Choosing and fitting new pine skirting in Victorian house (& dealing with gap)

11 Dec 2015
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United Kingdom

I have removed and chucked away the skirting in my Victorian terrace (it was mis-matched and in bad condition).
I'm going to lay a floating floor on the boards, and then fix new pine skirting over the top. Some of the old battens remain, and a few of the original wedges are in the brickwork. There is a 7" gap between the boards and the plaster (picture attached) which is about 20mm deep.


1. I have numerous chases/gaps to fill, and I'll be skimming the walls. Is it worth me buying a couple of extra bags of browning/bonding and filling (at least some) of the gap before fitting skirting?

2. Am I just creating extra work, should I just replace the missing battens and fix new 7" skirting over the top? Would you put a lower batten on too, to support the bottom of the skirting?

3. Even though I'll be painting the new boards white, I want real wood/pine - not MDF. Any tips on getting hold of some that isn't/less likely to warp? I presume a made-to-order timber merchant is best, rather than pre-packed DIY store?

4. Would you fix skirting to battens, or screw through to brick?

Advice appreciated, thanks.
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I would put battens down at floor level (rather than where the one in the photo is) and screw the skirting to them, as well as putting a bead of no-more-nails along the top (back) of the skirting to stick to the plaster. I wouldn't screw skirting straight into brick as this would make it a real pain to remove one day, if you had to.
I wouldn't bother filling the gap with bonding, either. Seems like a lot of effort for nothing, and the gap might actually be useful for running cables or something (Although this is the perfect opportunity to fill any gaps that allow draughts).

I went to my local timber merchant last week and they have an old display on the wall showing various types of skirting they can make. Most of the samples were warped. Take from that what you will.
Thanks Gerry - good suggestion with lowering the battens, I hadn't thought of that.

Timberwise, I know very little. I'm aware that MDF would make my life easier, but I'm happy to take my time and fit real wood skirting. I've assumed pine because it seems to be readily-available and not very expensive. Am I right in thinking that sudden temperature changes and moisture are what causes the warping/curling?
I think a lot of factors go into warping, apart from the envionment. The further from the centre of the tree the timber is cut, the wider and thinner it is cut, how firmly it is fixed, and whether it is painted on only one side, will all increase the chance of warping I suspect. But I'm no expect on what to expect from wooden skirting. Personally I would buy MDF since it has none of these concerns. It seems to me (just googling) that MDF works out about the same price as pine, or cheaper if you go with one of the generic profiles like Torus.
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So I went to a timber merchant this morning............and they also convinced into buying 16m of 7" MDF torus, primed. I wanted real wood, but they basically talked me out of it for the same reasons.

£40 and they also cut it down to fit in my car, easy. If it looks good after fitting/painting, I'll go and get some more.
Cheers for the advice.
I'm very fond of the batten method for a quality job. I like the top one to be aligned with the top of the skirting, and spaced off so it is flush with the finished plaster. That makes it easy to repair and level the plaster which is usually necessary. And the bottom batten an inch or so off the floor.

Then you only need quite small csk screws to fix the skirting to the battens, which is neat if you want to stain and varnish it, e.g. to match the flooring, and, as Gerry says, a breeze to remove. You can pack something to block draughts between the bottom batten and the edge gap, and fit speaker or TV cable in the gap (but not power cable). It does not matter if you have occasional notches in the lower batten.

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