How to Work Around Obstructions when Installing Baseboard
Registers, outlets, and more can be difficult to work around when installing baseboard. This tutorial guides you through the tricky process.
Items once considered modern conveniences are now basic necessities. These utilities punctuate your walls with heat registers; electrical outlets and switches; and telephone, cable, and data ports. In some cases, you can modify your design to avoid these obstacles. But when that's not possible, adding a block and extending the electrical box is a reasonable approach. Carefully executed, the block is an effective solution. Our how-to shows you how to install a block, plus explains how to handle other obstacles you may encounter.
Step 1: Measure Position
Have your electrician place the wire for a baseboard outlet near the floor. Be sure to have the electrician leave plenty of extra wire length so you can fine-tune the outlet's location later. It's best to have the circuit disconnected, but have the wires individually capped in case the line is accidentally energized. Measure the position of the wire so you can transfer its location to the baseboard.
Step 2: Mark Box Position
Make certain that the location for the box doesn't fall directly over a stud. Otherwise, you won't have enough depth for the electrical box. Using the template that's often supplied with the old electrical box (or by tracing the box itself), mark its position on the face of the baseboard. To visually center the box, position it 1/2 to 3/4 inch above center.
Step 3: Cut and Test for Fit
Drill a starter hole for your jigsaw blade, then cut the hole through the baseboard. Test the fit of the box to make certain it installs easily. Hold the baseboard against the wall, then mark the perimeter of the hole. Add 1 inch at each end so that the ears of the box will open. Cut outside the marked lines to ensure an easy fit.
Step 4: Tighten Screws
Put the box into the front of the baseboard, and insert the wire. Turning the screws at each end, rotate the ears that secure the box to the board. Tighten the screws and nail the baseboard in place.
Step 5: Choose Socket
Choose socket and plate color to coordinate with your baseboard. In this case, the brown socket and plate blend nicely with the dark finish of this white oak baseboard.
Another approach is to relocate outlets so that they integrate into the design. For example, installing a wide baseboard provides a new site for wall outlets that will be virtually out of sight if you choose sockets and plates that coordinate with the molding. The location will look as if you planned it—precisely because you did.
Heat registers and cold-air returns are much more difficult and costly to relocate, but there are ways you can work around them so they become an attractive part of the installation—not a distraction from it.
Adding a Block to an Outlet or Grille
Mounting an outlet on a block makes your moldings fit flat against the surface so the installation looks like a solution, not a problem.
Sometimes your best solution is to set an electrical box into a block. That way, molding elements can terminate against a flat surface. This idea works well when you're running wall frames and simply can't work around the location of the wall outlets.
You can apply this thinking to wall-mounted heat registers or cold-air return grilles. These grates may be in the way when you're installing running molding high on a wall, such as a picture-hanger molding or wall frame. For this larger version, though, consider making a frame composed of mitered strips, then simply screw the metal on top of the wood assembly.
Working Around a Baseboard Register
This kind of wall register makes baseboard installation quite simple. Revitalize your grille with a fresh coat of paint or consider replacing it if shows wear.
When you replace baseboard that includes an old protruding register, consider cutting a notch in it and using a flush surface-mounted grille. Consider whether you want the grille to blend or become a decorative accent.
Baseboard registers can seem to be a problem initially, but the solutions are straightforward. If the height and thickness of the baseboard are such that it will butt against the register, you have a simple solution with square cuts. The main caution in this case is to avoid making the fit too snug. Otherwise, you'll create a problem for yourself if you need to remove the grille later.
The next solution involves supersizing the baseboard so that the grille doesn't appear pinched. In this case, you'll probably want to junk the old register and buy a new grille. Your local home center should have a good selection, and mail-order suppliers offer even greater choices.