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Home do-it: Remove baseboard to seal drafty gap

Q. We get drafts along the baseboards on exterior walls in our upstairs bedrooms. How can we fix this without messing up the baseboards? The floors have carpets, but not wall to wall.

A. Baseboards are normally attached with finishing nails, which have small heads and can be removed without damaging the exposed wood.

Use a putty knife or five-in-one tool to remove the baseboards. Carefully insert the knife behind the baseboard near a joint and wiggle the knife until the board begins to pull away from the wall.

When you get enough space between board and wall, you can switch to a prying tool to finish removing the boards.

The nails that held it to the wall will come with it and you can either remove them or nip them off flush with the back side of the board. If you remove the nails, don’t pound them through the front of the board – you will probably splinter the wood. Instead, use locking pliers to grip the pointed end of the nail and pull it through the back of the board.

If you remove several pieces of baseboard at once, number them on the back so you can put them back in the same positions.

Find the gap that is letting the draft into the room. If the gap is three-eighths inch or less in width, you can seal it will any top-quality caulk. If the gap is larger, use a foam-type sealer such as Great Stuff. If you are new to this type of product it is best to practice a little on a piece of cardboard or scrap wood.

While the baseboard is off, check it to see if it needs repairs or refinishing; these are best done with the boards laying flat on a comfortably high surface such as sawhorses or the backs of a couple of chairs.

Minor scratches and chips can be repaired with spackling compound, which is easy to sand smooth but is not tough enough to take much of a beating from children’s toys or scuffing shoes.

Any sizable repairs should be made with a tougher wood filler, such as Minwax High Performance Wood Filler. Some solvent-based wood fillers have a powerful odor, and if possible repairs should be made outdoors. If you must work indoors, make sure the room has good ventilation, like an exhaust fan.

Sand the boards smooth after repairs are made, wipe off dust with a sticky tack cloth, and give them at least two coats of a top-grade latex enamel. Some people like glossy trim, but I prefer a more muted finish like satin or eggshell. Glossy finishes will also cause any defects in the surface to show up more clearly.

Use finishing nails to re-install the base boards, sinking the heads slightly below the surface of the wood with a nail set. Fill the nail holes with spackling compound and touch up with paint or use a matching putty pencil such as Minwax Blend-Fil, available in a number of colors and wood tones.



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