Baseboard for Bullnose Wall Corners

A soft-corner baseboard treatment is easy to want, not so easy to do. Here's a spirited discussion of the trim installer's options for this pesky detail. July 9, 2007

I see a lot of the homes out west have radiused outside corners on the drywall. What does the outside corner of the baseboard look like - is it also curved, or is there a special application there?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor L:
The rounded outside corner of the drywall/plaster wall is called a bullnose. One of the easier ways to put on base or crown is to use two 22 1/2º cuts and a small filler piece (also 22 1/2º on each end) to bridge the gap. You would need to fill the small spaces with caulk. The other way would be to make a bunch of turned pieces with the same profile as the base or crown. This would give you the true radius. This will be much more costly.

From the original questioner:
Both sound like excellent ways. Is that how they do it when they crank out an entire housing development?

From contributor M:
Radiused corners are becoming quite popular here in Indiana. The bottom of the wall has a transition piece that turns to square so the baseboard still cuts square.

From contributor J:
Flex molding looks better than 22 1/2" pieces and caulk, but still not good. What if the room gets crown? Flex crown is less cooperative and usually looks like crap on a tight radius. We usually cut the right sized radius in a properly sized square piece of scrap using a hole saw. Throw away the circle and cut the square in 4 pieces on a chop saw. Glue and pin the remaining "triangle" on the radius wall and run a standard 90 degree around it. Works on small radii.

From contributor M:
All of that seems like a lot of extra work when the same bullnose comes with a square bottom piece. If the drywaller isn't putting it on, then ask him why. Mine wasn't until I asked him to, then he just said he didn't think I wanted them. He now puts them on with no problem. It sure beats trying to make the trim look decent and spending extra time doing it.

From contributor J:
Most of my customers are homeowners. Drywall dude's long gone.

From contributor A:
About a year ago, I hung new exterior doors in a triple wide manufactured home. A fairly large nice looking home, but like most manufactured homes, the attention to detail left a lot to be desired. This house had MDF moldings throughout, which were original. I was just hanging doors, but couldn't help but notice the bullnose corners. The manufacturer had simply done a normal 45 degree miter on the base trim. They had closed the gap around the corner with caulking. The caulking had shrunk down into the gap a little before drying, which left a small divot at the top of each corner. To add to this, this house belonged to a farm family out in the country. The constant traffic and dust left little puddles of dirt in that divot which were a pain for the wife to clean out. The new doors got oak casings and as their budget allows, they are planning on having me come back and replace the rest of their trim.

From contributor V:
I didn't see the alterative, except you were replacing the original MDF moldings?

From contributor M:
If the color is close, maybe you could mix a little glue with the dust as a filler (just kidding, of course).

From contributor A:
I actually meant the term "alternative" as tongue in cheek. I was mainly sharing what I had seen done by the manufacturer of this home, not that I would recommend it. It looks bad done that way and the owners aren't happy with the home, but it is actually the least of the problems (did I mention that the home was only 3 years old and they had to replace the exterior doors?).

From contributor J:
If I had the time, and money wasn't an issue... I'd tweak the method I described earlier by building a larger and taller "plinth" type block with a coved back to fit to the corner, then jog the molding around it. You could rout a decorative detail around the top (to reduce the dust-collecting flat surface) and perhaps even actually make the corner look good.

From contributor L:
We turned the corners on a hydraulic copy lathe (shaped to match 6" base molding) making them a little large in diameter and height so the base would butt into the flat when they were quartered (jig on sliding table saw.) We used a jig to hold the 1/4's on a sliding table shaper and a molding head with knives that matched the curve. We eased the edges where they had been cut into quarters. The initial setup was a pain in the ass, but once set up, it was easy to make piles of them.

From contributor B:
My trim supplier makes 20-25 different types of corner pieces to match their base styles when using bullnose construction. At $3-4 each, they're not cheap, but match the base perfectly.

From contributor I:
22.5 mitre to 22.5/22.5 "key" (actually 23 on outside corner) measuring 9/16 inside to inside, then back into 22.5 and away you go. If it's taller than 5 inches, kick an extra half degree out or pull the stock a smidge off the fence. Trust me. Round cornerbead turning to 90 degree square at the bottom to clean up the base corner transition? That's funny, I'd venture that the local contractors are having a difficult time finding trim carpenters, but hey, maybe it's a regional look.

From contributor T:

If your trim supplier does not offer bullnosed outside corner pieces, find another supplier. If I can find them easily in the middle of the country, they are readily available. Skip all the stinking angles and caulking… your base trim will butt right up to the corner and the radius on the inside of the piece will match your drywall perfectly. I get 'em for around a buck a piece in red oak from Mid-America Hardwoods in Sarcoxie, Missouri.

