A Trim Trick from Pete

TRIM TOOLAlthough our blog is still in its fledgling stages, it’s really great to see your feedback beginning to come in. While I’m not a long-time blogger, it seems to me that a blog without response is sort of like talking to an empty room. And, my wife looks at me funny whenever she catches me doing that… So, thanks much for your comments and suggestions! Please keep them coming in.

Along those lines, we got some nice feedback recently to my post about the value of good trim carpentry (“Never Underestimate a Good Trim Job”). If you didn’t happen to read the comments, here’s one from Pete, a trim carpenter. Pete’s got a great trade trick to share for removing moldings without damaging walls. Here’s what he said:

Hi Chris,
I am a trim carpenter by trade. One trip to Lowes will make the job of removing your case work a breeze. They sell a mini pry bar(9 1/2″) that works wonders. It’s in the paint section of the store. You’ll want to sharpen the ends on a belt sander. While you’re in that section get a couple flat wooden paint stir sticks. (They’ll give them to you for free.)

To remove the trim without damaging your previous paint job, use a utility knife with a SHARP blade to score around the trim. This prevents the paint from peeling as you pry the casing up. Lay the stir stick flat on the wall next to the casing. Use the sharpened pry bar to lift the casing from the wall. The stir stick prevents you from gouging into the paint by accident and allows you to use a little extra force if it’s needed.

Once all the casing is removed, use new wood and recut all of your trim work. You’ll learn some new expletives if you try fixing the mess you have in the pictures. Take your time, measure, and make precise cuts. Be sure to putty all of your nail holes with a matching color when you’re finished. They will virtually disappear unless you’re up close and looking for them.

TRIM TOOL2Thanks for taking the time to acknowledge the craftmanship that goes into trim work. For me it’s a huge source of pride when I see a job done right.

Pete, I’m taking your advice. A couple days ago, I found a mini pry bar, sharpened it up and started to pry off my trim. Just as you suggested, it works great. It sure beats using putty knives or a catspaw, and the sharpened tips slip behind even a narrow gap between the trim and the wall. Thanks for the tip!

If others of you know some good trim carpentry tricks, please post a comment and fill us in! Let’s share the good stuff and help one another make those trim projects easier.

Catch you in the shop,

Chris Marshall, Field Editor

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  • Alaska Bill

    WOW! Just in time I”m having contractors install 3 new vinyl bedroom windows this Thursday! They are doing the brick trim outside I’ll be doing all interior work and I’m going to reuse my mahagony casing trim over white casing. Wife’s request not mine. Thanks gotta go to Lowes! Ha! Ha! allready have the pry bar just need to flip over the belt sander and lock it the vise. Keep up the great carpentry tips and I’ll share a few of mine later on

  • Chris Marshall

    Alaska Bill,

    Glad you like Pete’s trick! Let us know how the pry bar works out for your project.


  • Mike VZ

    Hello all.

    Great idea with the mini bar. Another VERY useful tool in that department that can also be used for trim removal is a “9 in 1” painters tool. I have sharpened the edges on mine and use it for many, many things when doing finish work.

  • Most professionals know this but it doesn’t hurt to repeat it for the up and comers or the home handy men. After you have removed trim that you intend to reuse make sure you pull the nails out thru the back so you don’t harm the exposed side. A pair of bull nosed pliers does a real good job because of it’s shape. You can grab the nails and then pull them out similair to pulling nails with a claw hammer.

  • Newt In DeKalb

    I will try this. I use to turn my trim piece, up side down, on a soft piece of wood, then I would hit the nail, starting it back out the original hole. That way, it didn’t splinter and I could reuse the same nail hole. I am new on here, and enjoy all the information. Thanks.

  • Jim in CT

    I have been out of the trade for many years, but my favorite tool is a “Wonderbar”, I believe it made by HYDE tools; there is a scraper edge on one end and a flat edge on the other approx. 1-1/2″ wide. Absolutely the best for removing trim, etc. I like the paint stick trick from Pete and agree with Norm in NC, I always remove the nails from the backside (tip from Dad many years ago) with a pair of pliers or similar instrument.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • parick scally

    Changing router bits, ever wish you had a third hand? Take one small rubber ‘O’ ring place it over the shank of the bit, roll it down to the height required, drop the bit into the chuck of the router, now you have both hands free to tighten down.
    Cheers from Brit land.

  • John Burton

    What a great idea.You’re a genius Patrick!

    John from Downunder

  • Gene MacLean

    Great tip about the mini pry bar. I’ve always had trouble when removing casing. I’ll stop at Lowe’s and get one. Thanks for the tip.

    Gene in Idaho

  • Steve S.

    I use a regular prybay sharpening the end the same way with a stick but in addition to that I use a 1 1/2″ wood chisel. The angle of the chisel and the sharpness of the tip gets behind even the most difficult trim and allows me to get enough clearance to start using my prybar. Everywhere there is a nail I pry just a little with the chisel and the nails come out pretty easy without damaging the wall or the trim most of the time the nails come right out. Once in a while the trim will pull off the nail because it is in a knot in the wood. I cut the head of the nail off and use a reversible drill to remove the nail and it leaves no marks other than the original nail hole.