How to Remove an Old Chair Rail

chair rail
  • 1-2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-60
What You'll Need
Utility knife
Putty knife
Flat pry bar

A chair rail is a piece of wood molding that is usually positioned about 3 to 3½ feet off the floor. Its primary purpose is to prevent chairs from hitting the wall and chipping the paint or damaging wallpaper. Nowadays, chair rails are generally used for more decorative purposes than actual utility. In more modern quarters, extravagant and expensive chair rails can be seen accentuating interior design. If you want to improve and redesign your dining room, for example, changing them to a more fitting design would not be a bad idea.

Step 1: Loosen the Adhesive

Cut along the sides of the rails using the utility knife. Run it between the trim and the wall, and between the trim and the other trim. Certain adhesives and sealants may have been used in order to latch the trims together and to the wall. These are also used to cover uneven surfaces on the wall under the trim. In some cases, if the adhesive is too hard, angle and bend the knife toward you to make a gap. Do this at several points along the length of the trim. Eventually, when you have created several breaking points, you will be able to slide the knife across. This process is to loosen everything prior to removal of the chair rail.

Step 2: Create a Gap

Grip the putty knife firmly by its handle and stick it in the space you were able to create between the trim and the wall and/or between the other trims. Carefully start on one side and slide the putty knife to the other end. This will further open a gap between the chair rail and the wall, making removal of the whole thing easier.

Step 3: Loosen the Trim

With the putty knife still inserted between the wall and the trim, insert the pry bar between it and the trim. Wedge the curved or hooked portion of the pry bar between these two. The putty knife will act as a guard from any damage the pry bar may cause if it gets in direct contact with the wall. Pull the pry bar towards you and let the curved portion revolve around the putty knife. Once you have accomplished this, the trim should now lift from the wall further and will now be easier to pry away.

Step 4: Remove the Chair Rail

Carefully remove the trim by moving both the putty knife and the pry bar horizontally, along the length of the trim. Nails that are holding the trim to the wall will probably be left behind in the wall and will not go with the trim as you pry it off. These can be removed later with the hammer. Continue the process until you reach the end of the trim and completely remove it from the wall.

Step 5: Remove the Nails

As mentioned earlier, the nails that did not come out with the chair rail when you pried it off can be removed by using a hammer or pliers. Be careful in removing them so as not to damage the surface of the wall. Now a new chair rail can be attached to your wall.