When Good Baseboards End Bad

It’s easy to spend the day setting new baseboards, making sure each mitered and coped joint is tight and clean, the whole time eyeing nervously that closet doorway with no door casing to butt the baseboard up against. Here’s what I’m talking about:

When Good Baseboards End Bad

You could take the easy way out and leave the baseboards with a mitered edge, or even just a straight cut. Nobody would notice, right? There’s an easy and more elegant way out of this quandary that’s not hard to do right the first time—and it looks great on your wall.

It’s called a return, and here’s how it looks:

It’s real easy to do if you’ve already been at corners and joints for a day, and you can use this technique for any kind of molding, whether it’s baseboards, crown molding, or chair railing. Here's a step-by-step to help you end that baseboard right.

First, cut the baseboard edge with an outside miter cut at a 45-degree angle so the edge lines up with where you want the baseboard to stop.

Next, cut a scrap piece of baseboard with a matching inside miter cut. It is just the small angle piece you will use for the return. The matching scrap piece should look like this:

Then, center the chop saw to a 90-degree angle and line up the blade to cut away the small angled piece you will use for the return. Notice how the saw blade is lined up to the right of the piece you want, just at the edge of the return corner.


Now, test fit the small return piece with the baseboard edge. It should fit like this:


Finally, set the baseboard as you normally would. To install the delicate return piece, use wood glue just like you would for any other joint. It should not require a brad to hold it into place. With a clean return to go with the rest of your beautiful new baseboards, there should be no reason not to show off every inch of your hard work.

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Vanib on Apr 19, 2010:

I think I prefer a 90 degree cut. I looks cleaner but that's just my opinion

jallen97 on Dec 11, 2006:

I totally agree.  I always frown upon bare edges of molding being exposed(though I have noticed it a lot, sometimes in surprising places)   I think it looks much better to put a 'cap' on it.  

ModHomeEcTeacher on Dec 05, 2006:

When my brother built our previous house, he utilized this cut up high on the crown molding where the molding went around a corner of the stairway going upstairs and it had to stop due to the next wall extending up to the upstairs ceiling.  He, at the time, thought he was so clever figuring out how to make that look so polished and complete.  I love carpentry!!! My dad was a custom homebuilder, brother, too!

bruno on Dec 04, 2006:

Wow, thanks for this great post. Here's the Digg link:



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