Things You'll Need
Dust mask and eye protection
Sandpaper, assorted grits
Wood filler (optional)
Putty knife (optional)
Workbench or saw horses
Flexible sanding block (optional)
Cabinet scraper (optional)
Electric sander (optional)
Use a cabinet scraper to get a smooth surface on rough inside corners of existing baseboards. This tool holds a sharp blade in a handle so you can reach the inside corners easily. In addition to general smoothing, it’s a practical method for removing old paint drips and runs on the baseboard surface.
Speed up the sanding process by using an electric sander on flat surfaces of the baseboards. Many electric sanders are equipped with dust collection bags.
Wear protective eyewear and a dust-filtering mask when sanding. Clean up all sanding dust, particularly dust from old baseboards that may have been finished with lead-based paint.
Whatever coating you plan to use as a final baseboard finish, proper sanding guarantees a smooth surface that's ready for brush or spray applications. The sanding step is an opportunity for you to fill unsightly nicks, cracks and nail holes adding to the quality touches of the room. Sanding also roughs an existing finish or a new, unfinished surface to better accept the new coat of paint or varnish.
Remove paint flakes and sand marred areas before you use wood filler for better adhesion. Press filler into nicks and cracks with a putty knife, overfilling them slightly, as the filler may shrink as it dries. Pay particular attention to inside and outside corners where pieces of baseboard meet. Wood filler helps mask minor signs of house settling as well as hides imperfect miters. Allow the filler to dry for several hours or overnight before sanding.
Sand lengthwise along the baseboard in the direction of the wood grain using long strokes. Wrap a flat sanding block with medium-grit sandpaper for flat areas of the baseboard: 60 to 100 grit is good for initial sanding. Finish the surface with 120- to 180-grit fine sandpaper to achieve satiny smoothness. A flexible sanding block made with a rubber or foam core conforms exactly to the contours of baseboard molding. This type of block is available already covered with various grit coatings. Buy blocks with the appropriate grit to handle the condition of your baseboard moldings.
Vacuum the dust frequently as you work. Use a brush attachment to vacuum the sanded baseboard surface, then wipe the baseboard with a tack cloth to remove all traces of dust. The surface is ready for paint, stain or varnish.
Set up sawhorses or a workbench to accommodate the baseboard pieces. Do this outdoors, if possible, to help with dust control.
Place sections of baseboard on the work surface, securing each with clamps to hold it steady as you work on it. With a sanding block and fine grit sandpaper, sand lengthwise with the wood grain. New, unfinished baseboard is usually ready for finish sanding.
Vacuum the dust from the baseboard and follow with a tack cloth. Paint or varnish the baseboard before installation, keeping sanding supplies handy for touch-ups as you cut the trim.
- The Family Handyman: Trim Repair: How to Fix and Revive Trim
- Century Flooring: Installation and Finishing Guide
- Bob Vila.com: Quick Tip: Choosing Sandpaper
- Ask the Builder: Sanding Block
- Popular Mechanics: Know Your Power Sanders, and How to Use Them
- Popular Mechanics: Thirteen Painting Secrets the Pros Won’t Tell You
- This Old House: How to Install Baseboards
Fern Fischer's print and online work has appeared in publications such as Midwest Gardening, Dolls, Workbasket, Quilts for Today and Cooking Fresh. With a broader focus on organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family articles, she specializes in topics involving antique and modern quilting, sewing and needlework techniques.