why does skirting board crack

Your home’s skirting boards play an important yet often overlooked role in pulling together the aesthetic appeal of your rooms. As the trim runs along the bottom of walls where they meet the floor, skirting boards help cover the gaps for a seamless look.

But over time, you may notice unsightly cracks developing in the skirting boards. These cracks ruin the smooth finish and quickly make your home look shabby.

What causes these cracks to appear? And what can you do to prevent and fix them? This comprehensive guide examines the common reasons behind cracked skirting boards and provides valuable tips on maintenance and repair.

What Are Skirting Boards?


Before diving into why skirting boards crack, let’s first understand what they are and their purpose in your home.

Skirting boards, also known as baseboards in the US and Canada, are decorative mouldings that run horizontally along the bottom of interior walls. They are placed to conceal the space between the walls and the floor.

Skirting boards serve several important functions:

  • Aesthetic – They are a decorative element that frames a room and gives it a finished polished look. Skirting boards come in various styles and materials to complement the room’s decor.
  • Protective – They protect the wall from scuffs, knocks, and vacuum cleaners bumping against it.
  • Insulating – They seal drafts and gaps between walls and floors as part of a room’s insulation.

Skirting boards are typically made from timber wood, MDF or composite materials. Popular styles include ovolotorus, and chamfered.

Why Do Skirting Boards Crack Reasons?


There are several reasons why you may notice cracks appearing along your skirting boards over time:


Expansion and Contraction


The natural expansion and contraction of materials due to fluctuations in temperature and humidity levels is a prime cause of skirting board cracks.

Wood naturally expands and contracts as moisture levels change with the seasons. This puts stress on the materials, leading to cracks and gaps. This problem worsens if the skirting boards are not acclimatised adequately before installation.

💡Pro Tip: Allowing wood time to acclimatize to the temperature and humidity levels in a home before installation can help minimize cracks from expansion and contraction.


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Poor Installation


Improper installation is another major cause of cracks. If skirting boards are not adequately secured to the wall or if proper joints are not created, it can lead to instability and cracked seams over time.

Incorrect angles when cutting boards and substandard nailing during installation also contribute to cracks appearing later on. Using an insufficient number of nails to hold the skirting board in place often leads to cracks.

💡Pro Tip: Always use an adequate number of nails spaced close enough to firmly secure skirting boards during installation.


Water Damage


Exposure to water is hugely detrimental to skirting boards. Water sources such as leaky pipes, flooding, rainstorms or simply wet mopping can cause the wood to swell, warp and crack.

This water damage is often visible as bubbling or peeling paint along the baseboards. If left unchecked, it can expand into significant cracks.

Pest Infestation


Wood-boring insects like termites are another culprit. They bore holes into the wooden skirting boards, weakening their structure. This makes them more prone to cracking along the damaged areas.

Look out for tiny bore holes or sawdust around the boards, which indicate pest infestation. Addressing this promptly is vital in preventing cracks.


Type of Material


The material used to make skirting boards also impacts their tendency to crack:

  • Wood – Solid wood shrinks and expands more with temperature changes. This leads to a higher chance of cracking compared to composite boards.
  • MDF – Medium-density fiberboard is more prone to cracks around nail holes as it lacks wood’s natural flexibility.
  • Composite – Modern polymer-based composites are more crack-resistant. However, low-quality composites can still crack under pressure.

💡Pro Tip: Opt for good quality composite materials when installing new skirting boards for lower cracking risk.


Age and Wear


Like other home fixtures, skirting boards also naturally deteriorate with age. As boards grow older, the material loses strength and becomes more brittle. This causes paint to crack and lift, creating ideal conditions for forming cracks.

Years of knocks, scuffs and vacuum bumps also take a toll on skirting boards. This physical wear and tear over time ultimately makes them weaker and more prone to cracking.

Related Article  What Causes Holes in Skirting Boards?

Recent Trends Impacting Skirting Board Cracks


Beyond the core reasons above, some newer trends are also contributing to an increase in skirting board cracks:


Cracks in Newer Homes


While we tend to associate cracks with old homes, modern construction practices are also causing cracks in new builds:

  • Rapid building – Faster construction timelines can lead to inadequate sealing and rushed paint jobs.
  • Cost-cutting – Cheaper finishing materials are more prone to cracking.
  • Early occupation – Moving in before the boards properly cure also stresses them.


Central Heating and Cooling


The widespread use of central heating and cooling systems is causing more significant fluctuations in indoor humidity and temperature levels.

This rapid expansion and contraction of materials like wood due to heating and cooling results in a greater incidence of cracks.


