DIY Bathroom: Floors and Baseboards

One of the most gratifying, and easiest, parts of this whole bathroom project was laying in the new flooring and replacing the baseboards.  It was like a turning point.  Once the floor was pretty, all the other bits and pieces fell into place and everything started to look better.

We’ll be tracking the progress with pictures of one little corner.  This is what it looked like right after I got the old linoleum out:

I am embarrassed to show you this.

It was pretty shittastic. First things first, all the old baseboards had to go, partly because they were gross, and partly because the new flooring has to go wall to wall, not baseboard to baseboard. Here’s a little secret: baseboards are usually stupid-easy to remove. They are held on with a few nails and some caulk and/or paint. If you can slide a flathead screwdriver between the boards and the wall, they should just pop right off. After this, the next floor-related task was the great sub- and sub-subfloor debacle.  Once the clean, new plywood was finally in, it was time to look to linoleum.

The first thing I did was unroll my new floor down in the driveway on a clean sheet of plastic (so it wouldn’t pick up driveway grit). I got absolutely no instructions about how to install my new floor, but I know that you can’t lay a floor flat when it’s been rolled up for three days; it needs to lay flat and relax for a while first. It also helps when flooring is allowed to acclimate to the temperature and humidity. The stuff I chose is a fiberglass vinyl that isn’t supposed to be affected by changes in the weather all that much, but it never hurts to be careful.

While my floor was relaxing, I filled and smoothed out all the non-flat parts of the plywood. You want the flattest surface possible under your linoleum. I keep saying linoleum, but it isn’t really. I chose a new-ish vinyl/fiberglass composite made by Armstrong. I had three reasons for my choice. One ““ Lowe’s had it in stock, and it was cheap – just over a dollar a square foot. Two ““ Supposedly it was made for bathrooms and kitchens and is resistant to mold and mildew. Three ““ No-glue installation. I am somewhat lazy, and if I can legitimately skip a step, especially a pain-in-the-ass floor-gluing step, I will do it in a heartbeat. So far, I’ve been happy with it. It’s thicker than normal vinyl and a little squishy to walk on. It’s nice on the feet.

Since there’s no glue, all I had to do was cut a piece slightly larger than my overall square footage and slap it down on the floor. I got one corner lined up nice and straight and went around the rest of the room with an X-ACTO knife. A real utility knife would have been easier, but all I could find was the little X-ACTO, and it worked just fine. When you cut off the excess, you need to leave about a 1/4” between the edge of the flooring and the wall to allow for expansion.  The gap will be covered up by the baseboards. I also had to cut a circle out for the poo-hole. It wasn’t a pretty circle, since the hole was entirely covered up and I had to find the edges by feel alone, but it got the job done.

With the vinyl down, it was time to put in the new baseboards before anyone tried to walk on my no-glue floor and messed everything up.  Accurate measurements are your friend when you are dealing with molding.  The fewer gaps you have, the less you have to hide with caulk.

Sara’s Tip #2:  To get an accurate wall-to-wall measurement, check the base of your tape measure.  Most have a note somewhere that tells you how wide it is, the standard Stanley 25′ tape is three inches wide. Instead of doing the bend and guess thing with your tape measure, just butt the foot against one wall, butt the whole tape measure against the other and add the base measurement to whatever number you have on the tape. It’s not always 100% accurate, but it’s a heck of a lot closer than the bend and guess.

It says '+ 3"/76mm'

I make notes when I write down my measurements so I don’t have to think so much about where to cut my angles. In my bathroom, notes were even more important because I only had one corner that needed to be mitered. All the others were either hidden under the edge of the cabinets or butted up against tile. My list ended up looking like this: 59 1’2″ (l  l), 44 1/2″ (l  7),and so on, meaning 59 1/2 inches (both edges straight), 44 1/2 inches (left edge straight, right edge angled in). Remember that with an interior corner, the wall measurement goes to the long point of the angled board on the back side. If you have to use two pieces on the same wall, you will want to do something called “scarfing the joint.” This means that instead of cutting straight edges to make a butt joint, you cut the two boards at an angle so that one piece will slide under the edge of the other. It makes the seam less noticeable and keeps the pieces from separating if they expand or contract.

