How to Install Baseboards in High-rise Buildings an Architects Guide
Installing baseboards in any building can be challenging. But, installing baseboards in a high-rise building can be even more difficult. This article aims to provide advice for success in this type of installation. How to install baseboards for architects closely examines the craft required to achieve a quality installation.
Some of the differences between high-rise construction and a standard single-family home are the building’s structural systems. Usually, in high-rise construction, there are either steel or concrete framing systems that hold up many floors. In a single-family home, the structure of the building is usually wood-framed construction. The obvious difference is the overall height of the building.
Baseboards are affected by building type
The differences between these building types directly affect the baseboard installation and performance. High-rise construction has its own set of implications.
- A high-rise building tends to move more than a low-rise building due to wind and other forces. As more movement acts on interior building elements the interior construction can be negatively affected.
- Shifting floors, walls, and ceilings can damage trim and baseboards.
- Most damage occurs where major building elements like walls and ceilings come together.
- Where the major elements come together there is often drywall and trim. If the trim bridges the gap between the two elements several things can occur. Either the trim will float over the movement or it will start to separate and show cracks.
- The baseboard at the floor does a nice job covering up imperfections in the flooring material, but the real challenge is when the walls are not plumb or straight.
Tips for improving baseboard installations in high-rise buildings
Follow these guidelines for better and easier baseboard installation in high-rises.
- Use baseboard trim that has some flexibility in the material to allow itself to conform to non-straight or non-plumb walls.
- Cut baseboard pieces at lengths that match conditions in the spaces. For example, many high-rise buildings have expansion or control joints installed in the drywall. Make sure to start/stop the baseboard trim at those locations.
- Most flooring recommends at least a 1/4″ gap to remain between flooring material and wall. Sometimes this gap can be fairly large (up to 1/2″) in high-rises. Don’t hesitate to use a corner round piece of trim to cover this gap.
- Try to avoid using caulking at the top of the baseboard to close the gap between trim and wall. This becomes an ongoing maintenance issue because the caulking will crack and deteriorate over time.
- At corners take extra time to measure joining angles. Often times the angles are not even 90-degree numbers. Building movement or poor original construction contributes to this issue.
- Use the best nailing tools to attach the baseboard. Brad nailers are extremely useful and save tons of time.
- Do not use oversized nails, especially if the walls are constructed of cold-formed framing. The large nails can damage and metal studs and usually bounce off the metal. The bouncing effect will really mess up your baseboard installation.
Use the right tools for your baseboard installations
The most affordable way to install baseboards is to us standard nails and a hammer. Although it is tempting to save money and do this the old fashioned way. Use the latest and greatest tool technology to make life easier.
Some new technology that has been released in the past several years in the electronic brad nailer. This tool is a nail gun operated with battery power. Brad nails are made of very thin wire, usually 18 gauge. Whereas, finish nailers typically use thicker nails between 15-16 gauge. Using the 18 gauge brad nails leaves smaller holes in the baseboard so they aren’t as noticeable. They usually are so small they can be painted over.
Traditional air operated brad nailers have been around for a long time. But, the problem with air-operated tools is you need an air compressor. Air compressors are loud and expensive. Many high-rise buildings prohibit the use of air-driven tools because of the noise they create. Luckily, electronic brad nailers don’t make very much noise.
To install baseboard with the electronic brad nailer follow these steps.
- Make sure you are using an appropriate length nail and load them into the brad nailer. Usually, the 1.5″-2″ will give you enough bite into the adjacent framing.
- Setup the baseboard you have already cut and make sure it fits how you want. Get an idea for your nail spacing. Usually spacing nails every couple feet is enough, but it really depends on your wall condition. If the wall isn’t plumb or straight you may need more nails to help the baseboard conform to the wall.
- For a good example of mitered corners, coped butt ends, and scarf joints this article from The Journal of Light Construction will help you out.
- When you are ready to start firing nails into the baseboard, it seems to work better to nail in from the top portion of the baseboard first. Then nail the bottom portion.
Choosing the right brad nailer
Woodworkers Journal has created an excellent YouTube video explaining all the different kinds of brad nailers.
All of my tools are Makita, so I purchased one of their nailers. This allows me to use the batteries I already own. This brad nailer is somewhat bulky but performs well. After I bought it the size was somewhat large, but it really didn’t affect the performance of the tool. I’ve been very happy with the nailing capabilities of the product. It saves a large amount of time and reduces dings and noise from swinging a hammer all day.
Another very enjoyable part of using an electronic nailer is they sound like a laser gun. Maybe I’m just a nerd, but nothing beats feeling like you are attaching baseboard to the wall with a laser gun. Good luck and we hope this helps you with how to install baseboards.
Here is an Amazon affiliate link to the brad nailer I use.