This section is from the book "The Principles And Practice Of Modern House-Construction", by G. Lister Sutcliffe. Also available from Amazon: How Your House Works: A Visual Guide to Understanding & Maintaining Your Home.
Skirting's are usually of wood, moulded on the top edge, and fixed to form a sort of base or plinth to internal walls. As a rule, they are nailed either directly to plugs driven into the wall, or to wood grounds nailed to these plugs; the latter is the better arrangement. Frequently wood skirtings shrink after being fixed, and a wide open joint appears between them and the floors, forming a most insanitary harbour for dirt and vermin. In order to prevent this, the floorboards should be ploughed to receive the skirting, as shown at a in Fig. 96. A better form of wood skirting is given at b; the hollow member at the bottom does away with the dirt -collecting right-angle between floor and wall, and at the same time prevents chairs being placed so close to the wall as to damage the wall above by their backs. The first coat of the plaster on the walls should be continued quite down to the floor before the skirting is fixed.
Cement skirtings are more expensive than wood and are somewhat apt to chip, but they are hygienic-ally much more satisfactory, as they afford no hiding-place for vermin and do not decay. They may be of Portland cement or of plaster of Paris, or one of this material, - Parian, Keene's, Martin's, and Robinson's cement-.
Glazed bricks and tiles are excellent materials for plinths. Examples are given in tig. 27 page 81, Fig. 47 page 105, and in Plate II.
Wainscot or wall-boarding is a wooden casing or lining to walls, and may be formed with tongued-and-grooved or rebated hoards (usually with beaded or V-shaped joints), with a moulded top-rail, or may consist of more or less elaborate panelled and moulded framing with moulded plinth and capping. In either case, wood grounds are fixed to the walls to receive the wainscot. To prevent draughts and dirt, one coat of plasterer's "rough stuff" may be applied to the walls after the grounds are fixed, but this must be thoroughly dry before the wainscot is put up, or the wood may swell and twist; an additional precaution consists in painting the back of the wainscot before fixing it.
Chair-rails are narrow pieces of wood, usually moulded, fixed to walls at the height of the top of a chair-back to prevent the chairs damaging the walls. Sometimes they are grooved on the top, so that plates, photographs, etc., can safely be placed thereon. The groove, however, should be wide, or it is difficult to keep clean.
Picture rails are the modern substitutes for the picture-rods of our fathers. They are shown in Plates II., III., and V. They are simply moulded pieces of wood nailed to plugs driven into the walls, and having a groove in the upper surface to receive picture-hooks. This groove undoubtedly collects dust, although this disadvantage may be modified by forming it in the lower part of the rail, instead of on the top as usual.
Fig. 96 -Wood Skirtings.