Hot Topics: Nailing Baseboard and Door Trim for Beginners

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This DIYer is new to the task of attaching trim and baseboards. The forum coaches them on what tools are best and the correct measurements for hardware.

Original Post: Nailing Baseboard and Trim

amatuer Member

Hi, all. I have never tried to do any trim work myself, but there's a first time for everything! I am planning to do all my own baseboard and door trim in my newly finished basement. I assume I put the door trim up first, then the baseboard, and I plan to use corner blocks which should make it easier and faster. My question, though, is which tool is best for nailing? I don't have a nail gun of any sort, but I'm thinking it's probably worth renting one. I've seen brad nailers, air finish nailers, cordless versions, some that use air compressors, etc. What is best? I'll be doing two rooms—one bathroom that's roughly 8x8 and has a couple difficult areas and one larger 13x26 room that's just an easy rectangle.

Also, as a newbie, how long should I expect this to take? Can I cut all the pieces first, then rent the tool and nail it all? Or is it better to do it all together? Just wondering if a day of rental is enough? Thanks!

Marq1 Member

Renting tools is like throwing money away. Use that as a down payment on a good tool, not a cheap tool, and you will have it for the rest of your life and find many additional uses. To that, your order of work is good. It's not possible to cut everything beforehand as you need pieces in place to get the correct lengths.

As far as a good tool for the type of trim you are doing, use a finish nailer with 1 1/2" nails. Air nailers are probably best. The cordless tools use batteries that may not last as long as your next project, but the air tools will always be there!

ray2047 Member

Every piece of trim I have ever installed was done with a claw hammer. Many will say use finish nails, but I prefer casing nails. I find the slightly larger diameter than finish nails of the same size makes them less likely to bend. In some cases, such as very hard wood or difficulty starting, a nail spinner that chucks in an electric drill can be useful.

chandler Forum Topic Moderator

For a few dollars more, you could buy a pancake compressor, brad nailer, stapler, and finish nailer as a combo. Use it and sell it if you don't want to keep it. May wind up losing the cost of renting. The good part is you get to keep it if you want.

XSleeper Member

It's not possible for us to say what kind of nailers or how long they should be because we don't know the thickness of the material you will be using, or what it is being nailed to. I assume you are going over 1/2" drywall? If it's plaster, that makes a big difference. In any case, your nail should be long enough to penetrate the drywall or plaster and still hit 1" of stud (or wood jamb, if nailing directly to wood).

amatuer Member

Thanks everyone. This is helpful! If I do buy one, would you recommend a 16 gauge or 18 gauge? Which one would be more likely to be useful again in the future? And is angled vs. straight important? I like the idea of being able to use it on other projects and you're right that rentals add up quickly.

The baseboard I'll be installing is 5/8" and it's going into 1/2" drywall and then 2x4 studs. I planned to use 1.5" long nails—is that long enough?

XSleeper Member

5/8" + 1/2" = 1 1/8 so, no, a 1 1/2" nail is obviously not long enough for your baseboard; it would only go into the stud 3/8". You would need a 2" or 2 1/8" long nail. If you can get a 18 gauge that shoots them, it would work. But brads do not always have the holding power that a finish nail has. The kit with both guns would be a good recommendation.

chandler Forum Topic Moderator

With door trim, I prefer to use 2" finish nails to go into the Sheetrock/studs, and the brads to attach the molding to the door casing. 2" is too long for that.

Marq1 Member

Another option: look around on eBay or Amazon for refurbished tools. I've bought several and they all come with the same warranty as if they were new and you can save 20%.

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