Stop the Draft by Air Sealing your Baseboards

My 1961 bi-level home has all original hardwood flooring on the top-level. Where the floorboards meet the wall they’re covered by baseboard and quarter round, which in some instances masks a board that’s just a little too short. It’s within these gaps that outside air infiltrates the house.

The air that sneaks in creates a draft and in our house it’s most pronounced in the rooms directly above the garage. It’s here where I began pulling the quarter round from the baseboard. In doing so I confirmed the gaps that were allowing outdoor air into the house.

With the culprit in sight it was then time to remove the rest of the quarter round and fill in those gaps!

Tools for Removing Quarter Round Permalink

I found great success using my small pry bar and two putty knives to remove the quarter round.

Recommended Technique for Removal Permalink

When using the pry bar be careful not to damage your baseboard, so be gentle, at least initially. I was cautious at first but soon discovered that my baseboard is a very hard wood, perhaps as a result of age.

You’ll want to work your way down the length of the quarter round. You’ll find that lengths of quarter round overlap one another at the corners, so there’s an order to removing them. You may lose a finishing nail along the way, but worry not, you can pull it out later and replace it with a new one.

Mind, err Find your Gaps Permalink

I had at least one gap in every room of my house, although some lengths of baseboard were worse than others. Unfortunately there was no sure-fire way to discover whether a gap was hidden behind a quarter round without actually removing it.

Cleaning up Decades of Gunk Permalink

You’ll want to scrape away all the dust, dirt, pet hair, and whatever wood staining products have hardened under your quarter round. I’m not sure if my quarter round is original to the house (as there was wall-to-wall carpet for a spell), but it’s at least several decades old. Whoever last refinished the floors did it with the quarter round in place. My putty knife and shop vacuum made quick work of the mess.

Remove Errant Finishing Nails Permalink

You may have a few finishing nails that remaining in the floor after you pull away the quarter round. A pair of needle-nose pliers will pretty easily pull them out. You’ll want to replace the nail with a new one.

Gap Filling Products Permalink

I used insulating spray foam to fill in the large gaps under the baseboard. I also applied a bead of wood colored caulk where the baseboard meets the floorboards just before reinstalling the quarter round. I also used the white caulk to fill in gaps at the top of the baseboard, between it and the wall.

Filling in the Larger Gaps Permalink

Be sure to cover the wood around the hole with painters tape. The spray foam should set in an hour or two. It’s pretty easy to pull away the excess foam once it dries.

Tools for Reinstalling the Quarter Round Permalink

I was lazy and reused the finishing nails in the quarter round, except for the instances where the nails either broke or pulled free. The needle-nose pliers were good for straightening nails that became curved as I initially pulled from the floorboards.

Rubber Mallet and Hammer Time Permalink

As previously noted, my baseboard and quarter round are pretty tough due to their age. They’re also covered in scratches, stains, and scuff marks, so I didn’t worry too much about further damaging them with the hammer. I did wield the rubber mallet pretty freely, although be careful not to scuff your floor with it (as I did).

Will this Make the House More Efficient? Permalink

Probably! I consider this an incremental improvement to reducing our energy consumption and making the house more comfortable to live in. I’m not sure how to measure this improvement, but am hopeful that it makes a small difference in the volume of natural gas we burn to heat the house.

Anyone else try this project to cut their energy usage?

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