How to Remove Nails from Baseboards and Trim

How to Remove Nails from Baseboards and Trim

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Have you ever struggled with taking old nails out of trim or baseboards?  It can be quite frustrating getting them out while trying to save your boards. The good news is, we’re here to help!

We’re going to go over the dos and don’ts and a few tips and tricks to help you along the way so you can feel more confident with your DIY projects that require nail removal from trim and baseboards!

Can You Remove Brad Nails from Trim and Baseboards Without Causing Damage?

The simple answer here is yes, although actually doing so can sometimes be a real chore. There are a handful of different tools that will get the job done. You can use any good pry tool such as the claw end of a hammer, a pry bar, a small nail bar, or even some pliers.

The older the wood is, the more fragile it’s going to be also, so keep that in mind. Newer wood is going to be able to bend a little more and be much easier to work with without damaging. Older baseboards or trim will be more susceptible to snapping and splintering due to being more dried out than fresh wood.

The recommended tools would be whatever pry bar or hammer you choose, pliers, a putty knife, and a utility knife with a good blade. Don’t fret if you don’t have all of these tools, but they will make for an easier job if you have them available.

 How to Remove Nails from Baseboards

Now that we have an idea of the tools we’ll need, let’s go over the process of pulling the nails out and saving your baseboards.

Step 1: Get Your Baseboard Off of Your Wall

The first thing to do is to get the baseboards away from the wall. The easiest way to achieve this will require a putty knife or a sharp utility knife. A utility knife is preferred.

Use the knife to cut any paint or caulking on the baseboard so that you don’t make any extra work by ripping the paint off the walls. If using the putty knife though, simply put it on the caulking line and very gently tap it with a hammer to cut through the caulking and paint along the entire baseboard.

Here we’ll need one of those prying tools we mentioned before. Be very careful to not pry directly against any drywall, it’s not as strong as it looks! Using thick cardboard or a thin piece of wood between the prying tool and drywall is preferred to avoid accidental holes in the wall.

Now simply pry the baseboards off from one end to the other very carefully, moving to the next spot if you feel too much resistance. Keep going up and down the baseboard prying until you have completely removed it.

 Step 2: Remove Old Nails from Your Baseboard

The next step is to get all of those old nails out of the baseboards so that they’re reusable. Sometimes the nails will come right out if you flip the baseboard over and tap the nails with a hammer but they are very thin gauge nails and will usually just bend over when hammered. Hammering them out can also cause damage to the front of your wood if not done very carefully.

This might be where the pliers will come into use. Using pliers that have good grip will help here as any slipping could cause accidental damages to the wood.

Take the pliers and grab the nail on the back side of the baseboard and twist and push it through the baseboard until the head comes out of the other side far enough to get ahold of. Repeat that with however many nails you need removed.

Once all of the nails are accessible from the front of the baseboard, you can either pull them the rest of the way out with your pliers from the front, or use a small nail bar to pry them out. Be careful not to indent or hurt your baseboards while doing this if they’re to be used again. The cardboard trick works here as well if prying is needed.

Step 3: Get the Baseboards Ready for Reuse

The last thing we’re going to do here is to get those baseboards freshened up for reuse. Now you could sand them if you wanted to refinish them and paint them again or stain them. Also, wood filler or paintable caulking works great for filling in all of those old nail holes so that the baseboard can go back on looking new again.

Usually, a baseboard is only good to be sanded and refinished a couple of times. That’s because very time they’re sanded, you’re losing some of the integrity of that board.

How to Remove Nails from Trim

The biggest difference between removing nails from baseboards and trim are their location and sometimes the size. Baseboards are generally found along the floor line and between 3 to 8 inches tall. Trim could be anywhere in your house and is usually smaller in size.

The methods for removing nails in the two are very similar.

When working with trim though, take extreme extra caution as the chances of it snapping are much higher due to its smaller size. We wouldn’t recommend trying to hammer nails out of trim at all, only very careful use of pliers to push and pull them through like we discussed above.

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks

Lastly, here are some things to keep in mind to make the job easier:

  • One of the biggest keys with this kind of task is patience as it requires time and tedious work. Getting frustrated or in a hurry will surely cause more work in the end.
  • Put cardboard or a thin piece of wood between your pry bar or hammer and any flooring or drywall you might have to pry against. It will keep you from having to do extra repairs because, trust us, those nails holding that trim can be stronger than the wall. Even with that extra protection though, use caution when prying against anything. That strong tool won’t hesitate to scuff up or go through what it’s being pried against!
  • Using the right size tool will also help more than you would think so adjust your tool sizes based on the project at hand.


Now that you know the best ways to get those pesky little nails out of your trim and baseboards, it’s time to dive into that next project. Before doing so, though, you might want to read about how to remove nails from wood in general to further expand your knowledge.

Remember, this can be a meticulous task so bring your patience and all of your best tools!