Carpet installer asked me to install baseboards down to subfloor?

Discussion in 'Flooring' started by shortskoolbus, Jul 31, 2009.

  1. Jul 31, 2009 #1

    shortskoolbus

    shortskoolbus

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    Hi guys,

    Hope you can help me out on this.

    The carpet guys asked me to install the baseboards all the way down to the sub floor. I know on most new construction this is the way it is done, but isn't it better to leave a gap to allow for the carpet to be tucked in under it?

    I asked him if he was sure that i should install the base boards down to the subfloor and he kept saying yes, even when i asked him isn't it a better finish to have the carpet tucked under...

    Is it easier one way or the other for the carpet installer, and is he just trying to get out of doing more work?
     
  2. Jul 31, 2009 #2

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Do you have a baseboard that requires a separate shoe molding (also called a "quarter round" or "carpet strip") that is installed in front of the baseboard, or is it a single piece baseboard?

    Here's how your floor is probably built:
    IN THE BEGINNING there were the floor joists,
    over top of the floor joists they installed a 1X6 fir lumber or 3/4 inch plywood SUBFLOOR
    then they built the stud walls on top of that subfloor
    then they installed 1/4 to 3/8 inch underlayment sheets within each "room"
    then they put drywall or plaster on the walls (and did everything else)
    then they installed the baseboard to cover any gap between the underlayment and the walls
    then they installed the flooring (carpet linoleum tile, etc.)
    then they installed the shoe molding to cover the gap between the floor and the baseboard


    There are different ways to do this. Newer houses typically use a single piece baseboard. On new construction, that single piece baseboard is installed about 1/4 to 3/8 inch above the underlayment first before the carpet is installed, and that's simply to save money. That way the carpet installers install the carpet and tuck it under the baseboard, and so they don't have to call the carpenter's back to install the baseboard. That saves money because the travel and set-up time for the carpenters to come back would take a half day, so you're paying a full day's wages for a half day's work Also, the advantage to that is that you don't have sawdust from the saw station being tracked all over the brand new carpet.

    However, if this isn't a new house, and is old enough to have a separate baseboard and shoe molding, then the installation would be done differently.

    In that case, if it wuz my apartment block, I'd install the baseboard to the wall on top of the 5/16" fir plywood UNDERLAYMENT I have in my building, and then nail the tack strips down about 3/4 inch in front of that baseboard. Then, I'd staple the underpad down to the underlayment in that room and install the metal naplock strips wherever there's a transition to a different flooring material (typically in the doorways). Then I'd stretch the carpet over the underpad and hook it on the tack strips. Then I'd install the shoe molding over the gap between the cut edge of the carpet and the baseboard.

    And, the reason why you install the baseboard of a two piece baseboard/shoe molding combination first is so that you have something to slide the "wall trimmer" against. A wall trimmer is a tool you slide along the wall to cut the carpet to the shape of the room (which isn't always rectangular). And, the wall trimmer is designed in such a way that you can set it up to cut the carpet shy of the baseboard so that you can stretch it up to the baseboard, or to cut the carpet past the baseboard so that you can fold the carpet under itself to make something called a "perfect edge" where you just leave the carpet like that without installing the shoe molding.

    So, if your carpet installer is doing things the way I would say is right, then:

    1. You're mixing up the subfloor with the underlayment. He's asking you to install the baseboard on the underlayment, not the subfloor.

    2. You have a separate baseboard and separate shoe molding, not a single piece baseboard.

    If you have a single piece baseboard that doesn't have a separate shoe molding you install afterward, then I don't like the installer's idea of putting on the baseboard first either. I'd wonder what he's going to do with the cut edge of that carpet. Does he just plan to leave the cut edge in front of the baseboard? That would not be kosher in my books.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2009
  3. Aug 6, 2009 #3

    Big Red

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    I always do this the way the carpet installer said. I've heard that some carpet installers,today, say to mount baseboards ontop of carpet. I think that's just wrong. In the future, another carpet may be thinner---or thicker---then the baseboards have to come out. I prefer baseboard with a shoe molding. It just looks more finished than baseboard without the shoe. The carper installer will tuck the carpet between the shoe and the tack strip for a finished edge.
     
  4. Aug 6, 2009 #4

    tmhremodel

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    agreed... the base should go down first, then the carpet.. the confussion people sometimes have is, with tile or stone the base should go on AFTER, with carpet before..
    much cleaner look.
     
  5. Aug 7, 2009 #5

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Of course not. The pile of carpet is compressible. Even the cheapest carpet are a good 1/4 inch thick. You will not see that 1/8 inch gap if you put your baseboards in first and have them 3/8 inch off the floor. I you go to a 5/8 inch thick carpet, you still won't have any trouble squeezing the pile down to fit under that baseboard.

    I prefer to take the shoe molding out, install the carpet so it butts up to he baseboard, and then install the shoe molding on top of the carpet.

