The art of fitting skirting

13 Aug 2007
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United Kingdom
I seem to find fitting skirting boards one of the most difficult jobs. I've just been doing a bedroom in one of our houses are it's just soooo frustrating.

House is 150 years old, brick construction with old crumbly lime mortar. Plaster straight onto brick. Walls are all over the place as you might expect.

Now I've been using MDF skirting and have been fixing using screws and plugs. It's fine when it works, the screws pull the skirting tight against the wall.....however, 40% of the time I drill into mortar. It's impossible to avoid and there's zero chance of a plug fixing into the mortar. It's also impossible to see where the mortar lines are because the plaster is to the floorboards.

Now, I'm thinking there's gotta be a better way to do this. I have lots of holes to fill in the skirting already, good job it's going to be painted white!

So what is better method with this type of wall?

- Pre drill and use masonry nails? I would still have the same problem of hitting mortar

- Use adhesive. Now this would be fine if the wall were flat but like I said it's all over the place and therefore using pinkgrip etc is very hard because it's nigh on impossible to get the skirting tight to the wall in all places.

Previously when I stuck skirting on I would screw a battern into the floorboards and then use expanding clamps to press the skirting against the wall until the adhesive sets. The problem with this is I'd need a lot of clamps AND also what if they floor had been tiled? I couldn't exactly use batterns in this same way.

So when you have problem walls like, what exactly is the best way of fitting skirting boards?
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you could:

pencil along the top of a board and chop off the plaster below that line.

fit a batten of approx plaster-depth thickness to the wall (you will be able to see the mortar joints and avoid them) at the top of the skirting-board height, and a bit above floor level. Older houses used blocks of wood, not battens. this can also bridge over uneven walls. Or you could gripfill the battens or blocks if the surface is sound

you can repair the plaster down to the upper batten

you can use small screws to fasten the skirting to the batten

some people just gripfill skirtings to walls.
The old method is still the best,
Plugs and nails, basically chase out a vertical joint in the brickwork at the level of the skirting at approx 1 metre intervals and hammer in a wedge shaped plug into the joint really tight.
Cut off the projecting section of the plugs using the plaster as a line and nail on skirtings into plugs using 62mm lost head nails.
The width of plugs will be determined by depth of skirtings, normally about 75 mm should suffice unless you are fixing very deep skirts in excess of 175mm
Hi, I'm doing exactly the same thing...fitting skirting for the first time. Mine is also an old house and nothing is straight; not even the floors. However I've just this minute fixed my first board on and it's's a very thick skirting board, too...very difficult to 'bend'.

I assume you've 'counter-skunk' your screw holes on the board? I also assume you're using wall plugs specifically designed for plugging into brick and mortar? I also assume you're using screws long enough to go right into the walls even after going through the boards? Also that you're using exactly the correct size drill-bits for use with the wall plugs you're using?

Maybe I'm telling Granny to suck eggs...its just that I'm so excited with my first skirting board I almost just wet myself. So, I now how a question for everyone else:

My wall is newly plastered but I haven't painted it yet. I can't do that for a few weeks for various reasons. So to keep busy I'm fiting my skirting. When the time comes to paint, I'll just unscrew them, then paint, then screw them back again.

My question is, will it be harder to screw the boards back on again after I've taken them off? Will the wall plugs be less tight than the first time I screw the boards on? If so, I'll stop now and wait till I've finished painting. Anyone?
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the best tip i can give for fixing skirting boards is to spend 10 mins extra sorting through them at the yard to find the best straightest lengths, it will save you much more time and hassle later.
mark - the wooden wedge (as per anobium's advice) is the traditional way of doing the job but can be difficult to retro-fit. 150 year old houses were often made with 'soft' local field bricks so we can use this to our advantage when fixing timber trim during renovation work.

We fit skirtings to 'old' plastered walls using adhesive (Gripfill) AND nails straight into the brickwork; not any old nails though but 75mm or 100mm cut clasp nails (Not floorboard nails!!). These are rectangular in cross-section and when driven through the skirting at an angle firmly bite into the 'soft' bricks and pull the skirting tight to the wall (change the direction of the angle left & right for every alternative nail). When the Gripfill has hardened the nail heads are punched below the surface and filled. The whole job is very quick and effective 'cos there's no drilling and plugging.

If you do use the drill, plug & screw method don't countersink the screw heads - counterbore them and cut matching wooden plugs to cover. You can buy good value plug/screw cutter sets for less than £15. If you countersink the screw heads the filler may eventually work loose.

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