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Old-House Online » Old-House Tips, Restoration Stories, & More » How To Remove Trim

How To Remove Trim

Learn how to remove finish trim for stripping or repair in 5 easy steps. By the OHJ Editorial Staff | Photos by Andy Olenick

    Removing finish trim is a skill that will come in handy for any home restorer. Plumbers and electricians often cut through trim to do their upgrades, roughhousing kids and fast-moving pets can damage old or delicate baseboards, and it’s often necessary to patch-in repairs—not to mention that after a century of painting, trim often needs stripping to regain its luster and reclaim its profiles. Read on to discover how it’s done.

    Step 1

    First, assemble your tools. For this project, you’ ll need five basic tools (pictured clockwise): a claw-foot hammer, pry bar, wooden shim (a paint stirrer works in a pinch), nail-pulling pliers, and a utility knife.

    Step 1: Assemble tools

    Step 2

    Start in a corner. Begin by using the utility knife to carefully score through the paint, making several passes over all areas where individual trim components intersect, as here between the baseboard molding and the quarter-round shoe molding.

    Step 2: Cut through paint

    Step 3

    Next, place the shim behind the pry bar to protect the adjoining trim pieces, and leverage the bar as a wedge to begin prying the shoe molding away from the baseboard. Work slowly and deliberately. If the shoe molding seems stuck, move the pry bar to the floor, and gently work it between the floorboards and shoe molding to help loosen things up. Always place a wooden buffer behind the tool to protect adjacent pieces from scratches and dents.

    Step 3: Place a wedge behind the pry bar

    Step 4

    As the shoe molding begins to loosen from the corner, slowly move down the wall. Once you’re able to get the pry bar beneath a section of shoe molding, it will become easy to liberate the rest of the molding to the nearest scarf joint.

    Step 4: Pry off trim

    Step 5

    Once you’ve completely removed the section from the wall, use the hammer’s claw or a pair of nail-pulling pliers to firmly grasp the finish nails and pull them out through the back of the board. This prevents any damage to the surface, splitting of the molding, or dings to the painted surface.

    Step 5: Pull nails out
    Published in: Old-House Journal February/March 2012

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