    In fact what I prefer to do, which you can see in this photo:

    [​IMG]

    Is nail the tackless strip down a good inch and a quarter away from the baseboard, install the carpet butting up to the baseboard, and then install the shoe molding on top of the carpet. That way you get an "upholstered" look around the perimeter of the carpet.
     
  6. Aug 7, 2009 #6

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    What difference does the flooring under the carpet make? If you have tile flooring, you can still glue down tack strips, you can still glue down an underpad, so you can still stretch the carpet over the tile floor.

    I'd agree with you if you said: "If you're doing a glue-down install, then you install the baseboards after gluing the carpet down." But, you don't have to glue a carpet down over tile or stone. You can stretch a carpet in over tile and stone too.

    At the end of the day, both ways work fine. I personally always install my tackless strips further than normal from my baseboards, stretch the carpet in, and then install shoe moldings over the carpet for an "upholstered" look around the perimeter of the carpet.
     
  7. Aug 7, 2009 #7

    Big Red

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    The problem with that way is that the baseboard should be permanent to the room. Carpet comes and goes. You should never have to remove shoe molding to replace carpet.
     
  8. Aug 12, 2009 #8

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    The baseboard should never need to be removed when replacing the flooring.

    That's cuz the flooring is installed UP TO the baseboard, and the shoe molding is installed to cover the cut edge of the flooring.

    S'pose instead of carpet, we were talking about installing Peel & Stick floor tiles, or sheet vinyl or laminate flooring or even ceramic tiles. In every case the flooring would be installed up to the baseboard and then the shoe molding would go on top to cover the cut edge of the flooring and the gap between the flooring and baseboard. (It's just that you can't nail through ceramic tiles, so the shoe molding would be nailed horizontally to the baseboard.)

    The two reasons why there seems to be some confusion over what to do with carpet are:

    1. In new house construction they typically either don't use shoe molding, or install it a quarter inch or so above the floor before the carpet is installed. That's not cuz it's supposed to be done that way, it's cuz it's cheaper to do it that way than to install the carpet and then call back the carpenters to install the shoe molding. It's just cheaper to have the carpenters install the shoe molding a bit above the floor before they leave for their next job, and just have the carpet people slip the cut edge of the carpet under the shoe molding.

    2. Carpet installers really don't want to be replacing shoe molding. Shoe molding will often break when you pull it off, and you also have to pull the nails holding it to the baseboard. So, if a shoe molding breaks into several pieces when removed, then the customer is gonna complain that they nailed the shoe molding on in pieces and it looks terrible. But the only option is to start cutting, priming and painting new shoe molding, and that's gonna take longer than installing another carpet. So, shoe moldings are a nuisance for carpet installers, and they try to avoid shoe molding by tucking the carpet up neatly against the baseboard. But, it's not like it should be done that way.

    PS: Before the Roberts company patented the tack strips they called "Smoothedge", carpets were installed by actually nailing the perimeter of the carpet down to the floor. These nails were called "carpet tacks", and the reason that competitor's equivalents of Smoothedge are called "tackLESS strips" is because you don't have to use tacks if you use the wood strips. So, without the wood strips, you would HAVE TO use a shoe molding over the carpet to hide the carpet tacks around the perimeter of the room.

    (we typically call them "tackstrips" but the correct terminology is tackless strip)
     
  9. Oct 9, 2009 #9

    robert mccoy

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    let the installer do what he wants its harder to cut ferfect to the base than cut it a 1/2 inch bigger then stuff it under anybody could do that. the real look is rounded .

    the real look is rounded at the base and that comes from base to the floor . green horns need it up.
     
  10. Nov 9, 2009 #10

    jacobvats

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    As a designer, I would definitely run your baseboards all the way to the subfloor. If you have a good carpet installer, they will be able to run the tack strips properly and tuck the edges of any carpet (regardless of thickness) and get a nice tight fit to the base. I am going through this right now-- I have had a contractor insisting that 3/8" is the way to go, but I really think you get a better look with no gap. Designers and builders don't always agree!
     
  11. Nov 28, 2009 #11

    jef1

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    Hi, new here. I see this baseboard first vs. last dilemma all over and still no conclusive answer. Seems most recommend putting base down BEFORE carpet because (a)installers aren't 'fond' of coming back to do base; (b) makes it easier to replace carpeting later; (c) shoe molding covers any "oops" or gaps and looks neater (matter of opinion there.)

    Having house repainted (for the last time most likely) and then doing carpet last. Believe me when I tell you that there is no, zero, nada chance of this new carpet ever being replaced by us. Trust me. As for worrying about 'installers frowning on coming back to do base', we'll be installing new base 3-1/4" base, prime & painting beforehand. Of course I know there'll be some touchups for nail holes, but that's no big whup. Oh, and I loathe shoe molding on anything but tile, wood or vinyl flooring.

