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I am having a difficult time trying to remove the trim/baseboard in my walk-in closet. We have painters coming and a custom closet install in a few weeks. Neither of those teams can/will remove the baseboards for us. I purchase a trim puller and have the standard DIY kit for pulling round moulding and trim. However, I discovered that the trim must have been installed prior to the hardwood floor installation when the home was built. The trim is slightly sunk below the floor boards. The trim is also not nailed just at the middle or top. It is nailed toward the top AND bottom of the trim, horizontal with the floor. The bottom nail is actually slightly below floor level. I cannot get leverage to pry the top nails out because of this. I get zero movement on the bottom nails either. We were trying to keep the trim in one piece, but I don't even know how to remove it even if I were to break it given that the bottom nail is below the top of the floor boards. I've heard that a jamb saw would be useful to cut it at the floor level and then an oscillating blade to cut the bottom nail from the walls. I'm not competent enough to use a jamb saw.

I've attached a few images showing the problem. Any suggestions? I really don't want to bring a carpenter in. We're already paying a ton for the customer closet and painters. When something simple becomes complicated... Bottom Nail Inaccessible

Sunk Trim 1

Sunk Trim 2

Sunk Trim 3

Max Leverage

************* EDIT **************** You've all been extremely helpful. I was able to get the trim off using a combination of suggestions provided and a lot of cursing and sigh breathing. I've discovered what I feel might have been a shoddy installation job. Perhaps one of you can educate me on whether or not the floor was installed correctly.

So I pulled the quarter round off of another section of wall and discovered HUGE gaps between the wall and end of the hardwood floor boards. I realize wood expands but I always assumed wood typically is installed right up to the drywall itself, or has a minimum gap for expansion. The gaps I'm seeing are .75, 1, 1.5, 1.75 inches from the wall to the end of the floor board. Does this look like a skimp job by the builders or is this pretty typical? Here's a few more pics.

Gap 1 Gap 2 Gap 3

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  • 6
    Why are you removing the base trim?
    – isherwood
    Apr 15 at 18:00
  • 1
    Most custom closets come with cutouts for the baseboards on the vertical members. Can't yours?
    – jay613
    Apr 15 at 18:19
  • Isherwood - We are having the room painted in three days and the custom closet installed in two weeks. We were told by the closet designers that we needed to remove the trim so that the closets sit against the wall. Otherwise, the trim prevents this from occurring. I assume it has something to do with securing the closet to the studs. They can cut the base to fit around the existing trim but that wasn't offered as an option until I contacted them with the problems I've run into.
    – Todd
    Apr 16 at 15:50
  • 3
    Please remove your edit and post that as a new question. That's the kind of scope creep that's not acceptable in this Q&A format.
    – FreeMan
    Apr 16 at 16:38
  • 2
    Also, please say "thanks" by clicking the up arrow next to any and all answers you found helpful, then pick the one that helped you the most and click the check-mark for it.
    – FreeMan
    Apr 16 at 16:40
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The problems I see are the bottom nails nailed into the baseboard. Get a keyhole saw or single handle hack saw, see picture below, and cut those bottom nails. Then pull the baseboard straight up. Use a pair a vise grips to yank the nail stubs out of the wall. If you cut the nails close to the side of the baseboard, you can just leave them in and not damage the outside surface.

enter image description here

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  • 2
    This could do the trick, too, though as far down as those bottom nails are, it would be a slow, frustrating job cutting each nail. Power tools would make it far more pleasant (though more expensive). Again, it's a matter of finding something that works. It may be that cutting a couple of nails frees the trim enough that my prying method would work for the rest of it. Maybe not...
    – FreeMan
    Apr 15 at 17:43
  • What a pain in the rear something that is usually relatively simple is turning out to be. I appreciate the advice. I did notice that the finishing nails are starting to pop through the front the more I mess with it. Not enough for me to grab, but is there a way to punch it further through the back so as to disengage it from the wood itself? Or would that be too difficult because the nails are put into studs.
    – Todd
    Apr 15 at 18:01
  • 1
    @Todd you could try a hammer and nail set to drive the nails through the trim, but you may end up driving them all the way into the drywall. That is not, in itself, a problem, but you could end up hitting those nails when you're trying to install trim later.
    – FreeMan
    Apr 15 at 18:04
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    @Todd "What a pain in the rear something that is usually relatively simple is turning out to be". Welcome to home improvement... :-)
    – JACK
    Apr 15 at 18:18
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    These hacksaws are one of the best "oh shit now what?!" tools you can have. And they can use up old broken but not blunt hacksaw blades
    – Criggie
    Apr 16 at 11:03
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An oscillating tool is your friend. It looks like it would reach to the bottom nail. Looks like you were able to pull the top of the board out enough to get to the bottom nail. You also may be able to break it with a chisel, but nails are hard. Get some good blades for the osc tool, I found that a cheap blade only cuts 5-10 nails.

