How to Restore Wooden Moulding
Wooden mouldings play a functional as well as an aesthetic role – they hide the joints between different building materials – so it is important to maintain or restore them. Copies of period mouldings are readily available and even a very old and intricate moulding can be reproduced by specialised timber millers and fibrous plaster specialists.
Architraves are mainly found around door openings. The profiles can be fairly plain in modern houses or extremely ornate in older properties. Splits and holes in simple architrave are easy to repair with wood filler, but you may have to search, and improvise, to match the original shape in an ornate architrave.
Door architraves are secured to the hidden frame underneath in three pieces – the two sides and the top -by oval nails. To remove the architrave, run a trimming knife along both edges to break the paint film and lever the moulding away from the wall, using an old chisel resting on a wooden block.
The two top corners of door architrave need to be mitred – that is, cut at 45 degrees so they form a joint. This is easily done with a mitre saw, but a humble mitre block, in which you rest your tenon saw, will do the job equally well. Double-check that you are cutting the angle the correct way round – it is easy to get it wrong.
Cut the two side pieces to the same length, with the mitres at the top corners, and secure them with oval nails, using a spirit level to make sure they are perfectly aligned. Then hold the top piece in place and mark out the ends of the two mitre cuts. Cut these mitres and fit the top piece in the same way.
Skirtings fit along the bottom of walls to hide the gap between wall and floor and to protect the wall plaster. Builders usually fit skirtings with cut nails (square-section nails, similar to those used to hold down floorboards), but it is easier to replace them with screws into wallplugs (or, for partition walls, into the vertical studs). As with architraves, skirtings can be plain or ornate – and if you are replacing a section, it is worth making the effort to find an exact replacement.
To remove skirting, the best tool is a wrecking bar. Start in the middle of a length rather than at the end, and be prepared to repair any damage and marking to the wall before you fit the new skirting. To avoid damaging and marking the wall, insert a flat piece of wood behind the bar.
There are two ways to deal with corners when fitting skirting – mitres and scribing. Mitring (cutting the ends of the skirting to 45 degrees) is always used at external corners. Scribing (cutting the end of one board to match the profile of the board it meets) is used for internal corners. Board ends can also be mitred where two lengths of skirting join along a wall, so that one mitre fits behind the other – this is called scarfing.
The simplest way to cut a mitre in a skirting board is to use a mitre saw, with the blade set to 45 degrees. To cut a scribed end, rest a square piece of moulding at right angles to the back of the length to be cut and draw round the shape with a pencil, before cutting the shape with a coping saw or a jigsaw. You may need to make more than one cut if there is an intricate pattern.
Before screwing the skirting in place, drill holes for the screws and mark through these to fit wallplugs in solid walls. In hollow walls, line the screw holes up with the wall studs, which should be obvious when the skirting is removed. Fill over the screw heads before painting.