Q: What does it cost to replace baseboards? Mine are made of dark wood that was painted white, but is now chipping. I’m interested in replacing the existing trim with pre-painted, faux-wood baseboards.
Beverly C., Cheyenne, Wyo.
A: Baseboards are often an afterthought when it comes to the overall appearance of a room, but keeping them in good condition can really make an impact.
Designed to hide the seam where wall meets floor, baseboards give any room a finished look. If your trim is showing wear and tear, painting is always an option, but the prep work is very important and can be time-intensive. Replacing baseboards is your best option if they’re water-damaged, stained or warped.
The two types of materials typically used for baseboards are solid wood, usually pine or oak, and medium-density fiberboard, an engineered composite made of wood remnants. There are a variety of baseboard sizes and styles available, but generally speaking, fiberboard will be less expensive, with costs averaging 60 cents to $1 per foot. For wood baseboard, expect to pay 80 cents to $1.20 per foot, not including installation.
When determining whether you’d like to use wood or medium-density fiberboard, consider the pros and cons of each material. Using fiberboard can save you quite a bit of money if you re-trim an entire house, but fiberboard is more susceptible to moisture damage than solid wood, so at the very least you should avoid using it in bathrooms or any area where moisture is a factor.
Fiberboard can be easier to paint than solid wood, but with real wood, you have the option of staining in a variety of finishes. Wood is also more durable than fiberboard, and less likely to get dinged or show damage.
If you’re handy, have level floors and the project isn’t too big, you could install baseboard yourself. You’ll need a miter saw for corners (for best results, avoid using a miter box), and it might be wise to buy a few extra feet of baseboard so you can practice corner cuts.
But if you’d rather leave this job to the pros, look for a carpenter or handyman who has finished carpentry experience, and knows how to work with interior trim. Baseboard installation is a specialized skill.
The cost for installation will vary, depending on factors that affect job complexity, such as number of corner cuts, size of space and whether floors are level.
Also, each carpenter or handyman will most likely use a different formula to estimate installation cost. Some might charge per hour (ranging from $50 to $100 an hour); some might charge per foot ($1.50 to $2 a foot). Either way, baseboard installation is the type of project a contractor should see in person before determining an accurate estimate. It’s a tough job to ballpark over the phone.
To find the right contractor, consider those with positive consumer reviews on a trusted online site, and who are appropriately licensed, bonded and insured.
Angie Hicks is founder of www.AngiesList.com, provider of consumer reviews and services. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.