Planning & preparation
- If you're adding both architrave and skirting, it’s a good idea to match the style for a consistent look
- If you are going to be decorating a whole room, it’s best to fit your skirting prior to painting or hanging wallpaper
- Choose the right skirting for you: it comes in softwood, primed MDF and fully finished MDF and in a number of different profiles and lengths
Do it right
- If fitting both architrave and skirting, fit the architrave first
- Although you can use a mitre box for both internal and external corners, it’s best to make scribed joints for internal corners, as most corners are not at perfect right angles. Scribing also helps to minimise the risk of gaps forming if the skirting shrinks after fitting
- When making mitre cuts for external corners, bear in mind that the longer pointed edge should always be facing out towards the room
- If you are using softwood skirting, treat any knots with knotting solution before you start, and sand down the face before painting
- The method shown here can be used for both softwood and primed MDF skirting. If you are using fully finished MDF skirting, you should use grab adhesive only and not nail or screw through the face. Additionally, the fully finished product should be cut from the reverse side only to prevent damaging the finish. Using masking tape on the face of the skirting where you are about to cut will help prevent damage to the fully finished coating
- If using a mitre box, secure it in a workbench with clamps, or screw it to a piece of sheet timber that you can kneel on. This keeps both hands free, so you can hold the skirting in position whilst using the saw
- To avoid hidden water pipes and electric cables, use a pipe and cable detector before drilling or nailing into a wall
- Never drill or nail directly above or below light switches and power sockets
- If you are using a solvent-based Grab Adhesive, then be sure to ventilate the room whilst working. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on usage, safety and drying times
- It’s best to wear knee pads when fitting skirting. Keep the floor clear to avoid kneeling on sharp objects
How to Fit Skirting
Starting from the left-hand side of the door and, working anti-clockwise around the room, deal with each corner in turn. This ensures that the square cut piece on the right of an internal corner is always fitted before the scribed piece to the left of the corner.
External corner – Mitred Joint
Measure the distance to the next corner and mark that distance onto the top, back edge of a piece of skirting. Then, lightly mark the intended direction of the mitre cut.
Secure the skirting into a mitre box with the side that will be facing the room, facing you.
Use a tenon or fine tooth panel saw to make a 45-degree mitre cut in the marked direction.
Place the next piece of skirting in the mitre box and make another 45-degree mitre cut, in the opposite direction, near the right-hand end of the piece. You may need to ask someone to hold the overhanging skirting whilst you saw.
Lightly sand the cut ends until smooth. Hold the two sections together to check that the mitre cuts fit together correctly.
If need be, make small adjustments with a block plane to achieve a good fit.
Internal corner – Scribed Joint
Start by cutting the piece of skirting that will form the right-hand part of the joint to length. Ensure the end is cut at a 90-degree angle so that it can butt against the wall in the corner.
Cut the piece of skirting that will form the left-hand part of the joint to length using a mitre box, with a 45-degree angle going into the corner.
With the edge of a pencil, mark the front edge of the skirting down the profile where the mitre cut starts.
Secure the skirting in your workbench and adjust the blade of your coping saw if need be.
Use the coping saw to remove all the material to the right of the pencil line. Angle the saw about 25-degrees, so it also removes material behind and to the left of the pencil line – but does not remove the pencil line.
Test the scribed skirting in the corner against the previous piece and if need be, make adjustments using the coping saw, sandpaper or a file until you achieve a good fit. Then, make the appropriate cut at the opposite end of the section of skirting before fixing.
How to fix the skirting
Before fixing anything to the wall, use a pipe and cable detector to check that the areas where you want the fixings to go are clear of hidden pipes and electric cables. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
If fixing the skirting to a stud wall, locate the vertical timber studs behind the plasterboard using a stud detector. Mark the centre position of the studs on the skirting.
To fit the skirting board, apply grab adhesive to the back of the skirting, being sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Carefully push the skirting into position against the wall. If the wall is perfectly flat, you may not need other fixings, but typically you will also need to screw or nail the skirting.
If fixing to a masonry wall, use a 6mm masonry drill bit to drill through the skirting and into the wall. Start the holes 50mm from the end of the wall and position them 25mm from the top and bottom of the skirting, repeat at 500mm intervals. Countersink the holes so that the screws are hidden.
Insert a 6mm wall plug and an 8 gauge screw, tapping it into place until you feel resistance, then screw until the head is below the surface of the skirting.
If fixing to a stud wall, hammer two 40mm lost head nails through the skirting into the centre of each timber stud.
Use a hammer and nail punch to sink any nails to just below the surface.
When fitting the second piece of an external joint, you should also apply PVA glue to each mitre cut.
When securing internal joints, the square cut section will have been secured first so simply align the scribed section and then secure. No PVA glue is needed for internal joints.
Use flexible decorators caulk, applied with a cartridge gun, to fill any small gaps between the top of the skirting and the wall. Smooth the surface and wipe off any excess with a damp cloth.
All nail holes and countersunk screw holes should be filled and sanded down prior to painting.