21st Nov 2022 -

Skirting boards are available in a wide range of styles, sizes and materials. Although they are often seen as an afterthought, they can make a real design statement in their own right. Luckily, when it comes to fitting skirting boards, you do not need to be a skilled carpenter. With the right tools, you will be able to fit skirting boards to a high standard and ensure newly decorated rooms look just the part.

Not sure where to start? This simple step-by-step guide to fitting skirting boards should have you up and running in no time. 

Source the right tools

Chances are you already own most of the tools needed to install. But a minimum, you need to buy:

  • Mitre saw or mitre box
  • Claw hammer
  • Chisel
  • Coping saw (optional)
  • Silicone gun
  • Skirting board caulk
  • Gripper glue
  • Tape measure
  • Profile gauge (optional)

What is a skirting board?

A fixture in UK homes for decades, skirting boards can transform a room’s design while also being practical. They are used to cover the gap between the floor and the wall while protecting the bottom of the wall from scuff marks. If your walls are made from plasterboard, the skirting will cover the gap between the wall and the floor which also helps with the insulation of your home. 

Types of skirting board

Before you start to install skirting boards, you should be aware of the different skirting board profiles available. This will help you to determine which one will work well with your room design. As you start to shop around, you will find the most popular skirting board types are:

Ovolo skirting boards: A common architrave design in UK homes, Ovolo skirting is simple and well-balanced in its appearance. It has a curved arc on the top front face which tapers against the wall. 

Chamfer skirting boards: Another simplistic style that features an angled edge that drops to a flat and straight face.

Torus skirting boards: One of the thin skirting boards, Torus has a semi-circular round top. The top can either flow into a flat-faced surface or an indent can be featured under the curve.

Bullnose/Pencil-round skirting boards: Easy to clean and low maintenance, Bullnose skirting is a versatile style that can complement a wide variety of home interiors. It has a flat face and rounded edge. 

Ogee skirting boards: Quite similar to a Torus profile, Ogee skirting is traditional with a decorative s-shaped profile at the top. The skirting flows into a flat face on the bottom. 

Do you paint your wall or skirting first?

As a rule of thumb, you should always start with the top and then work your way down. Therefore, it is best to tackle the walls first before the skirting boards. This way, you avoid any overlapping paint marks on the walls from the skirting. Before you start, think about working in this order: ceiling first, then the walls, and leaving skirting boards until last. 

Sanding skirting boards before you paint is key for rounding off any rough edges. Also, when you sand skirting boards, you uncover an even and smooth surface to complement the paint.

Step 1 - Measure up and remove existing skirting boards

You should start by measuring the length of boards you will need for each wall. Always add between 10% and 20% to the overall length of the board as a contingency. This allows for cutting wastage and exterior corner cuts. Measure the minimum height you want the boards to be. In most cases, you want your boards to be at least as high as the existing skirting. 

Once you have measured up and ordered your new skirting, you should remove your existing boards. To remove the boards you need to use a chisel and hammer. Simply tap the chisel where the wall meets the skirting 8-10 inches apart, and then gently prise away the existing boards. 

Look out for any concealed wires or pipes and be sure not to damage them. Make a note of how the skirting has been attached to the wall. It is usually either glued or screwed in place. 

You may need to use a crowbar to remove skirting boards that are stubborn. If this is the case, then be careful not to damage the existing plaster. 

Remove any remaining debris including any pins or excess glue that might be stuck to the walls. Also, prepare the surface for the attachment of the new boards by sanding any uneven surfaces and wiping them with a dry cloth.

Step 2 - How to cut a mitre joint (exterior cut)

When cutting skirting boards, it is best to make cuts to your longest areas first. Measurements should be taken by measuring along the wall and then marking the rear of the skirting board with a pencil. This indicates where the cut needs to be made. 

Whether you are making a straight cut or creating skirting board corners, also known as mitre joints, the best tool to use is the mitre saw or mitre box. When measuring and making your cuts for exterior angles, you should keep in mind that the board will protrude past the edge of the wall. With this in mind, be sure to add this to your measurement.

To make your cut, you should attach a mitre saw to a workbench and set up a trestle table to the same height to rest the skirting board on. For true exterior cuts, you need to take a 45-degree cut from the first board. Then, make the opposite 45-degree cut from the second board so that when they join, they create a 90-degree angle. 

Step 3 - How to cut a scribe joint (interior cut)

For interior cuts, also known as scribe joints, you can either use the same approach as for exterior cuts or, for the more carpentry competent, you can choose to make profile cuts using a coping saw. 

If you are making interior cuts using the same method as we described for the exterior cuts, then everything is the same except the angles are reversed.

For those scribing skirting boards (which means cutting one piece of the skirting to slot into another piece like a jigsaw) then the easiest method to achieve this is to use a profile gauge.

If you are using a profile gauge, then simply hold it against the piece of board that is not being cut and take a copy of the profile outline. You then place the gauge against the board that is being cut and mark this profile outline with a pencil. 

Next, you need to cut along the profile that has been marked with the pencil using a coping saw. This allows the cut piece of board to fit neatly into the uncut piece of the board making a perfect join.

Step 4 - How to attach skirting boards to walls

When fixing the skirting to the walls, you have a few options to choose from. The most straightforward and preferred method is to use a strong skirting board adhesive such as gripper glue. This option works well on walls with good plaster or for applying skirting to plasterboard walls.

To apply the adhesive, you can either run two beads of adhesive along the rear of the skirting (not too close to the top or bottom of the board) or you can apply blobs at appropriate intervals.

The other option is to use nails for skirting boards or masonry screws if you are attaching them to brickwork. For masonry screws, make sure raw plugs are used and ensure you screw to a depth of at least 30mm into the wall.

Step 5 - Joining skirting boards

To join two pieces of two skirting boards together, first, you need to place a piece of skirting board against the flat wall and draw a 45-degree angle line at the top corner. With a hand saw or mitre saw, cut the 45-degree mitre joint and fix the piece of skirting to the wall.

Then, with the second piece of skirting board, draw another 45-degree angle line in the same direction as the first. Once you cut this line, both pieces should easily fit together and are ready to be fixed to the wall. You should use either skirting board screws or adhesive. 

Step 6 - Finishing skirting boards

To finish the job, you need to apply caulk, a skirting board filler, to fill gaps in skirting boards that might have been left as a result of uneven walls. With sealing skirting boards, you should run caulk along the top of the board where it meets the wall. This creates a good smooth finish. Your skirting board should now be perfectly secured. 

Our wide range of skirting boards and related tools and materials

At Building Materials Nationwide, we supply a wide range of skirting boards and all the materials you need to fit them. Whether you are upgrading your home or working on a big construction project, we can help you find everything you will need. Give our friendly and helpful team a call and we will be able to help you with the right products and tools. Through our website, you can also sign up for a trade account today. You will be assigned your own dedicated trade account manager who can do all the heavy lifting.