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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Coping: Baseboard Installation

Stephanie Staton
Hobby Farms and Hobby Farm Home Editor

The title might lead you to believe that I’m just hanging on by a thread, but despite the myriad challenges and setbacks on the farmhouse-renovation journey, I’m doing relatively OK in the emotional department. When I refer to coping, I’m actually talking about the baseboards, not my mental state. (Don’t get me wrong, though— I’m one stressed out chick these days.).

When installing baseboards and matching them up at the room’s corners, there are two common options for making the ends meet: mitering and coping. The first involves cutting the ends of the boards at 45-degree angles so that they form a 90-degree angle in the interior and exterior corners. Coping involves cutting the end of one board so that it matches the profile of the other on an interior corner—you still have to miter exterior corners. Both techniques are designed to give your wood a finished look without any gaps where the boards intersect.

The method you choose is up to you, as they both require basic to intermediate carpentry skills, specialized tools and a considerable amount of patience. My husband was intrigued with coping because it was used in our previous house, and he wanted the same in this house.

Our home came with amazing 7¼-inch baseboards that we carefully removed and saved; however, the expanded floor plan meant that we wouldn’t have enough material, so we worked with a lumber mill to create a knife to match our baseboard profile. We then used it to make 16-foot lengths of primed poplar baseboards.

One of the biggest challenges to working with thick moulding has been its lack of flexibility. The wider the plank is, the more rigid it is. This meant we would need to use a shoe moulding, which is much more flexible, along the bottom to hide any imperfections or spaces where the floors and baseboards meet. Even this moulding received the coping treatment so that the end of one piece wrapped around the curved side of the other.

Another consideration I recommend addressing when using wide baseboard is how you plan to install the moulding where steps or other obstructions occur, such as making multiple cuts to wrap it around said obstruction or to notch the bottom of moulding so it runs along the tops of the stairs. As with all decisions in this process, it is a matter of preference and patience that will pay off in the end.

I can’t say with certainty that this method has added time to the overall project, but knowing that most of our volunteers would prefer to work with miter cuts has made me slightly leery of the coping technique. If you have helpers involved in any renovation project, I recommend making sure they’re on board with your decision so you can keep your project on schedule. I’ve been happy with the result so far and can’t complain too much—especially because I’m not the one doing the installation!

There are two methods of aligning the corners of baseboards: midering and coping. - Photo by Stephanie Staton (HobbyFarms.com)
Photo by Stephanie Staton

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