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How To: Remove Nails From Molding

This week’s Ask The Craftsman Question comes from my younger brother Daniel actually.

“How do you get the nails out of crown molding without damaging it?”
How to remove nails from molding
Image Copyright: Scott Sidler

Daniel asked me this question over Christmas when I was home visiting our parents. He and his wife were just moving into their first house and I was helping him get some repairs done while in town. When he asked me this I knew immediately it would be a great Ask The Craftsman question!

There is a very simple carpenter’s trick for how to remove nails from molding without damaging your trim pieces. If you haven’t removed the molding yet, just pry it away from the wall not worrying whether you get any of the nails out yet.

Once you have the molding off flip it over and using end cutting pliers, you can easily pull the nails out through the backside.

By pulling the nail through the back, you virtually eliminate the chance of damaging the face of the molding. The heads on trim nails are small enough that they can be pulled out without causing damage. Don’t try this trick with big framing nails, though.

You’ll be left with a small hole that only needs a little wood filler before painting. Easy breezy!

And the great thing is that this technique can be used for any kind of historic trim and molding; crown molding, baseboards, casings, parting bead, window stops.

Thanks for the inspiration, brother, and good luck with the house!


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8 thoughts on “How To: Remove Nails From Molding

  1. So good to know! We’re getting ready to reuse baseboard trim for our new bathroom. Our contractor is not the best when it comes to being a little extra careful with antique building supplies (unfortunately).

  2. I’ve never tried the “end cutting pliers” Scott provided a link to, but I can vouch for the Crescent nail-pulling pliers Steve P. mentioned and linked to in his Comment below. I was planning on re-using a couple of hundred feet of nice quality oak baseboard in a house that saw a few inches of water briefly and bought the Crescent pliers at the big orange box store and have pulled hundreds of nails with it so far without any failures. Don’t know how the Crescent compares to the end-cutting pliers in ease of use but I know it works. Keep in mind though it is pretty much a single-purpose tool – it can’t cut nails or small screws like the end-cutting pliers can.

  3. And I forgot to add… just as Scott stated in his post, pull the nails through from the back side.

  4. I have to share my favorite tool bar-none when it comes to pulling nails from old trim boards, etc. This nifty little gem is great! Just do a google search for: “Crescent NP11 11-Inch Nail Pulling Pliers”

    Here’s a link on Amazon (15 bucks!):

    I pull a LOT of salvage wood to use for trim in our own house. This tool is a life saver.

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