How to Remove Crown Molding
Written by Milan Jara on 11th Jul 2022
Home renovation may require crown molding removal. There's an art to removing crown molding. Find out how to remove crown molding without damaging the drywall.
Crown moldings give your home an updated look. But for painting, replacement, or other stylistic renovation, you may need to remove it. Crown molding removal is a time-consuming process. But you can ace it.
Armed with a can-do attitude and the right tools, you can remove the existing crown molding and remove it without damaging the drywall. This article is for you if you intend to remove the crown molding in a few weekend hours.
How to Remove Crown Molding (Step by Step)
Regardless of the type of crown molding, the steps are similar or close to what we will describe. Crown moldings usually use adhesives or nail connections to fix them up. You will need to remove the fixtures when removing the crown molding. Glued-in moldings are more common. For wood and Styrofoam crown molding, the removal process is somewhat similar. Below are the steps to removing crown molding without damaging the wall.
1. Gather Supplies
Like all other woodworking jobs, you will need to gather supplies before taking on crown molding removal. Basic woodworking tools are all you need to do a professional DIY crown molding removal. Here’s what you will need:
- Step ladder
- Pry bar
- Utility knife
- Putty knife
- Goggles, gloves, and mask
Before commencing, wear your protective gear. Goggles are essential to prevent wall debris from getting into your eyes. Masks and gloves are additional protective gear but not mandatory. Depending on the height of your ceiling, you can choose the required length of a step ladder. In our experience, a sharp utility and putty knife expedite removal.
You can place some drop cloths beneath the crown molding to make cleaning easier. If you don't have drop cloths, alternatives are sheets or cardboard.
2. Score the Paint Seam
Using a sharp utility knife, slice the corners where the walls meet the ceiling and the crown moldings meet each other. A sharp utility knife cuts through the caulking and sealant, which usually fills the gap between the ceiling and the molding. It is essential to cut anywhere the moldings form seams. It is easier to remove partial crown molding than one long molding held by caulk.
3. Choose a Starting Point
The apparent natural starting point for crown molding removal is a corner. Like baseboard removal, choose a corner whose edge forms a coped or miter joint to begin prying the molding piece. Use a putty knife to create the starting point. You can use a utility knife, but a putty knife is more efficient. A putty knife should get you around 1/8 inch of space between the walk and the molding. Most homes have a place where there is a gap, which is a natural starting point too.
If the crown molding was nailed in, you would have to remove the nails from the backside to prevent damaging the face of the molding if you intend to reuse it. Tap the putty knife beneath the edge of the crown molding against the wall to create enough space to insert a pry bar.
4. Prying the Molding
Place the thin edge of the pry bar in the space you’ve created in step 3. If you don't have a prying bar, use a putty knife. You must be careful when using a putty knife and angle it upwards and beneath the crown molding rather than into the wall. Some homeowners complain of drywall holes when misusing a putty knife in the removal process.
Gently hammer the pry bar or the putty knife into the gap to begin prying. To ensure faster removal, move the pry bar beside the nails in the crown molding. You may have to ease on the putty knife and use your hands if you don’t have a pry bar. Have a pry bar for more efficient crown removal.
Use a lever motion to pry the existing crown molding away from the wall. Do not push the prybar beyond its limits. Gently repeat the lever motion until you start to break off the molding from the wall. You can slide a piece of wood or cloth behind the prying bar to add protection to the wall.
5. Pry the Molding Across Its Entire Length
Just like removing a glued-in wall panel, remove the molding in bits. Pry down and across the entire length of the crown molding. There's a temptation to use your bare hands. After all, you can remove the crown molding with your hands faster. Do not fall into this temptation. Removing the crown molding using your hands breaks and nicks the crown molding. Use a pry bar steadily.
After the crown molding is loose enough, use your hands to remove it. If it's still stuck, use a larger and flatter pry bar to pull the molding from joint to joint. Repeat steps 2-5 for the other sides of the wall to completely remove the crown molding.
If you only want to remove the molding, step 5 is your final step. You can clean up and store the tools in the tool store. However, some homeowners may want to paint the wall and reinstall the crown molding. Reinstalling crown molding is more straightforward than removing it. However, you have to prepare the crown molding for reuse.
Preparing Your Molding for Reuse
As previously stated, remove the nails from the backside of the molding. Use end-cutting pliers to pry the nails through the back. Do not use a hammer to pull the nails or hammer them out, as this will damage the crown molding. Remove all the nails using the pliers or pincers.
Use a putty knife to scrape off excess paint or caulk. Usually, crown molding has two coats lighter than the wall; therefore, it will be easier to remove the paint.
Sand the molding with 180-grit sandpaper. Gently sand the back of the molding to buff away surface impurities. Do not sand the front unless you can be gentle. Alternatively, vacuum the molding or use a lint-free cloth to wipe off the crown molding.
Removing crown molding without damaging the wall takes time. Setting up tools and using the proper steps will reduce the removal time and improve outcomes. Follow your steps to remove the crown molding in your home. If you intend to replace them, check out our collection of the best crown molding. Crown molding is a simple DIY task. However, you can always call in the professionals.