From contributor T:
It's very common for sheetrock finishers to transition from a bullnose round to a square corner at baseboard height… No, it's really not funny - it looks fine (similar to a lamb's tongue terminating a routered edge). What looks worse is the space that is created when you try to 22 1/2 them.

When they crank out entire housing developments, they use the bullnose outside corner pieces... The best way to go in my opinion.

From contributor V:
Yes, I very much agree - rather than being funny, it is actually a sign of intelligent design and forethought. Moreover it is a sign of respect between the trades. A cabinetmaker or furniture maker would never run a bullnose or rounded profile into an area where he would later need to cross it with a straight backed molding. He would only be hurting himself if he did so. In the trades, there is a lot of disrespect going on for the next guy down the line. Of course in this case, it is probably due more to ignorance than disrespect. If a finish carpenter had designed the "bullnosed sheetrock outside corner," it would have been designed with termination in mind for crown molding at the top, and baseboard down below.

From contributor I:
Wow folks - this here is a lot of passion over a soft corner. My humble apologies for the bullnose to square cornerbead dig – the questioner asked a serious question about installation technique and that is indeed one approach to solve it.

The problem with the bullnose drywall corner with the millwork quick doing a 90 degree turn is twofold. It defeats the purpose of the soft corner and it simply looks cheap. We were doing great till they hit us with those damn round corners…

The problem with the prefabricated radius block is worse. I assume the original post with reference to how they do it in the slammer homes is orientated towards real word production. The mill of the prefab corners is always off from the linear stock (are you going to bust out the chisels, spoons, gouges, and gizmos and spend your day blending the corners of the baseboard? If anyone's got a good idea as how to figure an extra man hour or so per outside corner for your base install price, please share as I would love to be independently wealthy as well.

The prefab corners are used for paint grade stuff, made from different material than the linear stock. The whole "my supplier carries African nutcracker quartersawn ebolawood prefab corners, doesn't yours?" is mute before anyone even begins, as between all the different shapes, sizes and applications you would be charging $50 per outside corner. With that said, there is always a crack at the joint over time. You can scarf, carve, mitre, bondo, acclimate, whatever, and it still separates. Thus it once again looks like dog.

A 22 degree soft corner has the advantage in that it continues feel and purpose of the bullnose. (Why not install a nice, top heavy chair rail with a sharp corner right at head height for your favorite kid? After all, the baseboard and the crown do the same.) With a little practice, even the most unskilled base installer can be executing seamless transitions with the added bonus that no matter what the detail (wainscot, rail, column, etc.), it can be fabricated onsite. Always a safe call, especially if you have a schedule.

On a final note, I am 100% for inter-trade co-operation. I would be willing to trade whatever I have to do to the corners if the sheetrockers would start scraping the goo off the floor where cabinets go and holding the sheetrock back from door and window openings.

From contributor E:
I'm a GC, and I read this forum to stay abreast of the things I need to be aware of in the workmanship on my jobs. Believe me, you guys have helped me help my subs on more than one occasion. Thank you very much for the wealth of information you share.

Concerning the unscraped floors: If taking it to the builder's superintendent on the job doesn't do any good, try talking to the builder, himself. I consider making certain that each trade leaves the house in the same condition they found it when they arrived the superintendent's responsibility. I suspect the builders you work with feel the same way.

From contributor O:
I agree wholeheartedly. The ability to keep the job going and to be able to complete the corners with no down time means a lot in a production environment. As for trades working together, I think it's nonexistent these days.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor E:
Wow, lots of passion about this topic. Having done a lot of production trim, the cost of buying pre-radii corners eliminated this option. No production builder that I have ever worked for would pay for a special moulding on every outside corner in the house.

Contributor I had the process down, and it is the one everyone I work with uses: 22.5 degree miter cuts on each leg with a center (connector) cut with opposing 22.5 cuts, which I always make at 5/8" wide on the inside. When installing, always glue and pin-nail the corners together. On shorter stretches, I always pre-assemble corners with hot glue and pin nails. This makes for nice, tight corners.

This process works for crown moulding as well. Note: measuring lengths of base on radii corners can be tricky for novices. Here's a tip: create a corner marking jig out of a few short pieces (6") of your baseboard. Before assembling the jig, cut an inch or two off the top of the center section. Once assembled, place the jig on a corner and draw pencil lines where the cutout is. This will be the measurement point to the inside miter of the baseboard.

Comment from contributor A:
With a miter saw, cut a corner piece that is 5/8" wide on the wall side and has opposing 22.5 deg. angles on each end. You can then run your base to the corner from each direction, miter those pieces to 22.5, check for fit, nail them to the plate, and then glue in your corner piece to produce a nice finished look. Note: there will be a small opening between the rounded bullnose and your corner piece that you will want to caulk before you paint.