I've got a 1949 fixer-upper with water-stained drywall on walls and ceilings that measures only 3/8" thick instead of the usual 1/2". I want to update wiring and re-insulate so I'm thinking to demolish all the funky old drywall. (Because of the presumption of lead paint, I'll make sure it's done with necessary precautions.)

But the wood molding trim around windows, doors, and baseboard is quite decent - very good material in reasonable shape, but with (presumably) some lead paint.

Is it worth the effort to remove, repaint, and re-use the moldings? Better to remove them with pry-bar or use a recip saw (to cut the nails from behind)? Is the lead paint on moldings a deal-killer?

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    Photos would be helpful. "Is it worth it" questions require a better understanding of the trim profiles, etc.
    – isherwood
    Nov 18, 2019 at 19:51
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    Also consider that even with a lot of careful removal, there's a good chance that something will get broken during the timespan of the job. Having a backup plan in place (finding matching molding somewhere) for this would be great.
    – JPhi1618
    Nov 18, 2019 at 20:02
  • Are you sure it's lead paint? you can get an inexpensive test kit to find out. Might save a lot of time and money.
    – hookenz
    Nov 18, 2019 at 23:05
  • JPhi1618, good point. Something will surely splinter somewhere. And I don't expect to be able to match the profile exactly. Since I've got multiple rooms to do, I'll plan to install new trim throughout one of the rooms, and use the old material from that room as spare - to fill in elsewhere, as needed. Thanks
    – jbbenni
    Nov 19, 2019 at 14:46

2 Answers 2


It is definitely worth the effort to reuse the wood trim and molding. Chances are it's of better quality than you'd be replacing it with. When you figure out how many linear feet of trim/molding you have, it can be in the thousands of feet @ at buck or two (or more) per foot, that's a lot of $$. Plus you'd have to cut the miters. You can prime and repaint over lead based paint or remove the lead paint with a paint remover so that wouldn't be a deal breaker.

You'd want to use a wide edge pry bar to remove the trim and base board. Hopefully the nails won't pull through the wood.

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    A wide pry bar, and slip a stiff drywall knife in between the pry bar and the trim before levering it. This will keep the pry bar from denting into the back of the wood trim.
    – dwizum
    Nov 18, 2019 at 21:05

I wouldn't use a recep saw. Seem like you want to start with a prybar and depends on how its starting to look you can then use whats called an oscillating multi-tool. This will give you a much cleaner cut with more control. It's a great tool to own. My guess is those guys used 2-3 inch nails which is a pain in the butt to remove. Had to go through this with my 1970 house.

  • I've wanted an excuse to get an oscillating tool, and this does seem like a good application. And I think you're right about the long finish nails. I will try to cut from behind, then push the nail heads out from the back. I'll either flush cut the nail stubs or drive them into the wall. Then on the trim I'll either use the same nail holes or fill them. Good suggestion, thanks.
    – jbbenni
    Nov 19, 2019 at 14:41
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    Actually, for a much cleaner finish, I would fill those old nail holes with wood filler and depending on the tools that you have at your disposal use a nailer + compressor to pin it back in place. My thoughts are the nail holes will still match up with the old nail (driven/sunk in the wall). If you do not have a compressor + nailer then be sure to make pilot holes (drill) if you plan the nail and hammer route. I work alone so nail and hammer is not an option for me when doing these things. I just want to hold it in place an snip snip, tac that bad boy up.
    – Don Powell
    Nov 19, 2019 at 14:48
  • An additional trick if you do not own a lot of tools: 1. buy a cheap nailer from harbour freight ($20-25) 2. buy a compressor on sale or used $50-70 If you have no intention to use these again, resell them as a bundle for like $50-70 and the actual cost for you will only be $20-40.
    – Don Powell
    Nov 19, 2019 at 14:49
  • Don Powell, thanks. And "Doh". I've got a pancake compressor and finish nailer, and would (eventually) agree this is a perfect application for them. I don't know why I initially envisioned re-using nail holes with finish nails - the pin nailer is clearly the right tool for this job. Thanks!
    – jbbenni
    Nov 19, 2019 at 18:52
  • Glad I am able to help!
    – Don Powell
    Nov 19, 2019 at 19:12

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