In Western style homes, baseboards, sometimes called baseboard moldings or skirting, are the strips of molding against the wall where the flooring and wall meet.
The main purpose of baseboards is to hide imperfections and gaps that come with building. In construction, it is very difficult to keep everything square and straight, and even if your materials are straight, settling can cause walls to move. Also, hardwood flooring expands and contracts or what is known as “breathes” with temperature changes. Therefore, it is necessary to allow space for this function which requires enough room for movement creating minor gaps. But today, baseboards are also a design element.
Let’s first consider the height of baseboards. The height is really an aesthetic issue.
The traditional homes tend to have a standard height of 3 ½” to 4”. A midcentury modern has a shorter silhouette of about 1 ½” – 2”. Today’s modern home will have an extremely wide range of no baseboard to 8”. In transitional model homes I have seen very high baseboards ranging from 4” – 10”. Remember there are no set rules but here are a few things to consider.
No baseboards mean you have a fabulous carpenter who is a perfectionist and have the budget to pay for this! For the rest of us, my suggestions would be based on the ceiling height. From a scale point of view, a high ceiling can accommodate taller baseboards, while short baseboards visually create a room with low ceilings look larger.
Now the width of baseboards is not an aesthetic issue it is a functional consideration. As I first pointed out, the main goal is to hide the gap in the floor, so the thickness should be thick enough to cover this gap. A good place to start would be at around ½ to 5/8”. This is your first requirement. Second, is to match the door frame. In existing homes we must consider the trim around the doors. Because the baseboard butts into the door trim, if both have the same thickness, it would be ideal. However, as styles change with the times, depending on when the house was built, it can be difficult to match this. You can always change the door frame too, but if that is too much work and beyond your budget, think about easing the edge slowly to match the trim.