https://www.homedepot.com/p/RIDGID-4-Amp-Corded-JobMax-Multi-Tool-with-Tool-Free-Head-R28602/206824272

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  • 1
    A decent cold chisel or even a decent flat head screw driver should be enough to break those nails. Even a slim prybar (amazon.com/Titan-Tools-17007-3-Piece-Scraper/dp/B003ELVK9M) might work. But yes to the oscillating tool and decent blades. The hardened ones will cut through a lot of nails before needing sharpened, and that can be done with a simple triangle file. youtube.com/watch?v=Ll1p05qQd14 Apr 16 at 0:06
  • 1
    @computercarguy Any sort of chisel solution could cause the nail to damage the baseboard and it sounds like OP would like to re-install the baseboards.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Apr 16 at 15:08
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    @MonkeyZeus, from the sounds of it, the nails are mostly below the surface of the baseboard, so any damage should be hidden. Besides, those nails should be headless brads, and would pull through with next to no damage, if anything. Apr 16 at 15:47
  • 1
    @computercarguy I would still like to avoid splintering off the bottom half inch of my baseboard even if it's hidden.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Apr 16 at 15:48
  • 1
    Let me describe how I used my oscillating multi-tool in a similar situation: I had to remove rotted trim from around the opening of my garage door. These were 2 x 8 lumber. The boards were nailed in two directions - the face side facing the opening, and also from the back side through another board. that overlapped it. These are 1 1/2 thick boards nailed with16 penny nails. I used the multi tool to cut in between the boards and cut the nails from the back side. I was then able to pry the board. Without having the multi-tool, I would have had to tear things up more.
    – BrianK
    Apr 16 at 19:19
4

In your third picture where you've got the quarter-round shoe molding partially removed is your key to getting started.

  • Remove the 2nd piece of quarter round.
  • After that's up, it looks like the narrow piece of flooring may come up. If you can get this up, do so. If not, you should be able to work with it in place.
  • Remove the piece of white painted trim along the wall where you just removed the piece of quarter round (on the right of the picture).

Once you've got that first piece of trim removed, you should be able to use the small gap between the wood flooring & whatever is under it to get under the trim on the left of that pic and start prying up. As the trim starts moving up, move along that wall to the left, putting your pry bar between the newly created gap under the trim and the flooring (use a shim or something to protect the flooring from the pressure of the metal pry bar) and start working the trim upwards.

At this point, you'll either be bending the finish nails as the trim comes up and/or pulling the nails through the trim. If you're bending nails, you may cause some minor damage to the drywall behind it, but that should be a simple fix for the painters as part of their prep-work or you can fill it with some spackel yourself if they're charging by the hour. If you're pulling the nails through, just pull them all out of the wall once the trim is removed.

For prying up, you'll want a flat pry bar, like one of these:

enter image description here enter image description here
Images from Lowes.com. No recommendation of the products or vendor implied or intended.

These should have a thin enough edge to get into the small gap between the floor & the bottom of the trim, and a long enough handle to give you good leverage. I own & use several like the first (blue) one, and I believe that would serve better for this purpose than the second (silver) one, but either should do the job.

8
  • Thank you for the great reply! I'll give it a shot. Which end do I put in the gap, the flat or rounded portion and can you recommend anything decent to protect the floor from the pry bar?I have an entire room to do where this is like this. I have over 50 feet of combined trim to pull. If the floor board comes up easily, do you think that is the case in the other corners as well? What about reinstalling it? Is it likely that I can get this out in one piece with the method you recommended?
    – Todd
    Apr 15 at 16:12
  • 1
    Put the short, rounded end in and use the long handle for leverage. Any thin piece of wood, like a shim, will help protect the edges of the flooring. If there's trim to go back down, though, small dings at the very edges may not be a problem if they'll be hidden again. That looks like laminate flooring, which I've never worked with, so I don't know how easy it would be to get it up or put it back down. I'd think that once you've got one piece of trim off, you should be able to work your way around to the rest.
    – FreeMan
    Apr 15 at 16:31
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    Also, @Todd, if you'll take the tour, you'll see the proper way to say "thanks" for a post. I wouldn't recommend clicking the check mark on this yet - it's a very new question and many people don't bother looking at questions with accepted answers, so you may miss out on other good hints.
    – FreeMan
    Apr 15 at 16:32
  • I got a pry bar from lowes. A 15 inch estwing prybar. The rounded end is too round and there's not enough clearance to get under the trim. The wood is hardwood and can't be removed from the floor easily. It's adhered with a concrete like putty and runs the entire length of the room (14'). I can only get the flatter end under and all it does is push the trim closer to the wall. Any other suggestions?
    – Todd
    Apr 15 at 17:32
  • 2
    I got a new pry bar many years ago, "just because". Threw it in a suitcase with a bunch of other tools to do a networking job out of the area. Sure enough, had to run cable through an attic and there was some plywood that needed prying! I still hesitate (some) on buying electric (battery or plug-in) tools until I really need them, but good hand tools are worth getting when you find a good deal - you never know when you'll need them. Apr 15 at 18:24
2

