How To Remove Baseboards, Molding & Trim
Most moulding is held in place with nails and occasionally with adhesive. Molding can be removed and then reinstalled, but if it has split or been dented, while taking it off, you may end up having to replace it. Removing wood moulding isn't difficult, but care must be taken to avoid damaging it, the wall or other surfaces. Some moulding is not very expensive, but finding an exact match may be difficult and the labor to refinish, cut and reinstall new moulding can add a lot of time to a project. That is time that could have been saved if the old moulding had been carefully removed.
Start by cutting through any caulking and paint where the moulding touches the wall or other surface. Ordinarily, it is not possible to extract the individual nails, so the entire piece is pryed up and the nails come out with it or pull through the wood and remain in the surface to which the moulding is applied. The key is to provide support to the moulding so that the piece does not split, and support to the underlying surface so that it is not damaged.
Different mouldings and different situations will affect your choice of the best tools. When removing a baseboard, care must be given to avoid breaking through the drywall or plaster. For this reason a block should be placed between the wall and the tool to provide both support and a point for leverage. A screwdriver is a poor choice for prying mouldings because it tends to cause dents and to split the wood. Use a stiff putty knife or specialty pry bar designed for mouldings. They help to spread the force over a larger area and thus reduce the risk of damage.
Try to get as close to the nails as possible when prying. Don't start a prying a board and then try to pull the whole thing off with your hands. Get the tool behind each nail and separate the moulding from the surface one nail at a time. Occasionally, when prying moulding, the nail will come part way out and then the moulding can be pushed back in place, leaving the nails to be extracted. If you try to extract the nails, pliers are often more effective than a hammers claw. Always place a block under the tool so that you don't mar the moulding while pulling the nail.
In the case where adhesives were used to secure the moulding, it is much more likely that the surface it was attached to will be damaged. In the case of drywall, make a cut with a razor knife, through the layer of paper. When you remove the moulding, this cut will help to prevent the paper from being torn off beyond the edge of the moulding. While it is preferred to keep the wall intact, repairing the wall that will be hidden by moulding is much easier than repairing exposed wall.