    So with those items off the table, I don't understand why base can't be done (again, by us) after new carpet is installed? Open to opinions always. Thanks

    jef
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2009
  12. Nov 28, 2009 #12

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Jef1:

    All you have to do is understand that carpet installers use a "wall trimmer" to cut the carpet to the shape of the room. That's cuz the carpet trimmer can be adjusted to cut the carpet BEFORE, FLUSH WITH or even PAST the wall. If you cut the carpet before the wall, then the gameplan is to then stretch the carpet to the wall with a power stretcher (or knee kicker if you're not doing this kinda work for a living) to secure it onto the tackless strips. If you're gluing down the carpet, you want to cut it flush with the wall because it's not going to be stretched and you want the carpet to fit up to the wall, no further, no less. And, some installers prefer to tuck the cut edge of the carpet between the tackstrip and the wall so that they don't have to reinstall shoe moldings, so then you want to cut the carpet a bit past the wall so that you can tuck the cut edge of the carpet down into what's called the "gulley" (which is the slot between the tackless strips and the wall).

    [​IMG]

    But, notice that the carpet trimmer has a shoe (which is closest to you in the photo) than slides along the wall. As you slide the carpet trimmer along the wall, those two razor blades (held in place by those two triangular nuts) cut through the carpet. The plate those razor blades sit in can be raised or lowered to cut the carpet shorter or longer. (The carpet goes under the body of the wall trimmer and folds up between the shoe and the body of the wall trimmer so it's cut by one of the two razor blades.)

    You can install the baseboards first or after the carpet is installed. All that's really important is that you have a flat surface for the shoe of the carpet trimmer to slide on. If your baseboard has a contour on it's front so that there is no flat surface on that baseboard for the carpet trimmer to slide along, then the carpet trimmer may slide up higher on the baseboard, with the result that it cuts the carpet longer, and that can cause problems for the installer (who then has to recut it).

    So, you can install the carpet either way, as long as you have a flat surface at the bottom of the wall to slide the carpet trimmer along. So, the answer to your question largely depends on what kind of baseboard you'll be installing. If it has a flat surface for the carpet trimmer to slide along, then you can install it first and either tuck the cut edge of the carpet into the gulley or install a shoe molding to cover the cut edge of the carpet. If your baseboard has a contoured front so that there's no flat surface on it, then (in my humble opinion) you'd be better off to install the carpet first, and then install the baseboard. This would typically be done by dropping a piece of sheet metal down in front of the wall (so the wall trimmer shoe doesn't go under the drywall), slide the wall trimmer on the flat sheet metal to cut the carpet flush with or before the wall, then stretch the carpet (or whatever) to install it, and THEN install your baseboard AFTER the carpet is installed.

    PS: Notice the handle on the carpet trimmer is secured with a triangular nut. Notice how the opposite end of the handle connects to the body of the wall trimmer with a toothed joint (like a bicycle rack for a car). If that nut is loosened, then the angle of the handle can be changed. This is because when using the wall trimmer, you want to push down on it at a 45 degree angle (to keep it down in the corner where the wall meets the floor). But, also notice the handle itself is shaped like this: /\

    Thats because not only do you want to be pushing down at a 45 degree angle to keep the wall trimmer in the corner between wall and floor, you also want to be pushing forward on it at the same time at about a 45 degree angle to make it slide along the baseboard and thereby cut the carpet. It's that pressing down at both 45 degree angles simultaneously that folds the carpet tightly into the corner and movest the trimer forward to cuts the carpet to a precise and uniform length relative to the wall. Without a flat edge for the carpet trimmer shoe to slide against, then it can't trim the carpet to a precise and uniform length, which is what you want for the installer to do a good job.

    Here's a wall trimmer made by a different company, but with it's handle moved to vertical just for the picture. It wouldn't normally be used in the vertical position. Despite being made by a different company, it's essentially the same design.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2009
  13. Nov 30, 2009 #13

    jef1

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    Nestor, What a tutorial! Thanks so much and for the pics, too. Helps me visualize things a bit better.

    The base is 3-1/4 flat edge. So, based on your info re the trimmer having something flat to run along, we could put the base down first, and I'm fairly certain the drywall is just shy of the underlayment and ...uh...not exactly w/o waves, etc. :rolleyes:

    Shoe molding after isn't an option because I personally don't like the look (to each his/her own), and I've seen vacuum cleaners ding the heck out of them. Plus, my wife hates that "gulley" you mentioned - again for vacuuming reasons. It always seems to be a repository for dust and she winds up having to sweep all along the edge and then return w/the vacuum. :mad:

    I'm leaning towards doing the base afterward. However, I'm not too crazy about the idea of putting a piece of sheet metal all around the perimeter of each room. :eek:

    All of which means, I'm still not 100% sure of which way I go. A lot may also depend on what carpet installer I get and what they have to add to the mix.

    Much appreciation, again, for your time and the very valuable info.
    jef
     

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