Look, you can barely even see it.

Once everything is cut, nail the boards in. Like I said earlier, you don’t need many nails – one every 16 inches or so is more than enough. The caulk and paint will do more to hold the boards in place than the nails; hardware is frequently just a way to hold something in place till the adhesive sets. After the baseboards, nail in the shoe molding. Shoe is the extra roundish piece of floor molding. You don’t really need it, but it makes things look more finished.

Another step that makes things look more finished is the caulk. I love caulk guns; they are the perfect tool. Not only do they push out the caulk, but there is a little hole in the handle to cut off the tip of the caulk tube, and a pokey wire thing that folds out from under the body to pierce the foil inside the tip. The design hasn’t changed in about a hundred years because it’s awesome.

When you caulk, keep damp rag or two handy. It’s a messy process. Lay down a bead a few feet long, use your finger to smooth it out, and use the rags to wipe off any excess and clean your fingers. Repeat the process until you’re done. Normally you wouldn’t caulk between the shoe and the floor, you leave it free for expansion/contraction. However, since the flooring I chose isn’t supposed to be suseptable to climate changes, and since I have come to fear any place where water might slide down into the new subfloor, I went ahead and caulked everything:

And here is the finished corner, all painted and pretty:

It's hard to believe it's the same corner.

These are the tools I used in this project:

Why yes, that is my big, pink hammer.

Since I realize that not everyone has a beautiful chop saw to use for cutting molding, these are the tools I could have used:

The miter box is for hand-cutting angles. It takes a little practice.

Project Costs:

Baseboard ““ $10.56

Shoe ““ $7.68

Vinyl flooring ““ $52.04

Caulk ““ $2.28

6% Sales Tax ““ $4.35

Project Total ““ $76.91

Total from last post ““ $165.99

Project total so far ““ $242.90

By [E]SaraB

Glass artisan by day, blogger by night (and sometimes vice versa). SaraB has three kids, three pets, one husband and a bizarre sense of humor. Her glass pendants can be found at if you're interested in checking it out.

8 replies on “DIY Bathroom: Floors and Baseboards”

The renos look awesome, by the way, but I had a quick question:

I’m assuming what you refer to as shoe molding is the same thing as quarter round. Did you paint the shoe molding before putting it into place? If so, was that simply a “let’s keep paint away from my lovely new flooring” or was there another reason?

I lied, I had another question. Does the caulking always dry white, or is there such thing as clear caulking?


Thank you :)
Traditional shoe molding is actually a little taller and narrower than quarter round. The front is flat-ish so it’s easier to nail into. Quarter-round works just as well visually, but it’s a little harder to attach.

Yes, I painted the shoe first. I pride myself on my painting skills, but shoe is my nemesis. I can never do it without getting paint on the floor, no matter what I try. It still needed touching up after caulking, but I can do touch ups without making a mess.

And lastly, there are clear paintable caulks out there, I’ve just always used the white and I’m used to it. Shopping for caulk has become a bit overwhelming. There are LOTS of options. The three big variables are; where it will be used, if it is paintable or not, and how long it takes to dry. And if it dries clear or white, so I guess that makes four. If you decide these things before you are standing in front of the Wall O’ Caulk, you just need to read labels till you find one that matches all your criteria. If you don’t decide ahead of time, you will end up choosing one that looks good, only to have to go out and buy more when you realize you got one that can’t be touched for 7-10 days after application. (Not that I would know anything about that…)

I am in awe of you Sara. Why? I get all gun ho to start a project, read an article like this, run out to Home Depot, buy everything, start off with a bang probably tear up the floor and rip off the molding and then decide with a yawn, I don’t want to do this.

I have one or two half-finished projects in my house. The two things that helped me push through to the end were 1) I promised I’d write about it, so I had to finish and 2) My two teenaged sons were sharing my bathroom while theirs was “under construction.” Having a boy stumble through your bedroom in the middle of the night because he woke up and had to pee is a powerful motivator.

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