Baseboards are traditionally used to cover the intersection between walls and floors. They protect against damage from feet, vacuum cleaners and other objects and they hide imperfections in levels and finishing. But they also collect dust, may not be the most attractive finish and you may want to consider alternatives.

Applied Base
The baseboard is an applied base in its most traditional form, typically a 3.5 inch profile fixed at the base of the drywall where it meets the floor. However, you can have variations that include:

  • A larger baseboard that is both taller and thicker than it needs to be in order to add presence
  • A smaller and thinner baseboard that retains its protective functionality but is less significant within the overall design
  • Low profile, square baseboards for a more modern effect.
Depending on your choice, the baseboard can be emphasized by detailing or coloring so it stands out or can be the same color as the wall or floor. It can be in various materials and can be designed to align with doorframes, windowsills or cabinets.

Flush Base
The baseboard is incorporated into the base of the wall rather then being fixed to its surface. It therefore still fulfills the function of protecting against knocks but minimizes the problem of dust collection.

As for an applied base, it can be in various materials and colored to either blend in with the wall or floor, or to contrast as a feature. A flush base can provide a clean transition to stairways or similar areas.

A flush base is more complex to install, with the need to keep the wall and base properly aligned. The finished wall surface and the base should also be fixed to the same underlying material to prevent cracking of the joint over time.

Rather than hiding the joint between the floor and the wall, a reveal seeks to emphasize it. A clean edge is provided as a shadow line, created by inserting a strip of metal or plastic between the floor and the wall base.

The reveal itself can contrast with or match the color of the wall and requires both intersecting surfaces to be precisely aligned for a clean finish. It is usually only suitable for areas that aren't likely to take a lot of knocks.

This is the ultimate minimalist approach, with nothing covering or filling the gap between the wall and the floor. It provides a clean look with fewer areas to collect dust and fewer materials for the installation.

This approach does, however, have drawbacks:
  • The wall has to be properly finished and the floor must be absolutely even to create the required clean line
  • The joint between the floor and wall needs to be kept open to allow free movement
  • Damage to the wall base is more likely.
Added Complexity
To achieve the finish you require, care must be taken with planning and installation. The alternatives can add complexity as well as cost to the project so you must think through what you're trying to achieve and test the outcome thoroughly.