One of those “Oh no!” moments that old house owners dread is discovering that all that lovely wood molding in our homes was installed with 5 and 6 inch nails. Installing delicate moldings and corner blocks with mammoth sized nails happened more often than we’d like, especially in the old West where supplies were a little harder to come by and builders made do with what was readily availalble.
If the corner blocks and molding in your home was installed with huge nails like it was in our home, this is how they can be removed while damaging the wood as little as possible.
Materials need for this DIY project include a Wonderbar or other flat pry bar, crow bar, hammers or mallet, flash light, hacksaw, putty knife, vise grip locking pliers, and scraps of cardboard. Protective eye wear is also recommended.
Removing the molding
The best place to start the removal of old molding is at the corner block found in the doorway. Since it’s so easy to damage old plaster and molding, it’s best to start in a discreet area.
Step 1: Gently tap the putty knife behind the corner block, taking care not to damage the plaster. Continue tapping until the blade is completely behind the corner block. Wiggle gently to create a little bit of space.
Step 2: Remove the putty knife, and while holding a scrap of cardboard against the wall directly above the block, insert the pry bar. Carefully leverage the pry bar so that the corner block begins to move forward.
Step 3: After the block has moved about 1/2 an inch from the wall, use the flashlight to determine the length of the nails holding the corner blocks in place.
Step 4: If the nails are slender, a crow bar can be used to gently remove the corner block. Use the cardboard to protect the plaster while sliding the crow bar behind the corner block. Carefully “walk” the wood away from the wall, first prying from one side and then the next. Have a helper catch the corner block as it falls away from the wall, since it may break if dropped.
Step 5: If the nails are thick, and appear to be much longer than a standard nail, then it’s best to use a hacksaw to slice through the nails. Slice the nails flush with the back of the molding.
Step 6: Continue removing all the corner blocks and trim in this method.
Removing the nails from the molding and corner blocks
Once the molding and corner blocks have been safely pulled from the walls, the next leg of the project is to deal with the nails. For the wood that has been cut away from the walls, it’s best to leave these monster sized nails alone, since removing them can cause considerable damage to the wood. For smaller nails, follow these easy DIY instructions:
Step 1: Carefully back out the nails by tapping gently on the base.
Step 2: Grab the nail head with the vise pliers, and carefully roll the vise grips over onto its back to remove the nail. To protect the wood from damage, place a couple of small scraps of cardboard beneath the pliers as it is twisted back.