learned so much!!

  3. says

    Okay, I’m wondering if anyone else experiences what I experience when I read your blog? I feel this weird sense of pride, as though I’m a parent watching their child in a Christmas play. It’s like I’m cheering you guys on the whole time you’re doing a project. I find myself laughing at your missteps, smiling at your jokes (okay, sometimes Burger’s jokes have me falling out of my chair, laughing so hard!), and beaming with pride when you finish something. It’s an amazing thing to be able to live through your blog, experience projects with you and feel a little like I contributed something (moral support?) to the both of you. Ahhhh.. so rewarding, with so little actual sweat on my end (and no caulk on my fingers..haha!). Keep up the good work. We’re cheering you on (and trying out some of your tips) in Ohio!

  4. Abby says

    Wow! Lookin’ good! I can’t wait for the big reveal, it’s going to be beautiful!
    My husband and I are installing baseboards this weekend too! It is such a tedious task but it looks so good when it’s done. I think we are going with the 4 1/2 inch stuff. I really wanted to put in bead board too, but it is so expensive that we’ll skip it and go with the thick trim. We are trying to find ways to add character to a vinyl sided builder basic 1980’s house. I’m happy to have the four of you to commiserate! :)

  5. says

    Wow, guys! I can’t believe how crisp that new trim looks! I always wrestle with this question – we all want to salvage stuff original to the house, but when it comes to moulding, sometimes the years have taken too much of a toll. Love the step-by-step. Thanks!

  6. says

    I’m working on a little bathroom project…not nearly as extensive as yours. Although once I’m finished it will have involved some peel and stick (a temporary fix), some wainscoting, a “new” light fixture and a newly framed mirror. Nothing over the top, but its already making a difference! I love all the pics of your bathroom makeover, its making me want to redo our other bathroom too!

  7. Bridget B. says

    Wow. Looks great!
    Quick questions:

    How many pieces of trim did you use to border each side of the window? Maybe I misunderstood, but I can’t seem to see more than one in the “after” picture.

    How hard was it to get the door off the linen closet? We’d like to do the same thing in our bathroom, but the hinges on our old doors are so tightly stuck, that I can’t get them to budge. Any tips?

    • says

      Hey Bridget,

      Yup, there’s just one piece of trim installed on each side of the window. Sorry if it sounded like we used more than one on each side (there are four sides to the window so maybe that was contributing to the confusion somehow?). As for removing the door to the linen closet, we just use a hammer and a screwdriver to knock the pin in the door up and out, then the door is free to be removed. Here’s a post all about that project: http://www.younghouselove.com/2008/07/open-wide/

      Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

  8. says

    That’s looking so good you guys!!! We’re also working on a bathroom gut-job, but ours got interrupted by building a garage so we’re just finally getting back to it. The trim is all that’s left for us so we’re super excited to get it finished up! Race to the finish??

  9. says

    Absolutely stunning. I *think* this is giving me the confidence to take a stab at tiling my own bathroom floors. Thank you so much for the super helpful step-by-step instructions and photos!

  10. says

    Ohhhhh a miter saw! I’m jealous! I *just* finished the boys’ room (baseboards and door casing) with a circular saw and a handheld. Gah!

    Looks beautiful, Lovies! Can’t wait to see it all put together!

    N.

  11. TG says

    I was interested to know the difference. I noticed that the floor tile did not go partially up the wall, but there was moulding installed instead (Baseboard).

    Is there a particular reason?
    Is one way better than the other from your expertise?

    • says

      Hey TG,

      Deciding between using tile as baseboard vs the wood moulding we used is totally a subjective decision in our opinion. While the tile option might create an extra bit of moisture protection on your floors, we chose to go the wood baseboard route so that it would match with the crisp white trim we were putting around the windows, plus we thought a light baseboard would help our tiny bathroom look bigger. Plus the tile border would’ve been extra moolah and extra elbow grease to get more tile in place. Not to mention we were fighting the tile-all-over-the-wall look we had lived with for so long. But again, it’s really personal preference.

      Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

  12. says

    We have been redoing our laundry room in the basement and last night we JUST grouted the tile. So we’re waiting for it to finish setting and then we’ll be sealing and painting before the trim goes up. As we have been for the last two weeks – we’ll be spending it in the basement, hopefully finishing up our first big reno on our home!

    P.S. the bathroom is looking great! Can’t wait for the final reveal!