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Skirting Boards - Fixing New

Skirting boards are used to trim the bottom of walls where they meet the floor. Timber skirtings come in a range of sizes and profiles including square edge, rounded edge, taurus and ogee. To fit new skirtings you will need a basic set of tools plus a compound mitre saw and a coping saw. Whilst not essential, these two additional tools make for an easier job and a better result.

Skirting boards and tools

1. You should buy enough skirting board to complete the whole job making sure that you allow for wastage, and store this flat in the room for a couple of days to acclimatise. The change in temperature and humidity can have a significant effect on the wood and allowing it to adjust beforehand is worthwhile.

Measuring the wall

2. Measure the length of the base of the first wall carefully. The skirting here is going to be cut square at both ends and you want to make sure it fits snugly.

Measurement transferred to skirting

3. Transfer this measurement to a length of skirting and mark with a pencil line.

Marking cut line with a try square

4. Use a try square to mark the cut line at this mark. Hold the square with its shoulder firmly against the edge of the board and run the pencil line along the edge of the blade.

Cutting the skirting square

5. Use a hand saw to cut just to the outer edge of your pencil line and use long straight strokes to cut the skirting clean and square.

Marking the timber studs

6. This section is being fitted to a timber stud wall. See later notes for fixing to solid walls. Use a pencil to mark the position of the timber studs along the bottom of the wall. At the base of the wall there will be a timber sole plate for the stud wall which you can fix into.  But, fixing in line with the studs will give greater tolerance for the fixing position vertically.

Marking the fixing points

7. Place the length of skirting in position and mark fixing points in line with these studs and about halfway between the top and bottom of the skirting.

Drilling the screw holes

8. Remove the skirting and place on a workbench or similar. Drill each of the fixing holes. The drill bit should be the same diameter as the screws to be used for fixing.

Countersink screw holes

9. To cut the countersink so that the screw will sit flush, you can use a countersink drill bit or, as in this example, a handheld countersink. These handheld countersinks are fine for a small job but if you’ve got dozens to do, a suitable countersink drill bit will be a good investment.

Screwing skirting to stud wall

10. Position the skirting against the wall and loosely insert the screws. Use a cordless driver to drive the screws in tight. They should be tight enough to pull the skirting firmly against the wall but not so tight as to drive them through the board.

Marking skirting profile

11. The start of the next length needs to be profiled. Take a short square off cut of skirting and hold it against the end of the board. This represents the end of the previous section and will act as a template. Draw along the shaped face to mark the profile on this length.

Cutting profile with coping saw

12. Use a hand held coping saw to carefully and accurately cut along the marked line. Use gentle even strokes allowing the saw to do the work. Don’t put pressure on the blade as this will cause it to wonder and may even break it.

Checking profile of skirting

13. Hold the off cut against the end of the cut to check for a good fit. If there are any small irregularities, you can use a small rasp or sandpaper to adjust.

14. Measure from the face of the previous section of skirting to the next corner. Transfer this measurement to your new length and mark a square cut at the other end. Cut with a saw and fix the skirting as before.

15. Continue around the room in the same fashion until all skirting boards are fixed.

Marking screw fixing points

16. When fixing to solid walls, mark and drill the screw holes as before. Position the skirting against the wall and insert decent size nails in each hole. Holding the skirting firmly in position, tap each nail with a hammer to mark the wall behind.

Drilling wall for plug

17. Remove the skirting and use a suitable size masonry drill bit to drill the wall. The diameter of these should correspond to the wall plugs you are using. These in turn should correspond to the gauge of screw being used.

Inserting wall plug

18. Insert wall plugs into each of the holes and drive them home with a hammer.

19. Insert screws into all the holes and push them right in. Carefully position the skirting and, looking from above, align the screws with the plugs. A single turn of each with a screwdriver will secure them while you push the skirting back to the wall.

Screwing skirting to wall

20. Use a cordless driver to drive all the screws fully home. As before, these should sit just below the surface. Adjust the torque setting on your driver to ensure the screws don’t go too deep.

Marking external mitre

21. External corners are cut differently to the internal ones described earlier. Position the first length so that it overshoots the external corner. Mark the top edge where the wall ends and put a marker next to it identifying the direction of the angle (outwards from the corner).

Cutting mitre

22. Use a try square to mark the back face of the board square with this line. Set up your compound mitre saw to cut at 450 making sure that it is in the correct direction. Position the skirting on the base of the saw and align the mark on the back of the board with the finish line on the saw base.

23. Cut slowly and smoothly towards the base line. These saws work best when you put almost no pressure on the cutting blade and allow the saw to do the work. Take care to keep the saw aligned all the time so that it doesn’t wonder off course.

Alternative mitre saw angle

24. Start the next length of skirting in a similar way and cut the opposite angle. This can easily be done by adjusting the saw to cut from the other direction – but still at 450. Or, lay the skirting flat, as shown, and set the saw at 450 to the horizontal.

25. Position the two skirtings and check for alignment. As before, small discrepancies can be evened out using a hand held rasp.

External mitre fixed

26. Fix the skirtings in position as before. If the external angle on the wall is slightly out of true, there’s a neat trick you can use to prevent the wood opening at the junction. Align the boards so that the joint is spot on before fixing to the wall. Drive a couple of long panel pins through the mitred joint to keep it square. Then fix to the wall taking care not to over tighten the screws.

Additional Information

  • When buying skirting boards, inspect each length to ensure it is reasonably straight. Some cheaper timber can be twisted or bowed and this makes it difficult to work with.
  • If you start and end the job either side of a door frame it will make the job easier. Your last length of skirting will end with a square cut butted up to the architrave.
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