Thursday, December 17, 2009

When good baseboards get weird

It’s easy to spend the day installing new baseboards, making sure each mitered and coped joint is tight and clean, but the whole time you're eyeing nervously that closet doorway with no door casing to butt the baseboard up against. Here’s what I’m talking about:

You could take the easy way out and leave the baseboards with an inside mitered edge, or even just a straight cut. Nobody would notice, right? Isn't there’s an easy and more elegant way out of this quandary?
Actually, there are two!
The "return", and what I've decided to call the "reverse return". And they look like this:

"Return" on the left, "Reverse Return" on the right.""Return" on the left, "Reverse Return" on the right.[/caption]

The difference between the two is the bluntness of the edge. A "return" results in a sharp 90 degree edge, a "reverse return" results in a rounder edge, allowing a less abrupt transition into the wall.

It’s real easy to do if you’ve already been at corners and joints for a day, and you can use this technique for any kind of molding, whether it’s baseboards, crown molding, or chair railing. I actually came across the "reverse return" by accident, when I mixed up which side was for which... Here's a step-by-step to help you end that baseboard right, I will first explain how to get the universal small end piece.

First, cut the long piece of baseboard edge with an outside miter cut at a 45-degree angle, it's best to leave this longer than you will need, so you can put your return exactly where you want it . Next, cut a scrap piece of baseboard with a matching inside miter cut. It is just the small angled piece you will use for the return. Don't do this with a piece of scrap that is too small, you'll risk cutting a finger! The matching scrap piece should look like a normal outside corner:

Then, center the saw to a 90-degree angle and line up the blade to cut away the small angled piece you will use for the return. The saw blade should be lined up to the right of the piece you want, just at the edge of the return corner. This has made the "return" 90 degree end. Test fit the small return piece with the baseboard edge.

To create the "reverse return" edge, swap out your left for right. If you just cut your return end for the left side of the closet, use it for the right. So technically you're matching the straight end to the angled end, rather then the angle to angle. Test fit the small return piece with the baseboard edge.

To install the delicate return piece, use some adhesive that you're already using to stick the baseboard to the wall, wood glue, or caulking. Hold or tape together until dry. It shouldn't require a nail to hold it into place, and if you try it might split the small peice. Finally, cut the long piece of baseboard to desired length. Disguise any ugly wonky joints with a little white DAP moulding caulking.

TAADAAA! Stand back and admire your work!