How to paint baseboards easily: even on carpet

Learn how to paint baseboards like a pro, even with the carpet down, for a quick room refresh

White baseboards with hardwood floors
(Image credit: Skirting boards)

Painting the baseboards in your home is one of the quickest and most affordable ways to update the space. For just the cost of a good primer and high-quality trim paint, you can breathe new life into your home. Whether you’re painting over outdated stains, painting newly installed baseboards, changing to a new paint color, or giving them a fresh coat of the same color, painting your baseboards is a project that will give that wow factor. And the good news is you can easily do it yourself! 

How to paint baseboards

The correct order of painting a room like a pro, is to paint your baseboards after you've tackled the ceiling and the walls. Whether you're freshening up a dated room or, painting new baseboards to help them blend in with your decor scheme.

1. Select your color and gather tools

The color you choose when painting baseboards will be dependent on your taste of course, however, for a cohesive look throughout your home, try and choose a hue that's in-keeping with the color you have on the walls. Many people will go for white for a clean finish or gray for a neutral look. Darker colors will give a room more character but if you want a space that feels brighter and larger, go for a lighter shade.

A design trend that’s become popular in recent years is to paint walls a lighter shade like white or cream and paint trim, baseboards and cabinetry another shade like gray or beige. Still another trend is the monochromatic look where all the baseboards, trim, and walls are the same color. This look is especially popular with darker colors like green or charcoal.

Valspar white door and trim paint

(Image credit: Dori Turner)

Remember to consider the different types of paints for wood and finishes available also. When painting baseboards, you'll want to use high gloss for better light reflection as they add depth and are easier to clean, unlike if you choose matte paint.

Choose a high-quality trim paint, preferably an enamel that hardens over time for a lasting finish. Valspar’s Door and Trim Oil-Enriched Enamel available at Lowe's and lots of other stores also is a great choice for trim and baseboards.

You will need:

1. 2” (5cm) paint brush (make it synthetic if using a water-based paint)

2. Cleaning solution and sponge

3. Sandpaper

4. Primer like Valspar’s High-Hiding Primer

5. Low tack painter's tape like Frog or Scotch blue painter’s tape

6. Baseboard paint of choice like Valspar’s Door and Trim Oil-Enriched Enamel

7. An edger

8. Dust sheet/cardboard

2. Protect your floors

If you’re painting baseboards that butt up against carpet you have a couple of different options for protecting the carpet from paint. A very effective option is to use an edger. Place the edger down between the carpet and the baseboard at an angle so you can reach in with the paintbrush. Slide the edger down the wall painting the baseboards as you go. 

You can of course use painter's tape if this isn't an option. In which case you should vacuum the carpet so there’s no dust or debris on it, use wide-set masking tape and apply it along the carpet‘s edge. 

You can do the same with a dust sheet, fitting it as close to the baseboard as you can. Alternatively, slide a thin piece of cardboard under the baseboard and secure it with tape.

Painting baseboards in Valspar white

(Image credit: Dori Turner)

3. Sand down your baseboards

Some will skip this rule when painting baseboards but sanding before painting makes for more professional-looking results. Rub down the existing paintwork, using sandpaper along the grain of the wood, most of the time this means sanding in a horizontal direction. You'll then want to fill any holes or cracks, then allow them to dry before sanding them back so that the filler is level with the baseboard.

You may still be able to skip the sanding if your baseboards are in good shape and you use a high-quality primer like Valspar’s High-Hiding Primer before painting. 

4. Clean your baseboards thoroughly

Vacuum thoroughly then use a damp cloth to remove every spec of sanding dust or dirt you can, cleaning your baseboards thoroughly. A sugar soap solution makes this easy.

Painting baseboards in Valspar white

(Image credit: Dori Turner)

5. Tape off the perimeter

Use a painting tape like Frog or Scotch blue painter’s tape to tape the wall just above the baseboard so you don’t get paint on the walls. If you have hard flooring you’ll want to tape them off, as well. You can also use the edging tool trick mentioned earlier for this instead, if preferred.  

6. Paint on the primer

Again, some skip this step but we think it's crucial to a professional finish if you're painting baseboards yourself. Without overloading your brush, paint the top half of the baseboard in the direction of the grain. 

Painting baseboards in Valspar white

(Image credit: Dori Turner)

Start at the door and make your way round the room, then repeat this to paint the remaining bottom half of your baseboards and the center. Let this dry thoroughly before you move on to the next step. 

7. Start painting your baseboards

Paint the baseboard in the same direction you sanded it so that any paintbrush lines go in the direction of the wood grain. This will give you a neater, more professional-looking finish. Allow to dry and add another coat if needed.

Painting baseboards in Valspar white

(Image credit: Dori Turner)

8. Let them dry

This might take a few hours but it's really important to keep your painter's tape in place until the paint is entirely dry, to ensure clean lines when you come to remove it.

9. Remove the tape

When you have finished and the paint is completely dry, gently remove the tape from the carpet and walls. Or fold back the carpet, press down and tack it back into place.

10. Tidy up

Pile dust sheets in the washer, close and store any half-empty paint tins and ensure you clean paintbrushes straight away to increase their longevity and help them last until the next time.

The results:

Painting baseboards in Valspar white

(Image credit: Dori Turner)

Perfectly painted.

Dori Turner

Dori Turner writes blog posts and feature articles on affordable design and DIY from her home in the heart of Oklahoma. She has a passion for teaching others how they can transform their home on a budget.

With contributions from