Lack of Maintenance


Finally, cracks often result from a lack of proper maintenance. Small cracks left unrepaired for long can expand into bigger ones. Painting over existing cracks also leads to further damage.

There is a growing need for homeowners to be more proactive about inspecting skirting boards and promptly fixing minor cracks.

Recent Developments Around Skirting Board Cracks


What Causes Skirting Boards to Crack

Some noteworthy developments highlight the increased focus on evaluating and preventing skirting board cracks:


Study Links Cracks to Multiple Factors


A 2018 study published in the Journal of Building Engineering took a scientific approach to identifying various factors leading to cracks.

The study found that width-to-length ratios of boards, choice of materials, quality of installation and environmental factors like humidity all contribute to cracks.


Flexible Sealant Fixes Cracks


Construction company Scotmass developed a revolutionary flexible sealant called Skirseal to repair cracks.

When applied over cracks, this polymer-based putty expands and contracts along with the wood’s movement to prevent further cracks.


Rising Damp Causes Skirting Damage


Researchers recently established a correlation between rising dampness and skirting board cracks.

Rising dampness from ground moisture seeping into walls makes skirting boards prone to mildew and warping, which results in cracks.

How to Prevent Skirting Board Cracks


While some cracking is inevitable, you can take proactive measures to minimize cracks in your skirting boards:


Choose Durable Materials


Opt for high-quality composite or engineered wood products that are more crack-resistant. MDF and cheaper composites are more prone to issues.


Allow Time to Acclimatize


Before installation, let boards sit unboxed indoors for 1-2 weeks to adapt to indoor temperature and moisture levels. This prevents expansion and contraction issues later on.

Related Article  Do You Have to Take the Skirting Boards Off to Lay Laminate Flooring?


Hire a Professional


Ensure an experienced carpenter correctly installs skirting boards. They will secure the boards adequately using the optimal number of nails.


Caulk Gaps


Caulking gaps between boards and corners helps accommodate movement and prevents cracks from forming at joints.


Address Moisture Issues


Promptly fix any leaks and minimize exposure to moisture through wet mopping. Consider using a dehumidifier to maintain optimal humidity.


Get Termite Treatment


Schedule annual termite inspections and treatment to prevent infestation that can damage skirting boards.


Maintain Paint


Repaint boards whenever paint begins cracking or chipping to prevent moisture ingress and further damage.


Tips for Repairing Cracked Skirting Boards


If cracks already exist, here are tips for an effective repair:

✔️ Clean cracks thoroughly to remove grime and debris before filling them.

✔️ For minor cracks, use a paintable wood filler applied with a putty knife and smoothed over.

✔️ Larger gaps may need wood glue and sanding for a permanent fix.

✔️ Repair broken corners by gluing a wooden block behind the corner piece.

✔️ For widespread cracks, replace damaged sections with new boards to restore appearance.

✔️ Apply flexible caulk at board joints and nail holes when repainting to control cracks.

✔️ Consider painting with high-quality latex paint to allow for more wood movement.

✔️ Address underlying issues like leaks before superficial crack repairs for lasting results.

Can Cracking in Skirting Boards Lead to Holes?

Yes, cracking in skirting boards can be one of the causes of skirting board holes. When skirting boards crack, it can lead to the development of small holes over time, making it susceptible to further damage. It’s important to address the issue early to prevent it from getting worse.

Skirting Board Cracks


Skirting board cracks may seem like a purely cosmetic issue, but they can progress to larger problems if left unaddressed. Being aware of the common causes like inherent material expansion, poor installation, moisture damage, and aging can help you prevent cracks proactively. Seeking prompt repairs and maintaining your skirting boards through regular inspections, painting, and pest control will also minimize unnecessary cracks.

With vigilance and timely care, you can ensure your skirting boards stay pristine for years, maintaining your home’s elegance and curb appeal. A proper understanding of why cracks occur, paired with Fixing small cracks as soon as they appear, can help avoid extensive repairs down the road.

James Davis

James Davis

I’m James Davis, a carpenter with eight years of experience in carpentry services, repairs, installations, renovations, and maintenance of interior doors. I have a diploma in carpentry and joiner trade from the Education Skills Australia Institute and take pride in delivering high-quality results to ensure customer satisfaction. I’m a blog writer for Octopus Doors Company and enjoy sharing my knowledge and tips on maintaining security measures and choosing the right door materials, paints, or handle styles. I specialize in custom-made interior doors and strive to make every home look fabulous. Contact me anytime for help with door-related issues.

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