What Are Baseboards? What to Know About This Often Overlooked Home Feature

Alison Kasch
Written by Alison Kasch
Updated June 1, 2022
A vintage kitchen with a black baseboard
Photo: Dariusz Jarzabek / Adobe Stock


  • Baseboards are the planks that line the bottom of your home’s interior walls.

  • There are several different style options so you can match your baseboards to your decor.

  • There are also a range of material options, such as pine and hardwood.

  • Accessorize your baseboards with additional trim and unexpected colors.

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You may know your baseboards as the crevice-creating trim that you always forget to clean. Or you may have never heard the ambiguous-sounding term before. Either way, baseboards are rarely thought about, let alone talked about. 

Let’s get the conversation started and take a look at what baseboards are, what styles and materials are available, and how you can choose the best type for your home.

What Are Baseboards?

Baseboards, also known as skirting boards, base or floor molding, or mopboards, are the planks that line the lowest part of your interior walls, covering the space where the floors and walls intersect. Apart from being a visually-pleasing pop of trim that accents your wall color, baseboards add a layer of protection against bumps with the vacuum, scratches from pet paws, and kicks from regular foot traffic.

Baseboards also protect drywall from mop water, overturned drinks, and other spills that would otherwise cause moisture damage. They also provide a solid stopping point for dirt and debris. Plus, baseboards provide a functional and attractive cover for hardwood flooring where gaps accommodate natural expansion.

Different Styles of Baseboards

Variety is the spice of home improvement, and baseboards are surprisingly accomodating in that department. Whether you’re building from the ground up or simply remodeling, you have several different profiles to choose from.

Rounded or Stepped Baseboards

The most popular baseboard style is a rounded or stepped baseboard, which is flat on the bottom with decorative grooves near the center and a rounded half-moon or step-shaped top that tapers into the wall. The look is simple and modern, with a short profile that isn’t too ornate or fussy.

Flat Baseboard Molding

As the name suggests, this baseboard style sports a completely flat profile. It comes in a range of height options, typically falling between 3 and 5 inches tall. The flat shape makes it versatile enough to suit any style of home decor and very easy to clean.

Sculpted Baseboard Trim

If you’re in the mood for something fancier, sculpted baseboard trim is the ideal pick. This baseboard profile features a variety of scalloped or stepped designs on top, moving down to a flat base at the bottom. It offers a wide array of height options, from mid-heights of around 4 to 5 inches to taller heights topping 7 inches or more

The ornamental shape of sculpted baseboard trim perfectly complements colonial-style homes, Victorian styles, and other decorative styles that focus on antique or ornate designs. However, the detailed designs tend to catch more dust, so cleaning your baseboards will be more difficult and time-consuming with this option.

Baseboard Options and Add-Ons

Once you’ve selected the ideal baseboards for your home, you have even more options to dress them up. You can also add heaters to your baseboards to make them next-level functional. Check out these accessories to make your baseboards work for your space.

Quarter Round Trim 

Quarter round trim is used in tandem with baseboards. It features a flat back and a front shaped like a perfect quarter-slice of a cylinder. The name “quarter round” derives from “one-quarter of a round dowel.” Its rounded shape sits at the bottom of the baseboard, standing in front of it to visually soften the edges.   

Shoe Molding

Shoe molding is in the same league as quarter round trim, but with a slightly different shape. Rather than being a perfect quarter of a cylinder, it is still curved but broader. Like quarter round trim, it’s meant to accent and soften the edges of baseboards.

Baseboard Heaters

If you’re working on updating an older home, baseboard heaters are a great solution when additional ductwork is out of the question (and out of the budget). Electric baseboard heaters cost an average of $780 to install, and they’re more DIY-friendly than other options.

Different Types of Baseboard Materials

Close-up of a hand installing a baseboard
Photo: Diy13 / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Baseboards also come in a wide variety of material options. Each of these has its own pros and cons, so it’s important to consider that when choosing the right baseboard for your home.

Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF)

Medium-density fiberboard, also known as MDF, is composed of wood, resin, fibers, and other materials. Since it boasts a more consistent texture than wood, manufacturers can sculpt it into a wide variety of shapes, from simplistic to ornate. Likewise, it’s extremely easy to cut, so it’s an excellent option for DIY baseboard installs in kitchens, living rooms, and bedrooms.

MDF also comes primed and ready to paint, which can be good or bad depending on your plans. This option is ideal for homeowners looking to cut their baseboard costs and planning to paint them anyway. However, homeowners looking to stain their baseboards will have to choose a different material.


Pine is another budget-friendly baseboard material that comes either primed or unprimed, giving you free rein to paint or stain. Quality pine is typically free of knots and other blemishes, but its inconsistent texture makes it more difficult to make a straight and splinter-free cut. There’s also a possibility of cracks or warping, so be sure to examine all pieces thoroughly before you buy. Keep in mind that wood materials are not an ideal baseboard material for bathrooms unless you plan to stain it thoroughly to reduce moisture build-up.


Hardwoods such as maple and oak are the priciest option for baseboard materials, but their quality and elegance make them worth the splurge. Costs vary based on the profile and the type of hardwood used. Like pine, these are also prone to warping—don’t forget to check your pieces before purchasing.

Choosing Your Baseboard Thickness

Different baseboard profiles offer different thicknesses. While it’s probably not a forethought in your baseboard journey, it’s still important to consider. Not just to be picky—still, by all means, do be picky with your baseboards—but also to complement the trim around your door (called the door casing). 

As a general rule, you want your baseboards to be slightly less thick than your door casing (around ⅛ of an inch difference at minimum). This thickness helps carve that pleasing distinction between your door trim and your baseboards. 

Here are the typical thickness options for these profiles:

  • Rounded or stepped: ⅝–⅞ inch

  • Flat: ⅝ inch

  • Sculpted: ⅝ inch–1 inch

Choosing Your Baseboard Color

Now that you’re a baseboard connoisseur, you have the option to play with color and become a baseboard trendsetter. Matching wood is a standby classic, as is white paint (albeit prone to scuffs and stains). Here are a few unexpected color options to consider.

Coordinating Color Schemes

If you’re wondering what color to paint your baseboards, start by looking at what color you’ll be painting the walls. Then, start looking at tertiary colors or varying tints and shades of the same hue. Of course, this is a jumping-off point—there are no rules in the realm of baseboards (except the one about door casing, of course). Grab some paint strips from your local hardware store and let your creativity run wild. 

Soft Grays

A soft gray trim brings an airy feel to a room, especially when paired with white walls. The look is refreshing and modern, pairing well with farmhouse style, minimalism, and any other clean, simplistic style of decor.

Stark Contrasts

If you can’t get enough of your outdoor space, painting both your baseboards and your window trim in a dark, contrasting color both highlights the windows and creates bold lines around the room for tons of visual interest. This concept works especially well as a striking complement to eye-catching wallpaper accents.

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