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April 7, 2019

How To Remove Crown Molding

Decorative crown or ceiling molding creates a unique style in almost any home. However, there are plenty of reasons you may want to remove it from the wall. Thankfully, it’s an easy process you can do on your own with just a few simple tools. These simple steps explain how to remove crown molding without damaging your walls or the molding itself.

What Is Crown or Cornice Molding?

Also called ceiling molding or cornice molding, crown molding is a decorative trim that covers the joint between the wall and the ceiling for a finished or polished look.

Typically made of wood or composite material, it adds a decorative touch to any room. However, it is most popular in living and dining rooms and in kitchens.

From simple to elaborate, it comes in a variety of styles, shapes, and sizes to suit different design preferences. It also serves a practical purpose by covering gaps and imperfections between the wall and the ceiling.

Why Remove Crown Molding?

There are several reasons to remove crown or ceiling molding:

  • Remodeling: If you are remodeling, you may need to remove the existing molding to change the overall look or style of the room.
  • Damage: If it is damaged, it may be necessary to remove it and replace it with new molding.
  • Personal preference: Some people do not like how it looks and may choose to remove it to give the room a more modern or minimalist look.
  • Repairs: If the wall or ceiling beneath the molding needs to be repaired, it may be necessary to remove the molding first.

Overall, the decision to remove crown molding will depend on your specific circumstances and needs.
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How Do You Remove Crown Molding?

Removing crown or cornice molding is an easy task you can usually complete in just a few hours with just a few essential tools.

1. Gather Tools and Supplies

Crown molding removal is easy, but you will need a few supplies and tools to get it off the wall:

  • Ladder: If the molding is high up on the wall, you will need a ladder to reach it safely.
  • Utility knife: A utility knife will help you score paint and caulk, making it easier to remove from the wall.
  • Wide putty knife or scraper: A three- to six-inch wide putty knife or scraper will make prying off the molding easier, especially if you plan to reuse it.
  • Pry bar: A pry bar can be used to gently pry it away from the wall.
  • Rubber mallet: A rubber mallet to tap the pry bar and release the molding.
  • Hammer: A hammer will help you remove nails.
  • Pliers: Although optional, pliers will help pull nails out of the wood.
  • Sandpaper: Also optional, sandpaper will remove the paint along the molding edges and make it easier to reinstall later.

Although you can do most of the work yourself, it’s helpful to have an extra set of hands to hand you tools and grab pieces of crown molding once you get it off the wall.

2. Score the Molding

Start removing the molding by scoring the paint and caulk with a sharp utility knife. Open the knife just slightly, then carefully score along both the top and bottom of the molding.

You only want to cut through the paint and caulk without damaging the wall, ceiling, or molding itself. Work slowly to prevent mistakes.

3. Find a Starting Point

Next, find a place to start prying off the molding. Using the putty knife, press into the seam between the wall and the molding. It can take a little time to find a good starting point.

Once the putty knife slips underneath the molding, gently wiggle it back and forth to loosen it from the wall. Then move it along the entire length of the molding to create more room to work.

4. Pry Off the Molding

With the putty knife or scraper still behind the molding, put the pry bar between it and the wall. This will give you extra leverage to start prying the crown molding off, as well as protect the molding if you plan to reuse it.

Using gentle pressure, pry it free and work your way about halfway down the mold. Once you have a quarter- to half-inch gap between the wall and molding, you can remove the scraper and just use the pry bar.

While hand pressure is usually enough to free the molding, you may occasionally need to tap the pry bar with a rubber mallet. A mallet is better than a hammer because it is less likely to damage the molding if you miss the pry bar.

Try to keep the gap between the wall and the molding as even as possible during the removal process. While it can take a few minutes longer, this will keep the nails straight and prevent the molding from cracking. Pulling one section out of the wall with another completely attached can crack the wood or damage the walls.

Keep the scraper handy to help cut away caulk or loosen tricky sections of molding. Work slowly to prevent damaging your walls and ceiling and keep the molding from cracking.

5. Clean Up the Molding

Unless you are throwing it away, you should clean up the molding as soon as you remove it. Start by removing the nails. Hammer them through the wood from the back, then pull them out with pliers.

Then carefully cut away any remaining caulk with a utility knife. You can also lightly sand the edges to remove paint buildup.

Use wood filler to repair gaps, cracks, or chips in the molding.

6. Clean Up the Wall

Regardless of whether you plan to reinstall the molding, you should clean up the wall.

Decades of paint can leave a pronounced seam on the wall. Gently scrape it away with a putty knife, then sand the seam until it is smooth.

If you aren’t reinstalling the molding, fill the nail holes with spackle and sand away any imperfections in the wall.

With the wall prepped, you can either paint or install the new molding.


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