The skirting boards cover the joint between the wall and the floor, they add a decorative border while hiding the necessary gaps which are needed for the natural expansion and contraction that takes place in all buildings. Skirting boards aren't too complicated to replace and today you have a wide range of options when it comes to materials and profiles. If you are planning to lay a new wooden or tiled floor, you should remove the skirting boards first to get the best finish with the new flooring laid right up to the wall. However, you should fit the skirting boards first (or simple leave the skirting in place) if you’re carpeting, this gives carpet fitters a good straight edge to work to and also means that if changing carpets in the future, there will be no need to remove the skirting boards.
You can actually use almost any type of board as a skirting board, even making your own if you're feeling creative. The manufactured boards you will find on sale include a number of popular profiles such as; Square, Torus, Pencil Round, Bullnose, Chamfered, Ovolo and Ogee. Each of these boards are available in a choice of materials, the most common being softwoods like Pine, hardwoods such as Oak or Mahogany, or MDF. Skirting boards are pretty cheap to buy and available from your local DIY store, usually in 2.4m or 3.6m lengths. Plain profiled and unpainted MDF is the cheapest, while fancy hardwood skirting boards are the most expensive.
Because skirting boards are fairly straightforward to fit and remove a good handyman will be able to do this job for you as well as a carpenter. When hiring a tradesmen, be careful, as most are sole traders not covered by any trade or professional association. Make sure they have some experience with skirting board removal and replacement, and check with at least three recent customers to ensure their work was of a professional standard. Personal recommendation from friends or family is always an excellent way to find a handyman or trades-person, failing that, you can of course use the "find a local tradesman" service on this website to source a trusted handyman or carpenter in your area.
Preparation for the job includes prising off old skirting being careful not to damage the wall plaster. Use a bolster chisel between the wall and the skirting to lever the top edge far enough away to insert a pry-bar, but a thin piece of wood behind the pry-bar to protect your wall, otherwise you will also need a plasterer! You should coat the back of the new skirting with wood preservative before fitting, using masonry nails in solid walls or oval wire nails nailed into the studs for stud walls. If fixing skirting board yourself always start with the longest wall with internal corners. As with all DIY work, measure twice and cut once!