Cracks between your baseboards and wall can happen as your home settles over time, leaving pesky gaps and crevices. With caulk, you can fill these gaps to bring new life into your existing space without much effort.
Caulking baseboards is a fairly easy DIY project, as long as you understand what goes into the process. But if done incorrectly, the end result can be worse than when you started. Follow these steps to ensure a long-lasting and attractive seal.
Prepping to Caulk Baseboards
You may be surprised to find out that there are many different caulking compounds to choose from. For this project, you’ll want a paintable caulk, which is different from the caulk you may use when sealing your countertop or caulking your shower.
Look for a latex-based caulk at the hardware store that will allow you to paint your trim and the substance. Words to look for include latex, acrylic, and paintable.
6 Steps to Caulk Baseboards
Filling the gaps between your wall and baseboards is an easy weekend DIY project that can make a big impact. With just a few supplies and a little elbow grease, you can bring new life to your space in just six steps.
Prep Your Baseboards
It’s extremely important that you take time to prepare all your surfaces to get a smooth and lasting caulk application.
Follow these steps to get your baseboards ready for caulk repair:
Remove old caulk: Using your putty knife, cut out all old caulk so that the surface is smooth and empty.
Check for damage: Look for any nails sticking out or damage to your current baseboard and sink them with a nail set and hammer. Fill and sand any holes with wood filler.
Clean up grime: Baseboards often become a landing place for dust, pet hair, and dirt, so dust or wash your baseboards before you begin.
Wash joint: As a final step, wash the joint surface with water or an all-purpose spray.
Apply Painter’s Tape
Photo: Pawel/ Adobe Stock
For beginners, painter’s tape can make or break many DIY projects—including caulking baseboards and trim. Apply painter’s tape in a straight line along both the baseboard molding and the wall, leaving a small strip for the caulking.
This step will ensure a straight and smooth line.
Properly Open Caulk
To open a caulk tube, use a utility knife to cut the tip of the nozzle at a 45-degree angle. Then, insert a long, clean nail or wire into the nozzle a few times to puncture the inner seal.
You can also buy a caulk gun with a built-in snipper and included puncture wire to simplify this step.
How you open the caulk tube will determine the size of your seam, so be thoughtful during this step. You want the opening to be just slightly larger than the seam you’re trying to fill.
Photo: Andy Ginns/ Adobe Stock
Apply the caulk at a 45-degree angle along your baseboard, slowly drawing the tip of the tube along the length of the joint as you gently squeeze the handle of the caulk gun.
Work in a continuous direction using a steady amount of pressure to produce an even bead of caulk along the seam.
Note: If you’re unsure about this step, take a moment to first test your approach on a piece of paper. This will help you see if you’re using the right amount of pressure and if your opening is appropriate. Then, start in a hidden corner of the room just in case it takes a few runs to get it right.
Wet your fingertip in warm soapy water and lightly drag it along the length of the bead. Make sure to wash off any excess caulk on your finger routinely throughout the process, as this can lead to a bumpy or patchy caulk line.
Even if you don’t get excess caulk on your finger, remoisten regularly. Water will act as a lubricant and thinning agent to help properly smooth the joint.
You can also use a caulk finishing tool for this step as well.
Photo: aomas/ Adobe Stock
While the caulk is still wet, remove the tape by pulling upwards at a 45-degree angle away from the surface. If there’s any excess caulk left after removing the tape, wipe it away with soapy water.
Waiting too long to remove the tape can result in pulling off dry caulk and needing to possibly start the project over again.
DIY Caulking Baseboards vs. Hiring a Pro
As you can tell, caulking a baseboard is a pretty easy process, albeit a bit lengthy in steps. And luckily, because this project is mostly cosmetic, doing it incorrectly can be fixed with some simple paint or by using a scraper.
A tube of caulk costs between $3 to $10, plus $5 for a caulking gun (unless you buy a squeezable tube). For those who have the rest of the supplies already, buying caulk is usually the only real cost with this project. If you need to purchase the rest of the materials, you should expect to spend an additional $20 to $40.
If you don’t have the time or patience to properly check off every step or have larger cracks or damage that needs repaired, you can hire a local handyperson to do it for you. The cost of hiring a handyperson is between $60 to $125 per hour on average.
How do you pick the right caulk for trim and baseboards?
Look for labels on the caulk like latex, acrylic, or painter’s caulk. These are all appropriate caulk options for this project.
If the gap continues to return even after applying caulk, you may want to purchase a more flexible caulk formula, like a hybrid of silicone and polyurethane.
How do you caulk large gaps in trim and baseboards?
Gaps are common in older homes as they settle. You can use most of the steps above for large gaps between your trim or baseboard molding and wall, making sure to cut a bigger hole in your caulk before beginning. You want your hole to be slightly larger than the gap that you’re trying to fill.