Should Carpet Or Baseboards Be Installed First?

Carpet and baseboards are usually affixed very tightly together around the edges of a room. This overlap makes the decision of whether to install carpet or baseboard first a difficult one. So, whether you are working on new construction, a room remodel, or a whole house renovation, you are wondering which to install first. In this post, we combine carpenter experience and research to answer your question thoroughly.

Generally, contractors choose to install the baseboard first. That being said, there are advantages to both installation orders. If you install carpeting first, it is very easy to flush place the baseboard over the top edge of the carpet. However, installing the baseboard first allows you to stain, paint, and caulk the baseboard without fear of forever marking the carpet.

Keep reading the rest of this post for details on the advantages and considerations of installing both carpet and baseboard first. We provide a ton of useful information to help you decide what is best for your situation. In addition, we provide a quick guide to carpet installation and answer several related questions.

A man installing a white colored baseboard, Should Carpet Or Baseboards Be Installed First?

Installing Baseboards or Carpet First

First of all, if you already have carpeting installed and are upgrading or redoing your baseboard, there is no need to rip out your carpet. In the same sense, if you are redoing your carpet, there is no need to rip out baseboards. However, if you are redoing or installing both carpeting and baseboard you will need to choose which to install first.

Installing Baseboard First

If installing baseboard first, there are conferred advantages and disadvantages. The advantages involve simpler workflow and likely a shorter timeline. The disadvantages involve more difficult carpet installation. Read the following two sub-sections for considerations when installing the baseboard first.

Advantages of Installing Baseboard First

The main advantage of installing baseboard first is it allows you to paint, stain, and caulk the baseboard without worrying about damaging the carpet. All of these liquid finish materials are very difficult to clean from carpet once they make contact.

In terms of painting, painters prefer to paint new or remodel construction before carpeting is installed. This allows them to paint and stain freely without worrying about laying down ground tarps and potentially ruining brand new carpet. Given this, it is the most efficient to have all materials that need to be painted installed, before the painters arrive.

This logic extends further to the actual installation process of the baseboard. The finished surfaces that usually are painted include all trim (molding, baseboard, casing, etcetera), walls, and cabinets. Having your finished carpenters perform all of this type of work in a block is a more economical use of time and personnel than waiting until after the carpet has been installed.

Disadvantages of Installing Baseboard First

Take note, if you do install baseboard first. It requires that you hold the baseboard off the subfloor by a consistent amount throughout the house. This is usually about 1/2-inch to 5/8-inch but depends on your carpet type. An easy way to accomplish this is to cut a couple of small chunks of wood to set the baseboard on as you nail it off.

A photo of how carpet is installed on the corners of a house

The second disadvantage to installing the baseboard first is that the carpet installation may mark and/or scratch the baseboard. Either the tack strip installation can mar the baseboard, or the process of prying the carpeting under the baseboard can leave marks. However, a professional carpet installer will make neither of these mistakes.

Installing Carpeting First

Installing carpeting before the baseboard makes the carpet installation process simpler and quicker. The reason for this is twofold. First, baseboards make the installation of tack strips difficult. Second, baseboards make cutting and then installing the carpet so it runs exactly flush to the wall a more exacting task.

A carpet installer rolling a huge sheet of gray colored carpet

Tack strips are special carpeting materials that are installed with tons of tiny nails pointing up. These nails grip the edges of your carpet keeping it stretched out and held down. Since tack strips need to be installed very close to the wall, the existing baseboard makes the job more crowded and tricky. However, it is still very possible to install tack strips with pre-existing baseboards without marring the finished trim.

Finally, if you install the carpet first. It is very easy to simply run the carpet right up to the walls. On the other hand, if you install the baseboard first, you are required to pry and shove the carpeting under the baseboard so it reaches all the way to the wall. Related to this, is the advantage of being able to simply set the baseboard on the carpet and slightly push it down while you nail the baseboard off.

Do You Remove Baseboards When Installing Carpet?

No, not usually. If the baseboard is already installed, it is left installed when installing the carpet. Carpet installers are used to working around baseboards of all shapes and sizes. If you are a new carpet installer, do take care to not mar the baseboard as you lay down and install the carpet.

Should Baseboards Touch The Floor?

Baseboards usually touch the final flooring. This means that the baseboard is flush along the carpet, hardwood, tile, or vinyl flooring. However, the baseboard should not touch the subfloor. The subfloor is the plywood that is laid down before the true flooring is installed. Do not make the mistake of installing the baseboard flush with the subfloor. It will look very odd and out of place.

How to Install Carpet Under Baseboard

In this sub-section, we provide a brief overview of how to install carpet under the baseboard. Steps covered here include cutting the carpet and using the proper tools and techniques to fit the carpet up against the wall.

Cutting the Carpet

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First, rough-cut the carpet to the whole room so it runs to approximately the top edges of the baseboard. Once finished, go around the room and use a putty knife or other tool to tightly hold the carpet as deep into the gap under the baseboard as possible. As you do this, use a sharp utility knife to final-cut the carpet where it first runs up the baseboard.

A carpet installer removing excess gray carpet

There are two important things to note regarding the final-cutting of the carpet. First, be very careful not to cut the baseboard with the knife. Second, only final-cut one wall at a time. Once you install that wall with the carpet stretcher then cut and install the opposite wall. This helps avoids the danger of overcutting which results in a large piece of carpet that is just a little too small for the room.

Fitting the Carpet Flush to the Wall

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Place the carpet stretcher about four-inches from the wall and firmly kick it with your knee. Then, attach the carpet to the tack strip and push it under the baseboard with a putty knife or other similar tool. Do this for all areas along one wall at a time.

Should Doors Be Installed Before Carpet?

Usually, doors are installed before the carpet is installed. The logic for this is similar to why most contractors install baseboard before carpet. That is to say, the workers who know how to and are responsible for installing the doors are usually on sight before the carpet is installed. Also, doors are often painted and/or stained - a much easier job pre-carpet.

How Do You Fill The Gap Between Carpet And Baseboards?

Generally, there should not be a gap between the carpet and the baseboard. Sometimes, the old carpet may have been thicker than a newer carpet. Then, when the new carpet is installed, a gap appears below the baseboard. It is also possible that the original baseboard was installed improperly.

However, if you do have a gap between the carpet and the baseboard your options are limited. Usually, you will need to carefully remove the baseboard and then reinstall it or replace it flush to the carpet. Unfortunately, this is likely to expose a paint-line where the top of the baseboard used to sit. Avoid this by installing new taller baseboard or fix it by repainting the walls.

Additional Baseboard Related Reading

As you plan out your baseboard look and installation schedule you might have additional questions. We can recommend these two articles as great resources. First, a guide to the appropriate thickness for baseboard and casing, "Should Baseboard And Casing Be The Same Thickness?" And second, a primer on the right baseboard dimensions, "What Is The Standard Size Of A Baseboard? [And Why]."

In Closing

In this post, we answered the question of whether carpet or baseboard should be installed first. We provided the advantages and disadvantages to both methods. The information here is all you need to make an informed decision given your situation. To conclude, we also answered several related questions. Good luck!

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