Whether to have floor trim or not is a question of design and preference, but there are some obvious benefits which I believe you should be aware of. Some of these benefits are from the perspective of the person doing the work, while others are purely from an aesthetic or functional point of view.
– Drywall can be installed with small gaps (preferably within a half-inch) between it and the floor, due to the floor trim eventually concealing it. This makes things easier for the drywaller, as otherwise it would take more time and precision to get it closer. In drywalling, floors, ceilings, and walls are seldom plumb or level, and as such, usually take a second cut in order to get it snug. This second cut can be the difference between getting the job done in two days or 5 days.
– Floor trim protects the base of the wall, which as you know, is the area which will receive the most punishment in terms of dirt, shoes, and furniture coming in contact with it.
– It looks better than not having anything. This may be subject to personal opinion and preference, but with all the various types and styles of floor trim out there, most people are bound to find something they like, as opposed to the alternative of having the wall come straight down to the floor.
Of course, there are more exotic styles that don’t incorporate floor trim in their designs, but as you’ve probably guessed, I’m not referring to those in this article. For example, here in Japan, there are dirt walls and traditional tatami rooms that don’t use these forms of trimming, but continue to remain popular and an important part of many modern homes.
How to Install Floor Trimming like a Pro
First, you should note that unless your home is new and checked for plumb, chances are your building and therefore your rooms and corners, are most likely not square. What this means is that even though you have a good table saw that can cut perfect miter joints, because the corners around which your trimming will be installed aren’t square, the joints won’t meet properly.
This can be terribly frustrating for many beginners, and is a very common pitfall when trying to install floor trimming. This goes without saying that if the building is leaning too much — I’ll leave just how much to your best judgment — trying to reform it is probably a waste of time, effort and money. But assuming it’s still worthy of being reformed, here are a few tricks you can try out that are tried and proven.
- These methods are assuming there is wallpapering that will come down to the trimming after installation. You’ll find out why in a moment. Granted, from the wallpaperer’s perspective, he would most likely want you to install the trimming after he does the wallpaper, but in many professional settings, the carpenter is scheduled and expected to finish his work before the wallpaperer and pull out completely with no intention of returning.
Before we go into the actual tips and tricks, I’m gonna need to set the visual stage so you’ll be able to picture what I’m saying.
There are two “L” angles in a wall corner that need to be 90 degrees in order for two 45 degree trimming joints to meet flush — the corner of the wall itself (looking from the top or bottom), and the angle where the wall meets the floor, from both sides of the corner (looking from the side). If any of these angles don’t form 90 degrees, you’re gonna have a problem with your joint.
– The most basic, easiest, and fastest method is simply using trimming that comes with a corner cap. These corner caps will conceal the corner joint anyway, so you just simply need to ensure the two top surfaces are equal, and cap it afterwards (see the image).
– If for whatever reason you don’t want to or can’t use the corner caps, isolate the offending angle or angles, and visually determine which part of the trimming joint needs to be brought forward in order to close any gaps. If the wall corner is leaning away, causing the top of the joint to open, by inserting a layer or two of paper or thin cardboard, you can bring the tops of the miter joint out, closing the gap. After glueing and fastening the trimming to the wall, simply slice the protruding bits of paper off with a utility knife. The gap left behind by the paper sandwiched between the wall and the trim shouldn’t exceed the thickness of the wallpaper by more than a fraction of a millimeter, as it is what will conceal the gap later on.
– Most newer miter saws can cut at least 46 degrees in both directions, for exactly such situations as these — so use it! This is for those joints where the outer corner of the joint opens on an outer corner, and the inner corner of the joint opens on an inner corner. When the opposite is the case, you can tweak the angle on the miter saw accordingly.
- Note here that the important parts of the joint are the top and outer corner, as they are the most visible. The bottom and inner corners are not important.
– Make it a habit to cut the boards slightly long unless you’re sure the corners are square. This gives you room for play if you need to adjust the angles. Also, on longer spans, the trimming can compress to a certain degree, and will provide a closer fit with the adjoining trim.
– In a standard 4 sided room situation, fasten the shorter sides first (after ensuring all pieces fit together well). This is because the longer pieces can be bent easier when fitting them into position. Remember that when all corners are inner corners, the last piece to be installed will either have to be bent considerably in the middle or slid in from above. The latter is messy due to the glue, and can also be difficult if walls are not plumb.
And there you have it! By skillfully incorporating these tips and tricks you can install your floor trimming like a pro! See The Difference Between Pin Nailers and Finish Nailers for what to use to fasten floor trimming.