Replacing Skirting & Architraves

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

Standard features of all houses, however plain. Although each performs a specific job, they also provide ornamentation and a chance to vary decoration.

As the years pass, they’re bound to come in for a few knocks – and will most likely be covered in several layers of paint, which not only get chipped but also eventually clog up their profiles. Skirting boards, in particular, are also prone to rot if walls or floors are damp. However, since wood trim is in no way part of the house’s structure, repairs and even replacement should create no major problems.

Slight dents and cracks can often be repaired with cellulose filler – or perhaps glass fibre repair paste for larger or more accident-prone areas. In most cases you’ll have difficulty blending in the filler by hand with an ordinary filling knife. Instead, you can use a template cut to the profile of the molding from plastic sheet (a large plastic ice-cream container is ideal), or hardboard or cardboard; run it along to smooth the surface after applying the filler.

If the damage is more serious, you may be able to saw and/or chisel out the bad part to leave clean edges, and glue and pin in a small piece or pieces of prepared molding, or else plain timber shaped to fit.

If patching and filling won’t work, you need a completely new piece. This, however, can be a snag if your existing molding is one of the scores of obsolete types, because you won’t be able to match it off the shelf.

You may occasionally be able to buy something suitable – on site where an old house is being demolished or renovated, or perhaps from a demolition contractor who stocks secondhand timber. Otherwise, many joinery firms will cut a molding specially if you take in a sample of the pattern; but that’s likely to prove very expensive.

Your next option is to substitute a readily available pattern of molding throughout the room. But that’s a pity – not to say a lot of trouble – if most of it is sound. A third possibility, probably the most attractive if you only need a small piece, is to make it yourself. You can mold the shape with a power router, or perhaps a plough plane, combination plane or scratch stock.

A scratch stock consists of a piece of steel (for example part of a hacksaw blade) ground and/or filed to the profile you want. It is then clamped with screws between two pieces of hardwood in an improvised stock, and scraped along the timber till the desired shape emerges.

Externally curved moldings, such as plain chamfered skirting and architrave, can of course usually be formed with an ordinary bench plane and glasspaper. Lastly, it’s sometimes possible to make the molding up in sections from smaller ones, glued together and filled where necessary.

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