Trouble Shooting Baseboard Gaps: How to Scribe

Are you afraid to tackle DIY baseboard because your floors aren’t perfectly level? Well, don’t be! Our basement installation was going pretty smooth when all of a sudden, we were confronted by huge gaping spaces between the floor and the baseboard! If this isn’t the look you’re going for either, read on 😉. Today we’re showing you how to scribe to troubleshoot this common problem.

‘Scribe’ may conjure up visions of ancient people copying manuscripts onto Papyrus. What we’re showing you today is the kind of scribing that will make that gap disappear!

Troubleshooting REALLY Large Gaps

Home builders don’t tend to take great care in pouring level floors in the basement. In fact, we had our floors re-levelled by another contractor before we even started building the basement. You can read about that here. The floor was greatly improved but despite our best efforts, our basement floor still wasn’t perfectly level.

You could choose to add quarter round trim to bridge the gap and call it a day. But not us. We were going for a pared down look, and nothing was going to stop us from achieving our vision!

Here’s what it looked like from a distance. At almost 17 feet long, you can see that we were going to have to join two pieces of baseboard to span the distance. Way over to the left of the first wall outlet is where we originally planned to put the join:

Here it is from a different angle showing that there are wide gaps under both pieces of baseboard. 

1. Try Rearranging where the Join Falls

We didn’t see this on any other blog or read it in a book, but instinctively we first swapped pieces so that the seam now falls right below the first wall outlet. Then we placed shims underneath the boards where there were gaps to get them perfectly level.

Look at where we added shims below in those two spots, compared to the picture above. It’s probably hard to tell, but just by making that one small change, the gaps were already much smaller!

Here’s a closer view of one of the gaps on the left-hand side.

2. Measure the Widest Spot

Measure the largest gap between the floor and the bottom edge of the baseboard, then find a piece of scrap wood close to the same thickness as that gap.

Hubs took a carpenters pencil and rested it on top of the scrap wood with the lead against the baseboard. He slid the wood along, following the contour of the floor. This marks a scribing a line all the way along the length of the baseboard as shown:

You don’t have to do this, but Hubs’ trick on long pieces of baseboard is to place green tape right above the scribe line so he can see the sections he needs to sand.

He took both pieces of baseboard outside to sand them down to the line with a belt sander. You could also use a jigsaw for this step and hand sand if necessary.

Here, Hubs is working on the longest piece. Secure the baseboard, then with a belt sander, sand away the excess baseboard material until reaching the line. 

Here’s the second piece. Just keep sanding until there’s no more baseboard peeking below the pencil line. It goes fast, which you’ll see in this quick video, so check as you go:

Then it was back inside to test the fit and cut the mitres to join the seam. Where you plan to join the two pieces, cut both edges at opposing angles. That’s called a ‘scarf joint’ and we’ll be showing you how to do that in our next post, so stay tuned.

Here it is just before nailing to the wall.

A Reminder of the Before

Here’s how the gap looked before we swapped those two pieces mentioned earlier. It’s SO noticeable.

And here’s how it looks now; nice and tight against the floor. I’ve circled where we joined the two pieces below the first outlet so you can get your bearings from the before shots shown earlier. Isn’t that much better? No more gaps!

I always laugh at the amount of work that goes into doing a great job on baseboard because after everything is in the room, you really don’t even see much of it. Here’s an exaggerated case in point. This is the same wall after loading up Hubs’ mancave with his La-Z-Boy couch, filing cabinet and hoosier desk. Excuse the plant material in the drawers; I was having a little fun with crazy planter ideas.

By swinging the camera around to the far wall, you’ll see the only baseboard that is clearly noticeable between the couch and TV:

Pin for Later

If you’re thinking about installing baseboard in the near future, pin this post in case you run into the same pitfall!

In our next post, we’ll have more tips and tricks for getting professional looking base board. In the meantime, you may have noticed our wood floors. If you’re thinking about installing engineered hardwood floors, check out our how-to here.

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10 thoughts on “Trouble Shooting Baseboard Gaps: How to Scribe

  1. My husband is a total perfectionist too, Sara! Everything has to be done right, whether you can see it or not. How lucky we are to have such can do guys!

    • I couldn’t agree more, but if you’re anything like me, you are the brains (i.e. planner) behind the operation. They’re pretty lucky to have us too 🤣🤣🤣.

  2. Dear Birdz, I really love your projects, and this one is great. I can’t wrap my head around this one thou. It seems that you are taking material away in an area that seems to want to be filled in. ??? I don’t understand how the baseboard ends up laying down perfectly. Great job, BTW! Lost sleep over this one!! Best Regards, Leslie

    • Thanks so much Leslie and I totally get it! We took material away not where the gaps were but mostly where it met the ground (i.e. the high parts of the floor). So where the gaps were is able to snug up to the floor. I hope that helps explain it; we don’t want you loosing any more sleep!!!

  3. OOOHHHH!! Of course!! Now I understand! I am such a duffus! Thank-you for the explanation Sara! Looking forward to more of your projects!

    • Happy it helped but don’t feel bad Leslie; it’s a tricky concept to wrap one’s head around – lol! Looking forward to sharing more posts! Just out of curiosity, do you mostly read our reno project DIYs or are you interested in any of the crafts? I’m planning our content calendar for the next year so any input would be amazing!

  4. Oh, sure Sara, I am interested in crafts as well, especially with wood for outdoor decorations.

  5. Hi Sara, thank you for this!!
    We are running into the same issue you addressed here😣 my only concern or question is, what happens to the ends that meet at the corner? My fear is if we are lowering the board, in some spots it will end up sitting too low (or high) compared to the board it meets at the adjacent wall? If that makes sense lol. We have to scribe almost 1/2 inch off 😐 ouch. Thanks in advance for any info/advice!

    • Gosh Kayla, that sounds like a bit of stumper! In our case, our high spots were all in the centre so it didn’t affect the corners at all. As long as you don’t have to remove anything at the corners (just in the mid sections), you should be fine. However, if your high spots are hitting at the corner, I’m not really sure how that would play out. In that case, I would see if I could find someone to ask – sometimes there are very knowledgeable people at the big box stores in the lumber section or try the place you bought your baseboard. If all else fails, youtube or a google search might find something close to your situation.

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