Wood baseboard, also known as skirting board, has been around for many decades, but has a new competitor in vinyl. Wood has always been the most common material, mainly because it is traditional, but also because it is inexpensive and easy to work with. There are some other choices such as rubber and composites but wood and vinyl remain the two most used baseboard materials.
Your choice of wood or vinyl can come down to many factors which I will discuss here.
A baseboard is a strip of wood, usually, or vinyl, that is attached to the bottom of walls. Baseboards have three main uses. They provide a nice transition between the floor and the wall, and they protect the bottom of the wall from scuffing and shoe damage. The last use is to cover gaps between flooring materials and the wall base. Baseboards add class to a home and can be matched with picture rails and ceiling moldings.
Pros and Cons of Wood Baseboards
Wood baseboards come in lengths and are installed with nails or screws.
Wood baseboards have a traditional look and feel that works with older houses better than vinyl. It also tends to compliment wooden furniture, window and picture frames. There are many types of wood available so it can match frames and furniture without the need for painting, which saves some work. Unfortunately, it is prone to damage from pets and it also absorbs color which can result in permanent staining.
Instillation is cheap and easy, but mitering the corners can take some practice. Just screw it to the wall, anyone with a few tools can accomplish it. One of the best features is that it is easy to either stain or replace if you are replacing the floor coverings.
Pros and Cons of Vinyl Baseboards
Vinyl baseboard comes in rolls and is applied with base adhesive, with a putty knife.
Vinyl baseboard is easier to install in non-standard shaped rooms, such as arcs, as it is flexible. It also can be easily fitted over crooked and slightly askew walls where stiff wood shows up the gaps between the wall and boards. These baseboards are non-porous so they will not stain easily. Coming in rolls, it is easy to cut to length with a utility knife.
Vinyl baseboard comes in many colors to match existing decor, but can also be made in custom colors if you have a large area to cover. As it is unpainted, there is no flaking when hit hard or scraped.
The downsides are that it tends to attract mildew in damp situations, and it is made of PVC which is shown to be an environmental hazard. The other problem is that it can be easily dented from being kicked. As vinyl baseboard is glued on with adhesive, it can be hard to remove for renovations or to replace with new baseboard. It has a long lifespan, which means little maintenance. You will not need to remove it except for renovations.
Both types of baseboards are easy to clean with some warm water and vinegar but the vinyl board may have to be cleaned occasionally with mildew killer if it has a problem of attracting mildew or mold.