Most of us will be familiar with the sight of PVC skirting boards, whether we like it or not. These mass-produced products can be found in many homes and offices around Australia, providing a serviceable but often unsightly solution to enclosing the gap between floor and wall which is great for home improvements. However, if you are looking for something more aesthetically pleasing or a solution that is a little more environmentally friendly then you could be surprised by the range of options available.
What are Skirting Boards?
The skirting boards (also known as skirting and baseboard) around the edge of a room is an essential part of home decoration. Skirting comes in all shapes, sizes and materials but can be defined as something that covers the gap between wall and floor. The purpose of skirting boards is to cover this gap and provide a smooth transition between two-floor coverings. Skirting is normally made from hardwood, PVC or MDF and wood has the advantage of being more resistant to knocks but it does require regular varnishing or staining in order to maintain its sheen, unlike PVC skirting which require no maintenance at all.
Skirting boards are most often fitted in a room when new flooring is installed, however, they can also be fitted retrospectively. However, it is important to note that new skirting boards can be fitted over old ones if required but the reverse of this isn’t true as removing your skirting boards will also remove the gap in wood surfaces which they were covering up.
Another thing to consider when purchasing skirting boards is how easy they are to fit over wood surfaces. If you are not confident with DIY building products, then it may be better to look for and order a pre-made skirting board, especially if your existing ones have served their purpose and need replacing. This will ensure that all of the products preparation work has been done at the factory so all you have to do is slot the products into place with no cutting or sanding required.
Skirting boards are an essential part of home decoration but can be one of the most frustrating areas to decorate as they require precise measurements in order to accommodate doorways, radiators and switches without leaving gaps or requiring too many cuts. However, by taking these factors into account beforehand, your new skirting boards can be fitted effortlessly and still look great.
What Materials are Skirting Boards Made of?
The selection of materials that skirting boards are made of vary from type to type and the difference of the main products are down to aesthetic preferences. Some materials, such as MDF and PVC can be found in a range of finishes allowing you to choose on this basis, however, other materials such as hardwood require different types of finish for example varnishing or oiling.
Solid Wood Skirting Boards
Solid wood skirting boards offer an attractive and stylish option without any need for finishing or treating. These products come in a wide range of different types of wood such as ash, birch and oak meaning there is something suitable for all tastes and decors. Solid wood options also come in a variety of thicknesses which means they can be used with or without skirting board covers.
Timber Skirting Board
If you are looking for skirting boards that will provide protection against knocks and bumps then wood is not the best material choice. However, if you do need to cover up your existing skirting board then timber covers may be the ideal choice as they can be cut to size with no loss of structural integrity. Many of these types of skirting boards can be stained to match the desired finish, at half the price.
Oak Veneered MDF Skirting Boards
Oak veneered MDF skirting boards are an attractive yet durable option that requires little attention after installation. The oak veneer is often chosen because it goes well with existing wood flooring and furniture, allowing you to tie the room together using matching finishes. These skirting boards can be found in various thicknesses ranging from 9mm to 16mm so they can be used without additional wood filler or insulation which makes them suitable for use with underfloor heating systems.
PVC Skirting Board
The PVC skirting board offer real value for money as they require no finishing. PVC itself has the advantage of being hard-wearing and resistant to water damage making it highly durable even when exposed to high levels of moisture such as kitchens and bathrooms. However, PVC doesn’t come in a wide range of finishes meaning you need to select this when ordering. PVC skirting board is normally available with a smooth or textured finish and come in a variety of thicknesses ranging from 7mm to 15mm.
Oiled Oak Skirting Boards
An oiled oak skirting board is the most attractive and durable choice for a wooden skirting board, giving your room the look of a solid wood board without any of the upkeep. The boards are made from an oak veneer which is then oiled to give it a deep lustrous finish that can easily be touched up when necessary using common furniture oils. This type of board comes in various thicknesses ranging from 13mm to 22mm so can be used with underfloor heating systems.
Wood Effect MDF Skirting Boards
Wood effect MDF skirting boards have the look and feel of hardwood but with additional benefits such as being more resilient when exposed to moisture. A wood effect finish is applied by printing on a thin layer of real veneer, giving it a natural appearance while still remaining highly durable and resistant to knocks and scratches making them perfect for use in busy areas such as hallways and kitchens. These skirting boards can be found in various thicknesses ranging from 9mm to 16mm allowing them to be used without additional wood filler insulation which makes them suitable for use with underfloor heating systems.
How do I Decorate Skirting Boards?
Once you have chosen your new skirting boards, they can be decorated in a number of different ways. You can simply fill the gaps and sand down the products surfaces to leave a smooth finish or you may choose to paint, varnish or oil them depending on their material and desired look. For example:
To oil your skirting boards apply several thin coats of furniture polish or tung oil until they achieve the desired appearance and then buff with a clean cloth. This will ensure that the products are protected against knocks and scratches as well as providing protection from heat damage such as fires and radiators. Oiled MDF skirting boards will need to be re-oiled once a year as part of routine maintenance.
