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How to cut corners on baseboards by not cutting corners

Cutting baseboards can be tricky. Rooms are rarely perfectly square, so just cutting baseboards at 45-degree angles on the ends doesn’t usually yield a perfect corner. So instead you usually have to fit the pieces into the corner, trace the outline of one onto the other, then trace the angle onto the top and bottom, then cut the outline with a coping saw–at the correct angle.

But what if I told you that you didn’t have to?

High-end homes from the first half of the 20th century often used corner moldings–rectangular blocks that were intricately cut at the top to add visual interest. Whether they made the work easier may have been intentional or just a happy accident, but there’s no doubt it makes things easier.

You can still buy corner moldings today, but they start at three bucks a pop and go on up from there, so they aren’t a low-budget item.

You can still get a shortcut on a budget if you want, though. Get a piece of square dowel at least as thick as your baseboard sticks out from the wall. The closer it matches the thickness of your baseboard, the more understated it will be, and on a budget, understated is going to be what you want. Cut pieces the same height as your baseboard for every corner you want to (not) cut, then stain or paint them to match the baseboard. Securing the dowel with nails is likely to cause it to split, so put a dab of caulk on it instead, and place it in the corner. Snug the baseboards up next to it and nail them in. The tension from the baseboards and the grab from the caulk will hold the dowel in place. If the corner isn’t perfectly square and leaves a gap, cover the gap with a bit of wood putty (if you stained) or caulk (if you painted). With about 30 seconds’ worth of work, you can have a corner that looks square even if it isn’t, and it will also look like one continuous piece, even though it isn’t.

If you need to go around a wall, buy a length of outside corner moulding that matches your trim, and cut lengths to fit. Outside corner moulding is pricier than a dowel but is much cheaper than inside corner moulding.

When you do the corners this way, the look is a bit different from what you typically see, but it doesn’t jump out, and it looks much better than mismatched angles. It’s a way for someone with minimal skill and experience to still do their own baseboard work without breaking the bank and have it look good enough to be proud of.

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