Whether you’re renovating your home or building a new one, choosing the right baseboards is important not only for aesthetic reasons but for practical reasons too. They add a finishing touch to a room and protect walls from being scuffed by shoes, mops, brooms, vacuum cleaner attachments, and even errant kid and dog toys. 

In addition to providing wall protection near the floor level, baseboards are essential for covering the joint between the floor and the wall. Typically, drywall is installed so that the bottom edge ends just before the floor level. This is so that the drywall won’t absorb moisture if the floor gets wet, either when being mopped or if there’s a water leak. Without baseboards, a home can look poorly constructed or cheap. If a homeowner prefers to go without baseboards, careful precise installation is required with highly skilled labor.

How to Choose the Right Baseboards for Your Home

1. Choose the Right Material for Your Home

Baseboards can be made from an array of materials. The type of material chosen is usually based on the features of a room. A living room will look best with a wood baseboard but a utility room may need a totally waterproof baseboard like vinyl or PVC.

  • Wood – Most baseboards are made of wood. They’re available in softwoods like pine and poplar or hardwoods like mahogany or oak, although molding can be made from just about any type of wood. Wood baseboard comes in primed or raw wood that you either paint or stain yourself.
  • MDF – A composite, MDF is a cheaper alternative to wood but not as durable. MDF can swell when it’s exposed to moisture so it’s not recommended for moisture-prone rooms like bathrooms, kitchens, or utility rooms. It must be primed and painted to seal it and it can’t be stained.
  • Plastic – You’ll often see vinyl, urethane, or PVC baseboards in garages, utility rooms, or even in outdoor spaces because of their water resistance. Plastic is available in pre-painted or you can paint it yourself. Because plastic is very durable it won’t rot, swell, or crack.
  • Polystyrene – if your walls are wonky, wood or MDF baseboard probably will be hard to fit. Polystyrene is flexible and can adapt to the ins and outs of wonky walls – just be sure to fill any gaps with caulk and paint.

2. Select Your Style

In years past, the baseboard style, whether smooth, curved, square, or ornate, was always coordinated to tie in with other moldings in the room and intended to be in keeping with the architectural style of a home. In traditional homes, the rule of thumb was for the baseboards to be less ornate than the crown molding. 

But recently, there’s far more leeway in baseboard styles and proportions. Both the crown molding and the baseboards can be severely simple in a contemporary home. For example, the best baseboard motif for a modern farmhouse home is a simple, flat style that reflects the fresh, light, bright spaces. 

  • Flat – This baseboard design has no decoration or design and is not beveled. Flat baseboard is a classic style that looks great in craftsman bungalows, industrial lofts, modern farmhouses, and even minimalist homes. They look out of place in homes that have detailed architectural features or have ornate crown molding. With their 90-degree edges, flat baseboards have a clean simple look.
  • Three-inch Stepped – Also called stepped molding, this style is designed to fade into the wall and therefore it looks best in modern homes. It doesn’t provide enough detail for traditional homes. 
  • Clamshell – Clamshell baseboards have a rounded bevel on the top edge and look best in formal homes or rooms with tall ceilings. Ornate baseboards have more complicated profiles and should be used in combination with crown molding for balance.
  • Recessed – For a modern luxury look, recessed baseboards offer a very precise, clean, customized look.
  • Combination – Some baseboards are actually constructed out of a combination of several different molding styles. And often, a shoe molding is added to provide a finished look. This narrow trim is installed in front of the base to hide any gaps between the baseboard and the floor. 

Style tip: For new construction, or major remodels, install electrical outlets in the baseboards to keep the walls looking clean and less busy. 

3. Consider the Size

The size of the baseboard is important because to look its best, it must be proportional to the room. 

  • Tall – Tall baseboards lend an elegant vibe to a room, but beware – they can look out of proportion in small rooms with low ceilings. Typically any baseboard between 5 1/2″ to 8″ in height is considered tall. Tall baseboards are commonly made in a flat style but can also be found in styles with stepped edges or curved tops.
  • Mid-height – Most commonly used in rooms that have crown molding, mid-height usually runs from 5″ to 5 ½” tall. Usually this size of baseboard comes with stepped edges, curved, or scalloped tops.
  • 3-inch – Considered a shorter baseboard, 3-inch is commonly used in new construction. Just be aware that a 3-inch baseboard can look out of proportion in a large room with high ceilings. 

Size tip: Choose 3- to 5-inch baseboards for rooms with 8-foot ceilings and 5- to 7-inch baseboards for rooms with 10-foot ceilings. The baseboard trim should be taller than the width of your door and window trims.

4. Select the Color

  • White – Classic baseboard is white like window, door casing, and ceiling trims. Then the walls can be painted a contrasting color or be covered with paneling or wallpaper.
  • Monochromatic – Another color-way method is to paint all the moldings and trims, including baseboards, the same color as the walls. 
  • Stain – Some homeowners prefer to stain baseboard to match the color of a hardwood floor. 

5. Points to Ponder

Finally, as you start to pinpoint a baseboard style, size, and material, ask yourself:

  • Cost – How affordable is the style, size, and material you prefer? Hardwoods are the most expensive material while MDF is usually the least expensive.
  • Stainable? – Is the baseboard material stainable? This is important if you want to match the baseboard to hardwood flooring. You can’t stain MDF or plastic. 
  • Prep – How much prep is involved? Does the baseboard come pre-painted or will you have to prime and paint?
  • Durability – How durable is the material you prefer? Hardwoods are very durable but they can be susceptible to cracking and moisture. Plastics are extremely durable and long-lasting.

If you’re ready to choose the right baseboard that will look best in your home or apartment, you may want help with installation. You’ll not only save time when you hire a pro but you won’t have to go out and search for the materials, tools, or supplies necessary to do the job right. And of course, you want an installer you can trust. Here at Great Guys Painting, we’ve already vetted the professional carpenters in our network to make sure they’re licensed, insured, and reputable. Searching for a reliable baseboard installer is easy with Great Guys Painting!


Enhance your rooms with the right baseboard. Great Guys Painting will help you find a trustworthy baseboard installer who’s experienced and reliable. Get a free quote now!