How to Choose the Right Type of Baseboards for Your Home

You may not have given baseboards much thought in the past, but you should—they add personality and style to a room.

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When it comes to renovating or designing a home, baseboards are often cast aside as an afterthought. Though they may seem like a minor design element, baseboards are an important feature that deserve your attention. Not only do they add visual depth to rooms and help anchor walls, but baseboards can also protect fragile finishes, like wallpaper, from damage when moving furniture or cleaning floors. While they may seem like a one-style-fits-all feature, there are actually a handful of baseboard options available.

Benefits of Baseboards

Although baseboards aren't a necessity, they help give most homes a finished look and are highly functional. "The seam where the walls meet the floor is typically where two different materials intersect, requiring a finishing design solution at that joint," says Mindy O'Connor, the founder and principal of Melinda Kelson O'Connor Architecture & Interiors. "That seam and lower wall area is also more exposed to damage from feet, brooms, chairs, vacuums, dirt, and moisture than the rest of the walls." Additionally, baseboards cover small gaps between the walls and floor that occur from natural shrinking and expansion of wood flooring, which is caused by fluctuations in moisture and humidity.

With that being said, some homeowners choose not to include baseboards in their home. "We just completed a project that didn't have baseboards, because our client wanted her home to feel like an art gallery," says Zandy Gammons of Miretta Interiors. "She wanted her walls to be the focus." The decision is ultimately a personal one and depends on the vision your have for your space.

Common Baseboard Materials

Before you select your baseboard's height, style, and color, decide on the right material for your space.


Many designers are partial to wood baseboards. "Solid wood is a very common and traditionally used material for applied baseboards," says O’Connor. "Wood can be painted or stained and can be repaired, sanded, and repainted as needed." Keep in mind, though, that the lightweight material can be slightly more expensive than other trim materials and may split when nailed.

If you go the wood route, the key is to select a species and grain that will work with your design goals. Start by deciding if you want to paint your baseboards or if you want the wood grain to show through, Gammon says; your answer will determine the wood species you should use. For example, lighter options, like oak and ashwood, are easy to stain or paint, while darker woods (like walnut) shine on their own. "The typical paint-grade wood is poplar because it is smooth," says Susan Bohlert Smith of Bohlert Massey. "Although it is not hardwood, it is dense—so it won't dent like other less expensive paint-grade species would."

Medium Density Fiberboard

Typically less expensive than wood, medium density fiberboard is very consistent and can be painted. "Medium density fiberboard does not split when nailed and is more flexible for curves," says O'Connor. "There are a wide variety of profiles available and custom options for medium density fiberboard." The biggest downside to this type of material is that it's susceptible to water damage and difficult to repair. It also lacks the timeless beauty and graining that wood has.


A less popular, but still suitable choice for baseboards is plastic or PVC. This material is a great moisture-resistant option for outdoor spaces and bathrooms. Though PVC is more affordable than wood, it's often avoided because it's a less sustainable option to make and is difficult to recycle. 

Choosing Baseboard Height

Choosing a height for your baseboards comes down to personal preference. While some homeowners prefer a short piece that blends in nicely with your walls, others opt for a taller style that looks like substantial trim. For a happy medium, it's important to measure so you can envision the final result.

Not sure how tall or short your baseboard should be? "A good rule of thumb is for the overall base height to be approximately the same height in inches as the ceiling is in feet," says Bohlert Smith. 

baseboard trim against modern wood floors and marble floor


Common Baseboard Styles

There are a few different types of baseboards to choose from and each has its own specific characteristics. Ultimately, it's important to select an option that best matches your design aesthetic. Look at existing window casings, door openings, crown moldings, and other trim details in your home to guide your choice. "Baseboards can offer a way to bring together formal design throughout multiple rooms in your house and should be considered thoughtfully as part of the design process rather than an add-on to complete a room," says O'Connor. 

Applied Baseboards

This is the most common baseboard type. "An applied baseboard sits proud of the wall where it meets the floor," says O'Connor. "It can be made in almost any height or profile—from very simple, flat modern boards, to stepped details to ornate beaded moldings with classic sculpted profiles." 

Flush Baseboards

Unlike applied, a flush baseboard doesn't protrude from the wall; instead, it sits at the same depth as the wall surface. "It provides the protection of a baseboard with a more streamlined look," says O'Connor. The only downside of flush baseboards is that they can be more difficult to install than some other styles. 

Floating Baseboards

A floating baseboard, also called a reveal, is typically created by an aluminum profile that stops the wall before it hits the floor. This makes a negative space, which is then painted to give the illusion that the wall is floating above the floor.

Baseboard Mouldings

If you want to give your baseboard the perfect finishing touch, consider adding moulding into the mix. Lovingly nicknamed the "base shoe," this small feature covers up any inconsistencies, gaps, or imperfections between your floor and baseboards. Typically, homeowners choose between one of two styles: shoe moulding or quarter round moulding. Though these terms are often used interchangeably, each style has subtle differences: quarter round iterations are always shaped like one quadrant of a circle, whereas shoe options can vary in size and shape.

painting white baseboards

Studio Light and Shade / GETTY IMAGES

Painting Your Baseboards

Once you've selected a style—and a moulding type to match—it's time to give your baseboards a little visual intrigue. "Some people use baseboards to add an interesting flair," Gammon says. "You can go heavy on the baseboard or you can choose a simplistic, sleek look, which will give the home a modern and clean feel." If you opt for a simple baseboard, consider painting these pieces an interesting color to create depth. Simply put, your baseboards deserve a chance to shine.

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