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What is a Base Shoe?

B. Turner
B. Turner

A base shoe is a type of architectural trim used along the joint where a wall meets the floor. Base shoes are typically installed over existing base molding, but can also be used on walls without any other molding present. The base shoe acts as a transition element between these two surfaces, and is available in a number of styles and designs to achieve the desired appearance.

Base shoe trim can hide gaps between the floor and the bottom of the wall or base molding. These gaps may be caused by uneven floors or walls, or even by floors that settle over time. Base shoes also protect molding from damage caused by people's feet or moving objects. This trim also allows homeowners to dress up a plain wall base, or to break up the look of a boring base design.

Man with a drill
Man with a drill

Most people choose base shoe molding that matches or complements other architectural trim within the home. For example, if crown molding has a rounded profile, the baseboard shoe should have a similar look. In homes with elaborate chair rail or baseboards, the base molding may be more intricate or complex. Like most types of trim, base shoe is often made of wood, though vinyl or composite products are also available. Some buyers may choose molding made from aluminum or some other form of metal for a sleek, modern look.

Each corner of the base molding is coped, or cut at an angle so the two pieces can be butted together more easily. Coping this trim at the correct angle is difficult for most novice woodworkers, so it's often more effective to buy pre-cut base shoes. Typically, standard quarter-round trim can be used as base shoe, though true base shoe molding is slightly longer along the wall than it is along the floor. True base molding comes in many profiles, while quarter-round trim forms a quarter circle.

When installing base shoe, the most important thing to remember is that this molding must be nailed to the wall, and never to the floor. If molding is nailed to the floor, it inhibits the ability of the floor to expand and contract over time. This can lead to cracks or swelling in most wood or wood-composite floors. Instead, the molding should rest of top of the floor, with nails inserted at an angle into the wall. Most installers use small finish nails when installing base trim rather than standard screws or fasteners.

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