So you have just installed new baseboards in your home. They are looking great but like every DIY project, there is always another step or two. And caulking your baseboards is one of those necessary evils that we all need to learn.
Luckily, it is not as hard as you may think.
Before we begin, caulking baseboards is not recommended if you have stain-grade baseboards or wood walls. Only when you have drywall walls and paintable baseboard should you apply caulking.
What kind of caulking to use for baseboards?
Caulking baseboards is not like caulking a bathtub. You never want to use a silicone caulking on baseboards. Instead, the ideal caulk to use for baseboard caulking is acrylic latex caulk.
My personal favorite, and that of most professional painters, is a good quality acrylic latex caulk like the one we show here. As you can see, a good baseboard caulk is not expensive so if you are trying to save money and save 20 cents a tube on a no-name brand, this is not the place to be frugal. Depending on how straight your walls are and how large the gaps are behind the baseboard, one tube should do several average sized rooms. As you can see, it is amazingly inexpensive.
P.S. – If you think you need 5 tubes, pick up 6 or 7 instead. Sealed tubes will last for several years and for the price it’s just easier to have more on hand than having to run out in the middle of the job. And if your estimate is closer to ten tubes or so, see if buying a case of 12 is cheaper.
If you have a very small amount of baseboard to caulk, you could probably get away with using a small squeeze tube of caulk. I don’t recommend using a squeeze tube however as you will find your hands tiring very quickly and it is just a pain in the butt. If you don’t own a caulking gun already, you’ll be surprised how often you’ll need it in the future in your home to recaulk in your kitchen and bathroom so I’d suggest to invest in one.
I like to use an automatic stop type of caulking gun, especially when applying caulk to baseboard.
A standard caulking gun has a lever that needs to be pressed every time you stop caulking, otherwise the gun will still be under pressure and ooze caulk out. With an automatic gun like this one, it stops applying pressure to the tube of caulk as soon as you release the trigger, making it much easier to use.
A word of warning though!
Even though this is an auto stop type of caulking gun, caulks are known to ooze out of the tip for a little while even when pressure is not applied. This is most common when the tube is more than half full and especially if it is quite warm. Sometimes when you are partway through a tube of caulk you will hear a little ‘fart’ from the tube. This is a pocket of air from when the tube was filled and transported. Usually when the tube ‘farts’ it is finished oozing extra caulk out.
Funny how us humans have so much in common with a tube of caulk.
If you are setting the caulking gun down, place the tip on a rag or some kind of scrap to stop the extra from going on the floor.
If you are going to be on your knees, especially on a hard surface like concrete or hardwood, do yourself a favor and protect your knees.
Knee pads are the best choice since you can get up and down easily but a kneeling pad or just a simple folded up towel will help protect your knees from the impact of a hard floor.
Should I paint before caulking?
Painting should always be the last step in any baseboard installation job if possible. The reason for this is that unprotected caulk will yellow, dry out and possibly split over time.
Latex-based caulks are best suited to be covered and will last forever with a coat of paint to protect them.
Here is the order you should use for your baseboard job:
- Install Baseboard
– Prime baseboard before installing, if necessary.
- Fill and sand nail holes
- Caulk top of baseboard
Let's start Caulking!
A lot of caulking guns come with a cutting slot to help cut the tip of the tube of caulking.
As tempting as it might be, don’t use the built in cutter. It is difficult to cut the tip cleanly and will usually make your caulking job more difficult. Quite honestly, I don’t know why they even put them on the guns. Instead, use a utility knife to cut the tip cleanly on about a 45 degree angle. Ensure you don’t cut too far down the tip as the farther you go, the larger the hole will be. You can always cut a little bigger if you find the hole is not big enough.
Hold on there cowboy, we are not quite there yet! You have your latex caulk and shiny new caulking gun but there is one last thing you will need and that is a damp rag.
Unlike silicone caulking, acrylic latex caulking is water soluble when wet so working with it is a breeze. Grab a clean, lint-free rag and get it wet with lukewarm water. Ring out the rag thoroughly. And now we are ready.
Six Easy Steps to Caulking Baseboard
- You can start caulking anywhere you like and in whichever direction feels best for you. I pretty much always caulk from left to right but I’m a strange duck so I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
- Hold the caulking gun at a roughly 30 degree angle up from the baseboard and apply the caulking evenly and fairly quickly as far as your arms can reach reasonably. If there are larger voids that need a bit more caulk, you can go back after the initial run and reapply some more caulk.
- Try to apply enough caulk that will cover the gap between the wall and baseboard well but not so much as you’ll make a mess on the next step. Don’t worry – if you are new to caulking baseboards, you will get the hang of it very quickly.
- Run your finger down the bead of caulking you have just applied to smooth it out and press it into the void. Don’t worry if a bit oozes past your fingertip. To make your finger run more smoothly on the caulking, wet it first on your damp rag.
- Once you are satisfied that the joint is filled well, clean off your finger with the damp rag and then with a clean portion of the rag, lightly run it down the portion of baseboard you just caulked to clean up any excess and smooth out the caulk. If the rag gets filled up with excess caulk, rinse the rag under warm water until clean. If the rag leaves the caulking a little uneven, quickly run your finger over the bead one more time to smooth it out.
- Move around the room or project and finish the caulking. You are done!
Frequently Asked Questions about Caulking Baseboards
No. If you have hard surface flooring such as hardwood or laminate, the floor needs to expand and contract with changes in heat and humidity. Caulking the baseboards to the floor would limit the movement and could cause your floor to buckle or separate.
Caulking baseboards is for appearance only and won’t affect the baseboards in any way. But if you have gone as far as installing new baseboards, finishing them with caulk just makes sense.
If you had your baseboards professionally installed by a finish carpenter and he/she didn’t caulk the baseboards that is normal.
In the construction industry, caulking of baseboards and other trim is typically done by the painter, not the carpenter. There can be exceptions to this rule of course.
You do not have to use white caulk but it is the most common color for latex or acrylic latex caulk available.
Because white is the most common color, it tends to be the most inexpensive.
It is also easier to see if you have missed a spot of caulking than if you use transparent caulk.
Because latex caulking is so easy to work with and is water soluble, there is no need to apply masking to the walls before caulking. Follow our simple steps above and you should have no problems.
We don’t recommend caulking stained baseboards but if your baseboards are stained to a color close to a caulking color you can purchase, there is no reason you can’t.
Just remember that the caulk won’t be painted so you will find that dust tends to settle on it more than a painted surface would.
After caulking baseboards, let the caulk cure for at least 12-24 hours and then you are ready to paint.
If you are painting the walls at the same time as baseboards, you can paint the baseboards and caulking and not worry about getting paint on the wall since you will later cover it with wall paint.
If the walls are not going to be painted, you can either carefully cut in the baseboard paint to the wall or better yet mask the wall off with painters tape. The time taken to mask the wall will be more than saved with the ease of painting and the nice clean line you can get with masking tape. I won’t dive into the details of painting here as we will make sure to do an in-depth article on the topic in the near future.
There are times you will want to hire out work on your home to the professionals, for instance, electrical work. But a simple job like baseboard caulking is something that almost anyone can do. If you have struggled in the past with silicone caulk in your bathtub and swore you’d never touch a tube of caulk again, think again.
On a scale of 1-10 for difficulty with one being super easy and ten being nearly impossible, I’d rate caulking baseboards at a 3. It might take a little while to get the feel for the work but latex caulk is forgiving and it’s nearly impossible to mess things up. And to be honest , I’d probably only rate this job at a 2 difficulty rating if it weren’t for having to crawl around on the floor to do it.