How to remove crown molding
There are many reasons you want to remove crown molding from your walls, these could be that it is simply old and worn out, or you have decided that you no longer wish to have it, or have moved into a new home with crown molding on the walls. Whatever the reason, the process of removing crown molding from your walls isn’t as complicated as you would imagine.
Before you begin, make sure that you know exactly how much of the molding you want to remove. If you are looking to take a little bit down to replace or remove the whole lot, the process will be different.
If it is a continuous run throughout your entire home or room, then obviously, it would be best if you removed the whole length. Still, if it is just in certain parts of your home, such as near doorways and windows, that might be all that needs doing now, and maybe you only need to remove the elements around which you fit new doors or windows.
If you have already decided that the molding needs removing, then take a closer look at it and inspect its condition to help you decide just how it should be removed. Just as with any surface you want to paint, repair or redecorate, if there are areas where the paint has bubbled away from the wall, the chance is that those same areas will come out too when you remove it.
This means that if this is happening along a large section of your walls, then don’t even bother trying to save all of it by removing a little bit here and a little bit there; start from scratch and use new crown molding. Unfortunately, however, if only small sections of your existing crown molding need replacing, then obviously, you have no choice but to try and save what already exists.
If you intend on saving your old crown molding, then scrape away any paint which has bubbled up from the wall with a putty knife or even a sharp piece of steel (such as an old chisel)
Once all of the loose paint is removed, inspect each section closely to determine how much of it will come away when you pull it down. You may find that some areas which appear sound might break if they are pulled off individually; in this case, remove them in smaller pieces bit-by-bit until their complete removal becomes easy. On the other hand, if there are areas where the surface is weak and any pulling will cause the whole thing to disintegrate, then leave them in place; these can be cut out individually using a circular saw.
With this in mind, you are now ready to start removing the crown molding.
Step 1: Removing the baseboard molding
The first step in removing any wall molding, be it crown or baseboard molding, is to remove the piece just above it. Only once that is removed can you go about removing the part below it.
For most cases with having to do with crown molding, this would mean taking off the baseboard first. However, in this case, I chose a section where both the baseboard and crown needed to be removed at the same time due to rust damage from a leaky pipe that caused water to pool underneath for quite some time before we noticed anything was wrong (it took almost6 months to see there was even a problem.) This is why it looks so tacky and yellowed.
After removing the baseboard (in this case, it was a piece of oak and much easier to work with than crown molding), we needed to remove the top layer. Again, if you are new at this, I suggest purchasing some heavy-duty wire cutters or, even better yet, sheet metal shears if you want to make quick work of your project.
The reason for using something like this is because time is essential when removing crown molding. Unfortunately, we did not have access to these types of tools, so instead, my husband used a cheap pair that he had picked up somewhere along the way during our renovation process. These worked great considering they were only $5.00, but they did not last long and broke partway through the project (so keep that in mind, you get what you pay for.)
Step 2: Removing the crown molding
So I took off the baseboard with a miter saw first, as it seemed easier to do so before taking down the rest of the crown. Although you may have trouble getting behind some studs by doing so or risk accidentally nicking some wiring or pipes with your saw, as long as you are careful and take your time, I think this method might be best for this particular job.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t get all of it, though. I just had a little bit leftover that wouldn’t fit through my door frame, on which I would later use a sledgehammer to smash to pieces.
Once I had everything off, next came the time to remove all of the broken pieces. This is where you would generally expect the worst due to years of water damage eating away at whatever was attached to your walls. Still, in our case, it didn’t seem too bad comparatively speaking since there wasn’t anything left holding the crown molding on. Be careful when pulling this out, though, because you don’t want any extra damage done when smashing something already falling apart!
Now it’s time to start removing the crown molding itself. While I’m sure most people would expect this to be done with a pry bar or crowbar, we got an electric jigsaw at Canadian Tire for $40 (after-tax) and used that instead. It was safer than working with a crowbar and worked just as well. A handsaw could also be used if necessary but don’t mess around trying to pull out nails with pliers!
Once all of the molding using whatever method you chose is off of your walls, now comes the part where you need to remove any little bits left behind: I used a hammer and chisel to do this part. But again, if you have access to better equipment than these, it would be worth using because we aren’t professionals, and we don’t own all of the fancy tools they might use when removing something like this.
Step 3: Putting in new trim
Once you’ve removed everything off of your walls, you are now at the stage where you are either done (bar some filing in minor holes with a bit of plaster if you are not replacing the crown molding), or you are only halfway there. Assuming you are replacing, rather than completely removing the crown molding, it’s time to start putting things back together again. If possible, run your hands along the wall where old nails or staples were holding boards up to ensure nothing is still attached before installing new pieces.