Basic Floor Trim Installation

Finish Floor Trim Carpentry Instructions

Need a little help with basic floor trim installation?

The following steps can help you with just the rudimentary steps to measure, cut, and install average baseboard and quarter-round (a.k.a. shoe mold) to finish your floor.

In most of my remodeling and house flipping projects that I do, I like to install just the basic floor trim that can be easily purchased at the local home improvement store.

Nothing too fancy.

picture of trim

If I have a client who specifically wants ornate crown molding and woodwork installed, I prefer to hire a professional carpenter who, with many years experience, can better handle the precise cuts and intricate detail much better than I can.

If I’m involved in a property flip, my primary task is to get the house ready to sell. I don’t want to spend a lot of time and money on expensive equipment and materials. So, I go with what I know regarding the installation of floor trim, and can do it fairly well (mainly because it’s cheap and really easy to install).

After the task new vinyl or tile flooring is laid, proceed to finish it out with inexpensive floor trim found in the ‘wood trim/molding’ section at the store. As I said, the more basic, the better. And besides, once the floor trim is properly caulked, puttied, and painted, it looks really good in contrast to the new flooring. And, nobody will ever know a “professional” didn’t install it.

And without further ado, on with the finish floor trim carpentry instructions …

Floor Trim Installation Tools

I like to use “uncomplicated” power tools, if you know what I mean. If it works fine, and is inexpensive, that’s good enough for me. (I say this because my professional installer friends laugh at my, shall we say, relatively inexpensive tools I choose to use. Like I said, ‘if it ain’t broke’, why fix it? Anyway, these are the things I use to install floor trim:

picture of a mitre saw

Basic Compound Mitre Saw
I say ‘basic’, because I require just the simple 90 degree (straight up/down cut) …




picture of mitre saw

… and the 45 degree (diagonal cut). It is also handy as a chop saw for cutting 2″ x 4″ studs and other pieces of lumber. The largest piece of floor trim woodwork I cut might be 5 inches wide, which can be easily handled with this type saw.




picture of an air compressor

Portable Air Compressor and Brad Nailer
The compressor I use is a lightweight 1.5 gallon model that is easily portable. It has a maximum of 135 psi (pounds per square inch) of force which is certainly enough to drive a 1 1/4″ nail into the trim piece, and to provide a secure hold to the intended surface.

I also use an ordinary brad-type nailer capable of using 1 1/4″ nails for floor trim installation.

 

  • You will also need a pencil to mark with, and a measuring tape.
  • As always, have on your protective wear when operating power equipment.

 

Installing Wood Floor Trim

picture of trim measurement

Measure and Cut Trim Piece
Take your measuring tape, and measure the length of the desired cut in the area designated for floor trim. With your pencil, make a mark on the trim piece exactly where you want to make your cut.



Tip

When cutting your floor trim piece, you might want to slightly over-cut, or cut the trim piece a little longer than what you think you may need 1/16″.

Why do this?

Because it will allow the piece to fit firmly into place, which will help you when you begin to nail the trim into place.

Put the cut piece down in the desired location to see if in fact it fits (sometimes it does). If it does fit, it may be because the point where you measured may be slightly shorter in length than the area immediately at the floor level. This in turn might be due to uneven wall finishing, or something similar. It’s rare, but it can happen.

Besides, unless you’re in a major hurry, take your time to do it right the first time. If that means making a few extra cuts, then so be it.

After deciding on the exact length, cut your floor trim piece (straight or diagonal as needed) on the outside edge of your mark line. This is done to compensate for the saw kerf, or the cut produced by the actual width of the saw blade itself. In other words, you want to avoid cutting right on your mark line so you wont end being a 1/16″ shy of your intended cut. The width of a common power saw blade is around 1/16″. Try leave the final cut piece just ever-so-slightly longer than total length in the area you want to place floor trim.

An example would be:

Let’s say you have a 60″ cut to make for your floor trim to fit perfectly. To make it fit nice and snuggly, cut it slightly oversized at 60 and 1/16″ long. This will produce a slight bend to the piece, but will also allow it to fit nice and firm within your area. Don’t have too much bend as this would threaten to break the floor trim piece altogether.

 

picture of mitred trim

Fitting End/Diagonal Cuts Together
If you need to join two pieces of trim together, particularly two butt ends, cut both ends to allow a clean-fitting, seamless joint. This will eliminate any uneven, or mangled cut that would hamper such tight fitting joints.

 

picture of trim installation

Secure the Floor Trim Piece
With your air compressor and brad nailer,  install the floor trim piece to the wall, or in the case of the quarter-round, to the baseboard.



Tip

If you’ve never used a mitre saw or air compressor before, please read all relevant instructions beforehand (I know – who in the heck reads instructions!!). As I said, read the relevant instructions – not the whole booklet.

When you have finished that, pick up a few pieces of throw-away pieces, and practice sawing and nailing with the real thing. As you use these tools more and more, you’ll get a good feel for how to handle them, and to get exactly the results you want when it comes to cutting and nailing your floor trim.

Once you are done with installation of your floor trim, you are now ready to caulk and paint. Please see my page with the details on how to paint trim for a great finishing touch.