I'm in the process of replacing a failing plaster ceiling in my finished basement with drywall. I originally had intended only to scrape down the popcorn finish and have it skim coated, so I did not initially try and remove the molding. Once I got down to the original plaster and saw the extent of the repairs that would be needed, I decided it was going to be more cost effective to just replace it. I had already draped the room in plastic from the molding down, and it was looking tough to get a pry bar in there, so I left it figuring I could remove the majority of the ceiling and then remove it when I had access from above.
Well now I have that access, but it still looks to be a challenge:
- It is 85 years old, and while it's in great aesthetic condition, in reality, the wood is dried and quite fragile. If I try to remove it, I'm likely to end up damaging some pieces.
- The bottom portion of the molding is flush with the plaster walls and it is nailed directly into the lath, maybe even glued? When I tried to gently pry it off, the whole plaster surface moved along with the molding.
So given this, I'm wondering if I can get away with installing the drywall without removing the molding? There is 3/4" of space between the joists and the molding, so 1/2" drywall would fit fine, and due to slight unevenness in the joists I need to shim down about 1/4" anyway.
Is this a terrible idea, or does anybody have tricks for gently removing old crown molding from plaster? It would be easier to hang the drywall with the molding off, as I could strap the ceiling and shim the strapping. As is, if I did this I guess I would have to shim the joists themselves with plywood strips.
EDIT: The crown molding is stained oak, which means pretty much any nick shows and damage of any substantial size is tough to re-stain to the right color. I am pretty attached to it, so I'd prefer to keep it intact.