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How to caulk and paint baseboards

Make your walls pop with this easy home improvement fix

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    white wainscoting against an deep ocean blue wall

    If your baseboards are separating from your walls, there’s a good chance they were improperly installed. The cause could be anything from the wrong adhesive to nailing the baseboard to the wall in the wrong place. Or it could have happened over time, as the adhesive has worn down.

    Regardless of how it happened, you now have to deal with the gap between your wall and baseboard. These gaps can accumulate dirt and grime, leading to an increased risk for mold and rot.

    Caulking your baseboards is an easy solution to this problem. This creates a layer of protection for the small space below your walls and will make your baseboards look more professional and finished. When you’re done, adding a layer of paint will give your room a polished look.

    someone washing baseboards with a rag

    How to wash baseboards

    Make sure your baseboards are clean before you caulk them. This will prevent dust or dirt from getting trapped under the caulk and making it less adhesive.

    Wear kneepads or put down a folded towel before you do this so you don’t hurt your knees while you’re cleaning.

    1. Dust the baseboards with a dry rag or duster.
    2. Fill a bucket with warm water and a squirt of dish soap.
    3. Use a damp sponge or a rag to wipe down the baseboards.
    4. Wait for the baseboards to dry before you start caulking them.
    man caulking a baseboard

    How to caulk baseboards

    Before you begin caulking your baseboards, you’ll need to buy the right caulk. The type of caulk you buy will depend on what room you’re going to tackle.

    Use silicone ($4–$12 per tube) to repel moisture if you’re caulking in your bathroom, and use latex ($2-$8 per tube) for the rest of the house. You’ll also need a caulk scraper ($5–$15), a caulk gun ($15), painter’s tape ($7–$10), a drop cloth ($2–$10) and an optional caulking applicator ($5–$10).

    1. Put down the drop cloth in the area you’ll be working. This will prevent caulk from landing on and potentially damaging your floor.
    2. Scrape away any old, loose caulk using your caulk scraper. If the caulk doesn’t come up right away, moisten it with rubbing alcohol and wait an hour or two, then try again.
    3. Put painter’s tape above and below where you’ll be caulking, so you don’t accidentally caulk the wall or the baseboard itself.
    4. Load your caulking gun and start filling in gaps. Squeeze out a small bit at a time while you move the caulking gun slowly across the gap.
    5. Use the caulking applicator or your finger to smooth out corners.
    6. Let the caulk dry for a couple hours before applying paint.

    If you make a mess with the caulk, a dry cloth should clean it up if it’s still wet. If the caulk has dried, use WD-40 or rubbing alcohol to moisten the caulk before removing it with your scraper.

    man painting baseboards

    How to paint baseboards

    Painting baseboards is an easy and cost-effective way to brighten up a room. Now that you’ve caulked, a few fresh coats of paint can add a fresh, clean finish to old baseboards. But what color should you paint them?

    While many homeowners paint their baseboards white, that’s not your only option. You could paint them the same color as the walls for uniformity. A shade lighter or darker than the wall creates a new color scheme. And a different color altogether creates a strong contrast.

    Opt for semi-gloss paint ($14–$20 per quart), since it’s easy to clean. You’ll also need a paint brush ($2–$10), a plastic drop cloth ($2–$10) and a paint tray ($2–$10).

    1. Remove the tape from your caulking. Apply new tape above and below the baseboard itself. This will keep paint from getting on the wall and the floor.
    2. Lay down the drop cloth to protect your floor in case of splashing.
    3. Put on two coats of paint, allowing the first to dry before starting the second.
    4. Let dry for about 4 hours before removing tape.

    Bottom line

    Caulking and painting baseboards is easy, so you don’t need to be a professional to do it. The stakes are low here, since caulk cleans off easily; you’re free to make a few missteps along the way. This is a great chance to update and clean your room on a small budget and in a short amount of time.

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