Skirting covers the joint between the wall and the floor. It makes a decorative border while hiding the gaps that are needed to cope with the natural expansion and contraction that takes place in a house. It also suffers a lot of hard wear. But luckily, it isn't too complicated to replace - and you can choose from a wide range of profiles. Alternatively, you might want to restore the skirting if the original mouldings have been removed from your home, or fit it on a newly-built stud partition wall.
How to fit new skirting boards
Remember to coat the back of your new skirting board with wood preservative before you fit it. The type of fixing really depends on the construction of the wall and the previous fixings. For masonry walls, masonry nails or screws are best. Or for stud walls, use oval wire nails nailed into the studs for grounds (timber blocks).
If the old skirting was attached to these common fixing points, just use them again. Mark their position on your new skirting and fix onto them using lost-head nails. You could also just glue it in place with wood adhesive - and on damp-proofed walls you'll have to do this so you don't go through the damp-proofing with nails or screws. You may well end up using a combination of these methods. For long lengths, you'll probably need to rest one end of the board on a trestle.
Top tip - Removing old skirting
If you're prising away old skirting, be careful not to damage the adjacent plaster. Tap the blade of a bolster chisel between the wall and the skirting using a hammer. Then lever the top edge far enough away to insert the blade of a crowbar, and put a thin piece of wood behind it to protect your wall.
Start at the longest wall with internal corners. Measure this wall and mark the top edge of a length of skirting to show where you'll need to cut it. Next, fit the skirting-board mitre tool in a vice or workbench. Put the left-hand end of the skirting in the mitre tool and rest the other end on the trestle, making sure this is level with the base of the mitre tool. After protecting the board face with a piece of hardboard placed under the thumbscrews, tighten the screws. Cut the mitre for the left- hand corner with the saw, then move the skirting and cut the right-hand corner.
If you're fixing the skirting with masonry nails or screws, fit them to existing points where you can. Otherwise, fix them about every 600mm at the highest flat point on the skirting, checking first there are no pipes or cables behind the fixing positions. If there are timber grounds, fix the skirting to them with lost-head nails. If you're using screws, drill pilot holes and insert plugs before the screws. For stud walls, find the studs using a stud detector and nail oval wire nails into them.
If you're gluing the skirting, spread some adhesive evenly over the back. Press the piece in place, and hold it in position if you need to with props made from off-cuts of wood until the adhesive has set.
How to cut skirting profiles
Instead of cutting mitres, you can fit boards in internal corners by profile cutting. You'll need to fit the first board right into the corner, and then cut the end of the second board to fit around the profile of the first.
Fit one skirting-board into the corner, with the end butting up against the wall. Hold a profile gauge against the skirting to take a copy of its shape.
Next, measure and mark the next length of skirting you want to fit. Hold the profile gauge against the mark and draw round the shape with a pencil.
You could do this another way by holding an off-cut of the skirting at 90 degrees to the piece to be fitted, and tracing its profile with a pencil.
Cut along the pencil mark with a coping saw.
Check the fit - you may have to make some small adjustments to get it absolutely right.