How to Install Base Shoe Molding

In rooms with hard flooring surfaces, team base shoe molding with baseboards to cover gaps between the flooring and baseboard.

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In most homes, base shoe molding teams up with baseboards in rooms that have hard flooring surfaces such as tile, stone, sheet vinyl, hardwood, and laminate. For years, quarter-round molding (an obvious name based on its end view) was considered the base shoe. The only real question was whether you chose 1/2- or 3/4-inch quarter round. But there is actually a wide range of base shoe profiles, or you can make your own moldings—even in a modestly equipped shop.

The small scale and simple lines of most base shoes make it easy to cope the inside corners. After cutting the copes in a roomful of baseboard, it will seem like a quick and easy job. The flexibility of base shoe enables you to bend it to conform with the wavy floors that are almost universal in older homes and still quite common in new construction.

The most important thing to know about shoe molding is that you always nail it into the wall, never the floor.

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Base Shoe Choices

This sampling merely hints at the wide range of commercially available base shoe profiles. Quarter round ranges from a dainty 1/4-inch size up to a truly massive 1-1/16-inch dimension. A true base shoe is taller than it is wide, enabling it to conceal a large vertical gap without appearing chunky.

With a table saw and router you can easily make custom baseboard and base shoe profiles. This baseboard fits the Arts and Crafts style. It features simple chamfers along quartersawn white oak lumber. The baseboard is 3/4x7 inches with a 1/8-inch chamfer along its top edge. The base shoe measures 1/2x1 inch with a 1/4-inch chamfer. A 1/2-inch quarter round tops the baseboard.

How to Install Base Shoe Molding

Step 1: Mark Molding

To make shoe molding that dives into the casing, cut the strip to length, then butt it against the casing. Angle your pencil to get a line as close to the casing as possible and draw a vertical mark. Before committing to your finished molding, you may want to practice this step and the next on a few scrap pieces of molding to get the exact fit you want.

Step 2: Cut Molding

Set your miter saw to make a 45-degree cut, then remove the tiny nick of wood that ends at the pencil line. If you're working with a stained molding that has a clear finish, a stain marker will take away the raw-wood look in a hurry.

Step 3: Make a No-Gap Fit

Pushing down on thin base shoe molding makes it conform to a wavy floor for a no-gap fit. A pneumatic brad nailer makes driving fasteners a one-handed task and eliminates the tedious job of burying each head with a nail set. A wood block keeps your hand safely back from the nail gun.

Inside Corners

Cope inside corners for tight-fitting joints that look great even if the corner is out of square. (And the corner is almost always out of square.) Coping most base shoes is a simple matter of following a smooth line.

Outside Corners

Outside corners of base shoe molding are mitered—like the baseboard itself. Adding a touch of glue is inexpensive insurance that the joint will stay closed. To avoid splitting this small-scale lumber, resist the urge to drive nails too close to the end.

How to Scribe the Baseboard to the Floor

Step 1: Mark Baseboard

Temporarily secure the baseboard against the wall by partially driving nails. Find an offset that will make a continuous line along the bottom edge of the board without removing an excessive amount of stock. In this case, a mechanical pencil laid flat on top of a 1/8-inch-thick spacer is just right. Simply pull the spacer and pencil along the board to mark it.

Step 2: Cut Baseboard

If there's a significant amount of stock to remove, tilt the base of your jigsaw about 15 degrees, and cut to the waste side of the pencil line -- but don't let your cut touch the line. Although the tilt isn't absolutely necessary, it significantly reduces the amount of stock you'll need to remove in the next step. In addition, it eliminates potential points of contact with the floor, which could spoil the fit.

Step 3: Sand and Finish

Complete the stock removal with a belt sander, carefully working right up to the line. By tilting the sander less than you did the saw, you'll remove a minimal amount of stock, speeding the process. A small block plane is a quieter and less dusty way to work up to the line. Test-fit the baseboard and make any minor corrections required.

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