Can a wood floor be fitted beneath skirting boards without removing them?

Everyone wants a crisp neat look to their wood floor. To achieve this, by far the best way is to have the wood floor fitted beneath the skirting boards. The alternative being with the use of a moulding or beading to cover the required expansion gap that’s left to allow the wood floor to expand. Removing skirting boards to achieve the crisp, neat, stylish, and professional look isn’t always feasible. What if you’ve just decorated? What if all the plastering has already been done and to remove your skirting boards seams like a massive backward step with imminent repairs to your walls or decor being needed? What if your skirting boards are antiques, maybe ten or more inches high and to remove them would risk damage? There are so many reasons to want your floor running beneath the skirting but an equal number of reasons why you wouldn’t want to. There is an answer to your predicament, so read on…

Well, is it possible to have your wood floor fitted beneath your skirting without removing them? YES!

To carry out this task requires the use of a Jamb Saw or similar undercutting tool and a Multi-Tool; however, it’s not just about the tools, it’s about the skills. Using tools such as a jamb saw can be dangerous at the best of times. To understand how these tools work requires experience with cutting power tools. It really isn’t for the diy’er! Experience of different property types is also extremely important, don’t worry, I will explain..

Firstly, let me briefly explain how it’s done (this is not a how to guide and again, does require skill and experience!).

Undercut shaped skirting boardThe process involves positioning a piece of your particular wood flooring (including any underlay it maybe sat on) on the sub-floor against your skirting board. Then using a sharp pencil, draw a line onto the skirting boards across the top of the wood flooring. Repeat this process on all the skirting boards around the room. You now have a reference line that will be followed when cutting with the jamb saw.

The blade of a jamb saw is circular and around 115 mm in diameter. Therefore, it’s often not possible to get a complete cut in the internal corners of a room or similar awkward areas. This is where a multi tool is of use as it’s versatility allows it to cut neatly in such corners. Of course a multi tool could be used to undercut all the skirting, however, it’s a lot faster and easier with a jamb saw.

Once the cut is complete, a hammer and chisel is required to remove the unwanted skirting board slither. The piece of wood flooring should then be run underneath the skirting boards as a test to make sure there is good adequate clearance for when the floor is being installed. It can be very inconvenient having to make corrections (cutting more of the skirting out) once the installation has commenced.

The floor is then installed with the understanding that expansion wedges cannot be used. Therefore, diligence is required to make sure there is adequate expansion clearance allowed beneath the skirting boards, baring in mind that this is done blind.

Undercut skirting boardThere is an obvious issue once the final rows need to be slid under the skirting and brought back to lock into the second to final row. It is often required to make a small hole in the bottom of the skirting – at intervals – to allow the access of a chisel or pry bar to lever the final row home. The small hole can then be filled and painted once the installation has been completed. A few small mouse holes is a small price to pay considering the mess and inconvenience that is being avoided.

If possible, a far better way to get the final rows in is to stick tape to the bottom of the final row boards and wrap the tape around the back of the flooring and lap it over the top, with an anchor loop (doubling the tape over) being made on the top of the flooring (If required, several layers of tape can be overlapped to add strength). This tape – placed at intervals – will then act as handles to pull the final row into the second to final row, with a very small profile, meaning the tape can simply be cut at the skirting, leaving no holes to fill in the skirting. This method does have its limits, especially, if the wood flooring is slightly bowed. There is only so much strain you can put on tape before it snaps. This is where the greater leverage explained in the previous paragraph may come into it’s own. A possible alternative of using thin clothe straps is feasible.

Cautions!

As I mentioned earlier, it is extremely important to understand the behaviour of a cutting tool like a jamb saw or similar. Should the blade snag (get momentarily trapped in the wood/skirting), the power tool can jump violently and if not well gripped, can easily cause serious injury! It is always important to understand which direction the jamb saw will travel at any given time should the blade snag and the machine jump. A high level of concentration and calmness is required.

Knowing and understanding any given property and the position of heating pipes, gas pipes, old electrical conduits, and modern electrical wiring is extremely important! Well, absolutely essential. If any of these are cut with a jamb saw, this could lead to physical harm. It’s often the case that such pipes and wires are positioned very closely to the back of skirting boards.

My last word of caution is to do with the longevity of your new wood floor. Often the plaster behind skirting boards can be brittle. This is particularly the case with older properties where the method of plastering at the time of construction may have been with the use of a lime plaster mix or a modern day equivalent of ‘bonding’. Once this type of plaster becomes loose with vibration, which is easily caused when undercutting skirting boards, it can drop down the back of the skirting – unseen – and fill the expansion gap left for the wood floor to expand. Lime plaster mix can be extremely hard and would have no problem in restricting expansion, potentially leading to your wood floor failing. It’s important to remove all brittle plaster from behind the skirting boards. A tip to help with this is to place a piece of scrap wood against your skirting and tap it with a hammer. Rinse and repeat around the entire perimeter.

Engineered wood floor in hallwaySummary

The process is straight forward enough and the outcome is well worth the efforts. Although moulding and beading as an alternative can look fine (if done well), there really isn’t any comparison when compared to a wood floor running neatly beneath skirting boards. If your standards are high, consider this option!

Undercutting skirting boards isn’t for the faint hearted or inexperienced and installing the floor afterwards isn’t for the unskilled! I highly recommend you secure the skills of an experienced wood floor installer or carpenter/joiner who has the knowledge to carry this job out.

© Copyright 2015 Wes, All rights Reserved. Written For: Fitmywoodfloor
About

I am a Pergo trained professional installer of 20 years. I've been up close and personal with lots of floors and have the knobbly knees to show for it...Should you have any questions or comments please feel free to add them below. Thanks for taking the time to call by and I hope the information you've found has given you some insight!........................................................................................................................................................................“When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in the site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network, amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.fr, amazon.de, amazon.it, amazon.ca, affiliate window network.” This statement is to comply with current internet regulations regarding transparency to consumers.

Posted in Engineered floor fitting, Installation and project guides, Interior design, Laminate floor fitting, Solid wood floor fitting, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , ,
  • derek

    Wes, I’m about to start all this in a couple of rooms in an old Victorian house, and this info is excellent and invaluable. My guess is I’m going to be on to you shortly 🙂

  • Hahaha, no problem Derek..

    Good luck 🙂

  • LV Abre

    Thank you Wes for the info. Have decided to go for undercutting the skirting board because I read that spending so much money on wood floor, then putting a bead makes it look cheap. I pray that my fitter will do a good job. He said that because it is an old house and floor is not exactly level, there can be still a gap between the floor and skirting that needs sealing. He said if ever it will be hardly noticeable. Fingers crossed.

  • Hi LV,

    All the best with it. I’m sure it’ll look great.

    Regards,

    Wes.