Baseboards should be more than an afterthought -- there are ways to paint them sharply and skillfully so the borders along the floor add the final note of punctuation to the clean prose of your carefully composed room. You can even fake baseboards by using a carpenter's level to run painter's tape along the wall at baseboard height and painting the "baseboard" in a contrasting color to the wall paint.
Picking Your Paint
Add Depth and Size
- Enlarge a room by painting the baseboards to match the walls, or in a slightly lighter shade, to create the sense that the walls are receding.
- Dark baseboards and trim against lighter walls give a room depth; white baseboards highlight dark-colored walls and sharpen pastels such as dove gray or pale jade.
Achieve a Desired Look or Feel
Paint baseboards old-style for traditional or period decor -- a Colonial paint color like barn red, soft shadowed green or blue-gray that's edging cream or antique white walls mimics historic design.
You'll paint the baseboards with a brush, not a roller, for maximum control. Work the paint correctly to prevent drips, streaks and blobs.
Dip the brush into the paint about 1 to 1.5 inches. Tap the brush gently on both sides against the side of the can to flick off excess paint and drive the remaining paint deeper into the bristles.
Carefully scrape or wipe each side of the brush against the side of the can to decrease paint volume on the outside bristles.
Run the brush along the taped baseboard in continuous smooth strokes for streak-free, even coverage.
Protecting the Carpet or Floor
Wall-to-wall carpet isn't as daunting a problem as it might seem when you're painting the baseboards. Painter's tape is your friend here.
Carpets with High, Dense Pile
For carpets with high, dense pile and rug pads, stick a continuous line of blue, low-adhesive tape along the very bottom of the baseboards.
Compress the carpet as you work -- a putty knife helps with this -- so the tape covers a fraction of the baseboard that is normally hidden by the carpet.
Use the putty knife to push the tape under the baseboard and tamp it to the carpet. When you release the carpet, it will spring up, safely protected by painter's tape.
Once you've painted the baseboard, pull up the tape just as the paint dries. The carpet, unpainted, will cover the unpainted bottom of the baseboard.
Flat Carpet or Wood Floor
For a flat carpet or wood floor, wide painter's tape pushed just under the bottom edge of the baseboard keeps paint off the floor and on the trim. Take up the tape when the paint is still wet, rolling it inside out to avoid smearing wet paint on wood or carpet.