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How To Remove Trim or Molding without Breaking It

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types of wood trim

Different Types of Wood Trim

© EverTrue/Lowe's
It is difficult to remove trim, molding, and baseboards without splintering and breaking it.

When You Might Want to Trash the Trim

Unless the existing trim is very distinctive, antique, expensive, and thus worth keeping, you might be better off trashing the old trim and starting anew. You can waste many hours of your life removing trim. In the end, you may find you could have used your time more efficiently.

Fasteners Are Your Friend

The fortunate thing about removing trim is that it is, most likely, attached by means of finish nails or brad, both of which are thin and have small heads. Sometimes DIY installers use wood or construction glue to make trim stick better. If so, you'll end up ripping away drywall paper. Caulk is sometimes applied to the tops of baseboards, outer edges of window and door trim, or along the bottom edge of crown molding. Reason: to cover gaps and create a smoother appearance.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 2 hours, based on a 120 square foot room

Here's How:

  1. Types of trim matter greatly. As a rule of thumb, you stand a better chance of removing the trim without damage if the trim is made of real wood.

    MDF (medium density fiberboard) trim will almost always break upon removal.

  2. Keep in mind that in older houses the trim is connected to the wall by multiple layers of paint. So it is helpful to first score the seam between trim and wall with a utility knife to simplify removal.
  3. Lay down a wood wedge or other kind of protective material against the wall where the leverage point for the pry bar will be resting. This will prevent the wall from getting dented.

    Thin pry bars are helpful when removing trim. The thinner the pry bar, the better. Screwdrivers tend to dig holes into the trim, so they may not be useful. But pry bars are great because they are wider, and thus you stand less of a chance of gouging the trimwork.

  4. Instead of trying to laboriously pull finish nails before removing the trim work itself, you may find it easier to keep the finish nails in place and pull the trim straight through the nail. This creates slightly larger holes in the trim because the head of the finish nail enlarges the hole somewhat. This is of little consequence, because you can easily fill these holes in with wood putty.
  5. Once you have the trim work off, it’s a simple matter to remove the protruding finish nails with a hammer or lineman’s pliers. Or take the opposite tack and pound those finish nails flat into the wall.

    If the finish nails/brads are sticking out of the trim, lay the trim on a sawhorse so that the fastener is sticking with the pointed end up. Knock the fastener down with a light hammer. There is no need to completely hammer the fastener out. Instead, turn the trim over and complete the removal with your pliers.

What You Need

  • Prybar
  • Light hammer
  • Wood putty
  • Wood wedge
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Lineman's pliers
Related Video
How to Stain Wood Trim
Install Crown Molding

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