Baseboards are often underappreciated. We scuff them, occasionally accidentally kick them, all the while they protect our walls from water damage.
But what happens when the damage has been done, and we must repair or replace our baseboards?
Water is bound to seep behind your baseboards, which can adversely affect your walls. As your baseboards take on more water, they will begin to warp or swell, leading to permanent damage. If your baseboards show any signs of water damage, you should call a professional or replace the baseboards yourself.
Replacing bad baseboards seems like a straightforward job, and it usually is. But it pays to know all the signs of a water-damaged baseboard and how to repair or replace them properly.
Don’t allow water damage in your baseboards to stagnate and fester, allowing mold to spread throughout your home, resolve this issue as soon as you can.
What Causes Water Damage to Baseboards
Bathrooms tend to be highly moist environments.
So whether it be splashing or an overfilled tub, water is bound to find its way onto your bathroom baseboards.
Even the baseboards behind your toilet are susceptible to water damage.
But it usually takes a long time for your bathroom visits to cause noticeable water damage to baseboards.
More commonly and much more quickly water damage affects baseboards through a bathroom mishap like a bursting or leaking pipe.
Floods are also usually guaranteed to ruin your baseboards.
Signs of Water Damage on Baseboards
Swelling and Warping
Baseboards are usually made of wood or composite wood materials.
When wood takes on water, it begins to swell and then shrinks as the water evaporates.
This swelling and shrinking will cause the wood to warp. Warping is when wood twists, bows, or becomes crooked.
Peeling happens to painted baseboards, usually, because the paint used was not waterproof and could not handle the moisture levels of a bathroom.
Water and paint do not mix, leaving your baseboards with paint that peels, chips, flakes, or cracks.
If you notice your baseboards losing color in certain areas, it’s likely because the paint has become discolored.
Discoloration on your bathroom baseboards is usually brought on by water or mildew, which can be found in any home.
A stained baseboard could mean many things.
Someone may have spilled something on it or mold may be eating it from the inside.
But whenever you have a stain on your baseboard that is extremely hard to remove, you are likely best off replacing the baseboard.
Bubbling, which affects painted baseboards, is difficult to miss. The bubbles may be in certain areas or run across the whole baseboard.
One of the reasons why paint bubbles is excessive moisture which points to possible water damage, but there are other reasons why your paint may bubble.
Wood rot is a serious issue.
While wood rot and mold are both fungi caused by water, wood rot destroys wood more quickly than mold and is not usually visible until it is too late.
If you notice your wooden baseboards crumbling and cracking, wood rot is likely the cause.
If water damage has taken hold in your bathroom, then expect to see mold on your baseboards.
While mold works slower than wood rot, it can be a serious health concern if you breathe in mold spores.
Mold species in your bathroom can be any color, from black to blue or green.
How to Fix Water Damaged Baseboards
Should You Repair or Replace Water Damaged Baseboards?
When your baseboards are affected by water damage, you will have two options, repair them or replace them.
If your baseboards were only slightly damaged by water, you can sand away the damage and repaint them.
But if your baseboards are rotting, molding, swelling, or stained, you are best off replacing them as described below.
Tools You Will Need
- Finishing Nails
- Miter Saw
- Tape Measure
- Flat Pry Bar
- Pen or Marker
1. Inspect Your Baseboards
Before purchasing any new baseboards, gather your tools and inspect your baseboards closely.
Decide whether you want to replace the baseboards for the entire bathroom or just certain trouble areas.
This will determine whether you need to match your old baseboard or are free to buy different ones.
2. Remove Your Old Baseboards
Slide the pry bar behind your baseboard and start prying them from the wall.
Since you are replacing these baseboards, you don’t have to worry about damaging them but be careful not to damage your wall.
If you are having trouble removing your baseboards, use a chisel and hammer to loosen them from the wall before returning to the pry bar.
3. Measurements and Cuts
Measure your bathroom’s walls to get precise measurements for your baseboards.
You should write these measurements down along with where the measurement was taken, such as a right corner or outside the bathtub.
Then using a miter saw, cut your baseboards to length. When cutting any corner pieces, take extra care and check that they line up and will join properly.
4. Label and Layout
Just after cutting a piece of baseboard use a marker to label the backside of the baseboard so you know where it will go.
With all your pieces cut and labeled, begin laying them out exactly where they will be installed in your bathroom.
This allows you to make sure all your cuts and measurements are accurate.
With all your baseboard pieces laid out, you will be ready for installation.
5. Install Your New Baseboard
Depending on your baseboard’s material, you may or may not need to glue the baseboards to the wall, although gluing makes the nailing process go much smoother.
If using glue or adhesive, make sure you push the baseboard piece firmly to the wall.
Some baseboards have indentations or markings where nails need to go; otherwise, a nail every 8 inches or so should be fine.
The installation will be complete after nailing your baseboards to the wall and cleaning any messes or excess glue.
How to Prevent Water Damage to Your Bathroom Baseboards
Checking For Water Leaks
Being diligent when checking for water leaks in your home can save your walls, and baseboards from serious damage.
Catching and repairing a water leak as soon as possible will save you from hefty repair bills and prevent serious water damage.
Choosing Better Material For Bathroom Baseboards
Wooden baseboards are standard fare, but when choosing a baseboard material for the bathroom, wood is not the best option.
A better choice would be to use vinyl or tile baseboards that are waterproof and will not swell or warp.
Keep Your Baseboards Dry
Drying up any splashes or spills on a baseboard can go a long way in ensuring they have a long life in your bathroom.
Also, using a dehumidifier to reduce the moisture in your bathroom can help fight the negative effects of water.
That will depend on your insurance policy and whether or not a flood damaged your baseboards. Flood insurance will usually cover almost everything that was damaged, including the baseboards. But if a burst pipe or just general use caused your water damage, it usually will not be covered.
While technically, you can paint over water-damaged baseboards, it is not something we would recommend. If you do not resolve the cause of the water damage painting over it will only cover up the problem as it continues to get worse.