How to Refinish Wooden Baseboard Trim

dusting wooden baseboard with cloth
  • 8-24 hours
  • Beginner
  • 30-160
What You'll Need
Old towel
120-grit and 220-grit sandpaper
Tack cloth
Wood putty
Wood stain
Polyurethane finish
Safety gear

Baseboard trim, attached to the bottom of walls, is made from small strips of wood. Not only is this trim aesthetically pleasing, but also it helps protect walls from damage during carpet installation. However, over time, the caulking and paint on baseboard trim tends to chip off. If your baseboards are looking weathered or chipping, refinish the trim to restore its original function and appearance.

Step 1 – Clean the Baseboards

To begin, use a damp towel to clean the baseboards. Clearing the dirt will make it easier to identify areas that require extra attention.

Step 2 – Sand the Trim

Warning: Wear a dust mask to avoid inhaling dust and fine debris. Consider also wearing safety glasses to protect your eyes.

A new finish will attach easier to a smooth trim. Sand your baseboards with 120-grit sandpaper to clear away the old finish from the trim. Then, repeat the process with 220-grit sandpaper until the surface is evenly smooth.

Step 3 – Clear the Sawdust

Open a window to allow dust to filter outsider and let in fresh air. Then, using a tack cloth, wipe away any sawdust from the baseboards.

Step 4 – Secure Loose Nails

Next, inspect along the trim for loose nails. Use a hammer to drive loose nails in, and replace any nails that are missing.

Step 5 – Apply Wood Putty

Fill dents and nail holes in with wood putty. Use the directions provided on the putty to apply it. Then, sand the dried wood putty slightly with 220-grit sandpaper to create a uniform appearance. In addition, caulk between any baseboards where the caulking is coming off. Let the caulking dry.

Step 6 – Apply Wood Stain

Wearing gloves to protect your hands, apply the wood stain onto the baseboard with a rag. Use long, swift motions. Do not let the rag sit on any one area of the baseboard for too long, or it will make some areas look patchy.

Drying and Repeating

Allow the stain to dry for the required time it details on the stain’s packaging. Apply up to two more coats to get the desired degree of darkness and protect the baseboard. Allow each coat to dry before applying another. As an alternative, consider painting your baseboards for a fresh look.

Step 7 – Apply Polyurethane Finish

Use a paintbrush to apply polyurethane finish onto the baseboards. Follow the directions on your polyurethane finish to apply it, but remember to use slow, long strokes to prevent bubbles from forming. Once the first coat has dried, lightly sand the baseboard with 220-grit sandpaper. Remove dust with a tack cloth, and then apply a second coat.

TIP: Water-based and oil-based polyurethane finish have very different dry times (water-based takes around 6 hours, oil-based takes 24 hours or more), so the kind you buy will have a big impact on how long this DIY task takes.

Step 8 – Clean the Room

Finally, clear dust and debris with a vacuum cleaner. Allow the windows to remain open for about one hour before shutting them to allow for maximum ventilation while the baseboard coats dry and the dust settles.

TIP: Polyurethane finish not only needs to dry but cure, which takes several days to a month depending on whether you use oil- or water-based finish. For best results, keep anyone from touching the trim for at least one week.