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A miter saw can be used to cut both inside and outside corners for your base trim, making two pieces of baseboard meet perfectly. Learn how in this article. We’ll also cover what a miter saw is and how to prepare to cut the baseboard.
For a quick reference guide on baseboard orientation and miter saw angle, jump to the quick guides at the end of the article.
Cutting Baseboard With a Miter Saw
All miter saws fall into one of two categories: single or double-bevel miter saws.
- A single-bevel miter saw is left-feed only. This requires the operator to carefully consider both the orientation of the baseboard against the fence and the angle of the blade.
- A double-bevel miter saw makes cutting baseboard much easier, as the material can be introduced from either side without flipping or rearranging the baseboard.
What is a Miter Saw?
Miter saws have levers, buttons, or knobs that allow the blade and the table (or cutting surface) to be independently adjusted. The angle of the blade or table is measured in degrees. An indicator moves along a gauge as the blade is adjusted.
Compound miter saws can make four kinds of cuts; miter, bevel, compound, and cross. Compound cuts are made by tilting the blade in two directions. Cross cuts are made without tilting the blade at all.
Many people have difficulty with the difference between miter cuts and bevel cuts.
- For miter cuts, the blade is adjusted to left or right of center (i.e. 0 degrees).
- To make bevel cuts, the blade or table is tilted above or below the center line (also 0 degrees).
This guide provides instructions on how to cut baseboard using only cross cuts and miter cuts.
Preparing to Cut Baseboard
The cuts you make with a miter saw will only be useful if you measure and mark them correctly. Save time on installation by taking your time with preparation.
- Make a map of the room. Use graph paper and a pencil to roughly sketch the dimensions of the room in which you are installing trim. It does not need to be to scale. Measure the length of each wall. Transcribe these measurements onto your map.
- Label the corners. There are two kinds of corners; inside, and outside. For inside corners, like the four corners of a rectangular room, the miter will be on the front face of the trim. For outside corners, such as where a fireplace extends into the room, the miter must be cut on the back face of the trim. Most rooms have a combination of inside and outside corners. Label each corner on your map as inside or outside.
- Measure the angles. Use a protractor or an angle finder to precisely measure each corner. Take the measurements at the base of the wall, where the trim will be installed. Write the measurements on the map you made in step 1.
- Calculate the angle of the miter. Since you are using two pieces of trim to create the corner, divide the total measurement of the corner by two. Most corners are 90 degrees. Dividing by two gives us 45. Two pieces of trim, each with a 45-degree miter, will therefore combine to create a 90 degree corner. For a 120-degree corner, 60-degree miters will be necessary. To create a 60-degree corner, the two pieces of trim should each have a 30-degree miter. Label your plan with these calculations.
- List the cuts needed. Start with the longest straight wall. Write down the length of the board needed. Then write down whether the left-hand side of the board forms an inside or outside corner, and the degrees of the bevel to be cut. Do the same for the right-hand side of the board. Continue making your cut list, moving around the room and visualizing each piece of baseboard as you go. Refer to your map if you get confused.
- Double check your cut list. This is a tedious step, but necessary. It is highly unlikely that your cut list is perfect. Go through the whole thing again, making sense of what you wrote down and making sure that it matches the room itself and the map you made. You should feel 100% confident in your cut list before you bring out your miter saw.
How to Cut Baseboard With a Miter Saw
Miter joints require the ends of your baseboards to match up precisely. Follow these instructions to make perfectly fitting miters.
- Prepare your workspace. If you are using a portable miter saw, set it up on a stable, sturdy, and level surface. Use shims under the legs of table miter saws and a bubble level to make any small adjustments needed. Better yet, make use of one of the best miter saw stands. Connect the miter saw to power. Install a new, clean, sharp combination style blade with 60 or 72 teeth.
- Prepare your cut list. Your cut list should list the lengths of baseboard you need, as well as the degree and direction of the bevel on each end. To determine this information and for help making a cut list, see the section below entitled ‘Preparing to Cut Baseboard’
- Mark your first baseboard. Use a pencil and measuring tape to mark a cut line on the face of the board. Indicate which side is the waste by marking it with an X. To make the most out of your material, start with the baseboard for the longest section of wall.
- Cross cut the first length of baseboard. Set the blade and table to 0 degrees. Place the baseboard face-up on the cutting table and press the top edge of the baseboard into the miter saw’s fence. Keep your hands clear of the blade. Start the saw by squeezing the trigger or button on the handle. When the blade is up to speed, lower it through the wood. Back the blade out of the cut and release the trigger. Wait for the blade to stop spinning before collecting your trim.
- Make the miter cuts. Orient the board and adjust the angle of the miter saw according to the cut you are trying to achieve. (For help with board orientation and miter saw adjustment, see the quick guides below.) Press the board against the fence, ensuring that your hand and fingers are clear of the blade path. Turn the saw on, grasp the handle, and squeeze the power switch. Plunge the blade through the trim. Lift the blade and cut power to the saw.
- Repeat with the remaining baseboard. Visually check each finished piece by pressing the baseboard against the base of the wall. There should be no gap between the corner of the wall and the edge of the baseboard. Proceed around the room, lining up each piece of trim against the wall, abutting the other pieces of trim. If you’ve measured and cut carefully, all that remains at the end of your cut list is to nail the baseboards to the wall.
Related: Sliding vs Non Sliding Miter Saws – Which Do You Need?
How to Cut Baseboard With a Single-Bevel Miter Saw
Single-bevel miter saws are left-feed only, requiring you manipulate the baseboard in order to get your desired cut. Use this quick guide as a reference to keep you from getting confused.
- To make inside corners on the left side of the board, swivel the blade to the desired degree on the left side of the gauge. Stand the trim on it’s top edge with the back face pressed against the fence.
- For inside corners on the right side of the board, swivel the blade to the desired degree on the left side of the gauge. Stand the trim on it’s bottom edge with the back face pressed against the fence.
- To get outside corners on the left side of the board, swivel the blade to the desired degree on the right. Stand the trim on it’s top edge with the back face pressed against the fence.
- To cut outside corners on the right side of the board, swivel the miter saw to the desired degree on the right. Stand the trim on it’s bottom edge with the back face pressed against the fence.
Learn the differences between a miter saw and a circular saw.
How to Cut Baseboard With a Double-Bevel Miter Saw
Double-bevel miter saws can accept material fed from either side, which makes cutting baseboard trim a lot easier. For every cut, stand the trim on the bottom edge and press the back face of the trim into the fence. Line the end of the trim up with the blade at 0 degrees.
- For inside corners on the right side of the board, swivel the blade to the desired degrees on the left.
- For inside corners on the left side of the board, swivel the blade to the desired degree on the right
- For outside corners on the right side of the board, swivel the blade to the desired degrees on the right.
- For outside corners on the left side of the board, swivel the blade to the desired degrees on the left.
Preparation and careful planning are key to creating perfect miter joints. Making a chart or map and a detailed cut list make this project easier. After trimming your baseboard to the appropriate length, use our quick guides to create inside and outside corners.