Painting your skirting boards is a low cost and easy way of brightening up a room. Simply apply the paint using a roller for larger surfaces or a brush for more detailed work, ensuring you leave an even finish with no drips or runs. Paint will offer protection from stains and water damage but will require regular cleaning to preserve its appearance over time.
Applying varnish to your skirting boards is another quick and simple way of protecting them against knocks and scratches as well as giving them a more luxurious look. Varnishing requires more preparation than oiling such as removing any old loose paint and sanding the surface to ensure they are smooth. This will provide a protective layer against knocks and scratches but is more expensive than oil and paint, so you might want to consider whether it is worth the investment if you don’t intend on redecorating them anytime soon.
Are PVC Skirting Boards the Best Choice?
PVC skirting boards are easy to install because they are manufactured from plastics which makes them resistant to water and fire but also means that they will fade over time. This isn’t as much of a problem as some people think as they don’t need a very high degree of finish, but a little extra time and effort could make all the difference.
The first thing to consider when replacing your PVC skirting boards is whether you really want to replace them at all near high traffic areas. The boxes themselves are not the issue, it’s the joint between floor and wall that requires attention. Replacing just these parts can give such a transformation that it may be worth doing just for that fresh new design look.
If you decide to go ahead with replacing your box then there are several options available: solid wood, oak veneered MDF and even plastic laminate skirting boards. Solid wood is naturally beautiful and well-renowned for its durability and stability but it can warp over time so keep this in mind and plan to use a sealant. Oak veneer is more durable than real oak and is also more resistant to water damage, but it can chip and crack if enough effort is put into it. Plastic laminate has the advantage of being totally resistant to moisture and heat damage but doesn’t look particularly attractive once fitted.
How do You Fit PVC Skirting Boards?
When it comes to fitting PVC skirting boards, the first thing to do is make sure that you have all of the tools and equipment needed. Have a good look at your current skirting board before buying anything new because there are various measurements required such as top and bottom gap widths, skirtboard height and skirtboard thickness. Make sure that these measurements will match up with your PVC skirting boards.
Measuring the Skirt Board Perimeter
Measure your skirt board’s perimeter using a tape measure (or ruler) mark the perimeter of your existing skirt board onto paper or card then trim it out to size using scissors or a craft knife. Measure your walls with care by measuring from the centre point of each side to avoid miscalculating one side against the other.
Measure the Gaps
Measure your gap widths using a tape measure (or ruler) mark the gap of your existing skirting board onto paper or card then trim it out to size using scissors or a craft knife. To find out how much of the gap you need to cover, measure from the bottom of your skirtboard to the floor and note this measurement down as well as measuring from the top edge of your existing skirting board directly up to where it meets with your walls and noting this measurement down as well.
Measure the Height
Take Skirtboard Height Measurements. This is achieved by firstly measuring on top of your existing skirting board on all sides until you reach the correct height, then a rule to mark measurements onto paper or card and then cut out to size using scissors.
Measure bottom of Skirtboard Gap Taking measurements from the bottom, follow the same procedure as you did when measuring your gap widths and note these measurements down. Take attention not to measure too close or too far, make sure they are both similar measurements for uniformity.
Taking careful measurements is vital when fitting a new PVC skirting board because it identifies how much space there is between the walls and the skirt boards which is used to create an even finish when hung with an appropriate gap (usually 5mm) between them. The difference between measurements made at the top, bottom and height can be noted down on paper but should also be closely checked against each other so that they remain uniform for a tidy finish before all items are to be fit into place and in the correct order.
Leave the PVC Skirting board in its box until you are ready to fit it. This will prevent damage to the items and keep them clean too.
Fitting the PVC Skirting Boards
Starting at one end of your skirting, hold the PVC skirting board up against your walls with the front edge facing away from you and line up with measurements made. Use pencils with cotton buds on the ends to mark around each corner into your walls then peel off and apply adhesive to these marks using a standard filler gun or a caulking gun. Once applied, replace the PVC skirting boards so that the PVC rests on top of these lines and check for accurate positioning before pressing down firmly onto them. If there is still a slight gap between the floor, PVC and walls, the drywall can be used to fill this area to make it flush with the rest of the wall.
Fasten the PVC skirting boards to the wall using nails and a nail gun (wood or masonry) or by screwing into position (screws should be countersunk). Make sure that you use appropriate fixings for your walls because not all PVC skirting boards can be attached to every kind of surface.
Make any final adjustments by pulling out slightly from the corner and levelling with the top edge and working your way down either side ensuring that there is no overhang or having any gaps before nailing the PVC skirting boards down securely.
Using small sealing beads, seal both sides of the gap where your PVC skirting board meets with each wall. Using a caulking gun, dispense along the length of the bead. Smooth the PVC skirting down with a wet finger and remove any excess items or solutions.