How To Remove Baseboard Trim Without Damaging The Drywall

Ryan Womeldorf
by Ryan Womeldorf

During the process of improving or renovating a room, it may prove to be beneficial if you remove the baseboards. It is important to note that you should reserve this for when there is chipping or degradation with the baseboards. Everything is a minor cosmetic issue and can be handled accordingly.

How you remove the baseboards is equally important. Do not just torque on the boards as it can damage the drywall surrounding the baseboards. Implement a little bit of care and a couple of small tools to remove the drywall either permanently or temporarily prior to reattachment.

Do You Need Trim or Molding Repair?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

Step 1: Score the Baseboard

Start by first scoring the entire length of one piece of baseboard. You will need a utility knife to do so and will make your cut where the baseboard meets the wall. There should be a thin layer of caulk and paint that fills in the gap between the two that will need to be cut away.

The point of scoring in this area is simple. You are looking to create separation between the wall and the baseboards without tearing at the paint or the paper from the drywall. Use patience and caution, though. The last thing that you want to do is gauge out a huge spot in the wall.

Step 2: Putty Knife

Using a putty knife of roughly six inches or so, gently work it behind the baseboard. Exercise patience and gently wiggle the tool while also applying forward pressure. This will help to loosen the finishing nails or pins that are holding the trim in place in that area.

Start at one end of a baseboard piece, carefully prying as you go. Keep going until the trim starts to come up all the way across. This step requires patience and can take a while to achieve but will ensure that you don’t damage either the baseboard or the drywall in the process.

Step 3: Trouble Areas

There is a chance that you may experience some difficulty in working the putty knife behind the baseboard. While this can be frustrating, it is important that you still remain gentle and cautious each step of the way.

Should you have difficulty creating space between the baseboard and the wall, bring a hammer into the mix. Gently slide the blade of the putty knife as far as you can under the baseboard and tap lightly using the hammer. If done properly, it should allow the putty knife blade to sink underneath the baseboard.

Step 4: Pulling the Baseboard Free

Now that you have properly loosened one piece of baseboard, it is time to remove. Pull one end of the trim free, using care along the way. There may be door trim or another wall creating a wedging action. Torquing on the loosened baseboard can lead to damage to the drywall.

Carefully rock the trim up and down. This will help to loosen that tight wedge until it gently releases. It will take a little bit of time and patience, but it is much better than having to replace a huge chunk of drywall.

Step 5: If You Will Be Putting the Baseboard Back

This step is only for those who intend to put the baseboards back into place. Make sure that as you remove them, you label or number each of the trim and lower edges on the back. Mixing up the baseboards can cause major problems when putting the baseboard back.

Continue removing the other baseboards on the adjoining walls, taking them all off or as many as you need. Make sure to pull out all of the finishing nails using side-cutter pliers to safely do so.

Should You Remove Trim Before Painting?

The short answer to this question is that it depends on your preferences. Removing the trim creates extra work before painting and it may not be a step that you want to take. But if you’re looking to avoid getting paint on the trim, the only sure-fire way to do so is to remove it.

There are reasons why you may want to remove the baseboards before painting, though.

  • Remove for a new look. If you’re looking to achieve an entirely new look, removing the old baseboards is the way to go.
  • Too damaged or worn. Even with the best intentions, baseboards can become worn, faded, and damaged over time. While there are ways to fix minor damages, it may be quicker to simply replace the baseboards. After all, the look of new paint can be degraded by banged-up baseboards.
  • New flooring. Installing new flooring will likely require the removal of old baseboards. You can always choose to put them back into place later but installing new flooring may go best with new baseboards as well.
  • Total remodel. In the event of a total remodel, keeping the baseboards is not likely unless they are in pristine condition. With new floors, new fixtures, and new painting, it only makes sense to implement new baseboards, too.

Why You May Want to Replace the Baseboards When Installing New Flooring

Installing new flooring is obviously going to create an entirely new look but there is another reason why replacing the baseboards is a good idea in this instance. When installing new flooring, the height can become an issue if the flooring will be underneath the trim.

Should the new flooring thickness be less than the previous flooring, you can install a quarter-round piece of trim to cover the space created. If the new flooring is taller and needs to go underneath the base, however, you will need to pull up the baseboards and replace them entirely.

Checking the Thickness of Your Flooring

Prior to the installation process, you will need to measure the thickness of the new flooring. Using your tape measurer, add together the thickness of the floor, the underlayment, and the adhesives being used. This will give you a better idea of how it will fit in with your current baseboards.

In most instances, the baseboards will have to be taken out before the new flooring can be installed but it varies based on the type that you choose. Measuring is a good idea because it saves the trouble of finding out that your baseboards need to go later on down the line.

Why You Wouldn’t Want to Remove the Baseboards Prior to Painting

Now that we know the reasons why you’d want to take the baseboards out, there are also reasons why you might want to leave them in. In most instances, you would want to keep the prior baseboards for simplicity sake.

  • Painting the walls a different color. The good news is that if you are painting your walls a different color than the trim, you won’t need to bother removing the baseboards. If anything, painting with a different color actually highlights the baseboards. Just make sure that the trim is painted uniformly throughout the home to provide a consistent, clean look.
  • Keeping the same flooring. When making some changes in the home, it is only natural to implement new touches. But if you’re planning on keeping the old flooring in place, it only makes sense to keep the baseboards, too. This means that you’re replacing carpet with carpet, laminate with laminate, and so on.
  • Caulking baseboards. Likewise, if you plan on simply caulking the baseboards, you will not want to remove them at all. Removing them only makes it more difficult to keep the line smooth and even as you caulk.

Do You Need Trim or Molding Repair?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

Related Questions

Should I Paint the Trim or the Walls First?

Maybe you’re not looking to do anything overly complicated like removing the baseboards, wanting to paint instead. That leads to an important question: paint the trim or the walls first?Most professionals tend to use a specific order when they are painting a room. First, they will paint the trim. Next, they will paint the ceiling if applicable. Finally, they will move on to the walls to finish up the project.The reason for this is that it is easier to tape the trim first. So, if you happen to get a little trim paint on the walls, it’s no big deal because you will just be painting the walls anyway.

What Kind of Paint do you Use on Baseboards?

While painting may seem super simple, there are considerations that have to be made. Using the wrong type of paint in the wrong place can lead to peeling, chipping, and an uneven surface finish. All that means for you is more time and money spent to fix it after the fact.So, if you plan to paint your baseboards and/or trim, it is important to have the right paint. The best paint for baseboards and trim is a semi-gloss. Semi-gloss provides a slight sheen and is quite easy to clean.Not only that, but it is durable enough that it should hold up over time. Granted, baseboards tend to not get as scratched and scuffed as walls do but it doesn’t hurt to have that added layer of protection.

Ryan Womeldorf
Ryan Womeldorf

Ryan Womeldorf has more than a decade of experience writing. He loves to blog about construction, plumbing, and other home topics. Ryan also loves hockey and a lifelong Buffalo sports fan.

More by Ryan Womeldorf