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Skirting boards have been around for many years (known as a baseboard in the USA) and have quite a few purposes.
They make a room look much more appealing to the eye: most of the time, there is a gap where a wall meets a floor. This can be unsightly and so a skirting board would be used to cover this up and give it a much higher quality finished look. You can choose from a wide variety of designs when it comes to skirting boards nowadays as they are also seen as a decorative piece of the household interior.
They protect the bottom of the wall from scuffs and scrapes: if you've ever hoovered in your life, you'll know that you have to go all the way up to the wall and this means there will be contact between the wall and the hoover. Without skirting boards, your precious walls would probably be reduced to rubble in very little time. Add children with toys to the mix and the skirting boards are a must as they'll take the brunt of the damage.