This is a trial and error process based on your tools and skills. Based on where you are in the pictures, my next step would be:

  1. Lever the top of the baseboard away just as you have done.
  2. Grip the top nail near the wall with pliers and hammer the board back, hoping to expose a bit of the nail head.
  3. Pry out the top nail.
  4. See if I can cram a bolt cutter or large sidecutter down there to snip the bottom nail. Would be worth buying a crappy oversized pair just for this. If that doesn't work, try a saw to cut the nail.
  5. If the boltcutter/sidecutter doesn't work and I'm struggling with a saw, I'd do all the upper nails and one or two of the bottom ones starting at one end, and then I'd use the board itself for leverage and just pull it upwards with force, tearing the bottom nails out of the far end by force through the bottom edge of the board.

If step 4 doesn't work I would combine step 5 with ideas from the "lever" answer here, trying different levers with different angles. Really depending on exactly what I'm dealing with with each nail, as it will vary.

In the picture there seems to be enough space between the floorboards and the baseboard to allow it to move out a little and expose the back of the lower nail. If in some places it's a lot tighter, you may not be able to do any of this. That'll be really tough.

1

There are other good methods mentioned here and I'd probably try them first, but in a pinch you can try taking a slender but stout tool, like a painters tool and stick it between the wall and the base board and hammer down on the nails. This will force them to bend down and either out of the wall or trim.

It will damage the drywall a bit but if it's being covered by new moulding, it should be okay.

1

I run into this all the time. Jack gave you a good answer but I want to give you a quicker solution - or at least the next person that needs help with this.

I use two main tools to take care of these:

  1. Tin snips - my go to. As long as you have the space a good pair will take care of finishing nail quickly.

enter image description here

  1. Chisel - One sharp whack with hammer and nail is bent or broke. Yes you may damage wall behind trim but who cares, it will be covered again.

enter image description here

Note: Your trim was installed exactly wrong before. When you reinstall it, it should sit on top of the floor level surface and the gap under it should provide an expansion gap for the floor. You are really lucky you don't have severe buckling as it looks like there is very little room - you must keep your house pretty much the same temp.

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  • I'm not sure what you refer to as buckling but we do have bent floors. The corners are higher than the rest of the room, almost like a flat sheet with the ends bent up slightly, and the transition to the doorway into the bedroom is bent like a ramp. I can hear the floor squeak and feel it flex underneath. What buckling are you referring to? We try to keep the house 66 to 72. We have a major problem with humidity though. Drops as low as 20 percent in the winter and has hit 70 percent in the summer. This is despite a whole home dehumidifier and humidifier and new hvacs. It sits over garage
    – Todd
    Apr 18 at 19:10
  • @Todd - that is the precursor to bucking and could be simply fixed by taking out the trim and installing higher. I really would question if anything was installed right though. Installing trim above hardwood is DIY 101 type of stuff.
    – DMoore
    Apr 18 at 20:10
0

From a confirmed get-the-job-done man, I would sacrifice the existing wood for the sake of my time.

(a) For each length of wood, screw a batten to the outside, near the top. Thread some rope around the batten before tightening the screws.

(b) Put a stout timber vertically through a loop in the rope, and lever the whole thing outwards at the top, using the lower end of the board as the fulcrum.

(c) For any serious nail resistance, drill a hold or two through the wood close to it to destroy its grip.

(d) Once you have an end free, you should be able to use that end to twist out progressively the whole length.

(e) If you can't pull the bare nails with mole grips or a claw hammer, I would cleat nails flat into the battens rather than drive them into the wall.

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  • 1
    Wood is expensive, and hard to get the same colour and profile in these days. Its absolutely worth saving. The dry wall would be easier to patch/replace if that got damaged saving the wood.
    – Criggie
    Apr 16 at 11:04
  • 3
    "Wood is obscenely expensive these days." FTFY, @Criggie ;)
    – FreeMan
    Apr 16 at 15:29
  • 1
    I would expect to retrieve most of the wood here, unless it was ridiculously fastened. The main point is that you can get a secure convenient grip without levering on the drywall or the excellent flooring, at the cost of a few fillable holes in the (painted) trim board. Apr 16 at 17:50
0

you have got leverage, just lever against a large peice of wood instead of the wall directly. The wood should spread the load then there is no damage.

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