Removing decorative trim from an old piece of furniture can be done in a few easy steps. Do it right and you won’t damage your dresser, cabinet, or wardrobe.
Furniture makeovers have become very popular. More and more people are seeing the potential in upcycling old dressers, cabinets, and cupboards. But what if you are new to this furniture flipping thing? What if you have basic questions on how to do all the different steps involved in giving an old piece of furniture a new lease on life? Well, we have got you covered. Today we are sharing what we have learned about removing decorative trim from dressers, cabinets, or even fireplaces.
The steps involved in removing decorative trim from furniture are always the same: gather the right supplies, assess the situation, test and try until you have found a successful method, repair the damage and prepare your furniture for the next step.
What is decorative trim?
Many pieces of old furniture have decorative trim or molding. In essence, all the decorated parts of the furniture that are not part of the structural built can be considered trim. Decorative trim is almost always added after the piece of furniture is assembled. For most furniture pieces there are two basic types of decorative trim: crown molding and appliques. Molding is the beveled, half-round, or rope-shaped frame around doors or on the sides of cabinets. Appliques are decorative cutouts that are added to the center of doors, or drawer fronts.
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Most decorative trim on old furniture is made of wood. Today you can also buy self-adhesive trim and appliques made from metal, plastic, or foam that you can paint and use to give new furniture an old look.
Related Reading: How to find the best furniture at the thrift store
How to Remove furniture Trim without damage
Today we’re talking about removing decorative trim. Whether it’s an armoire, chair, bookshelf, or side table, sometimes there is trim that has simply seen the end of its life on the piece. Whether from damage or just for a fresh look, removing the trim is the goal.
So how do you go about removing the trim from your piece without damage to the wood underneath?
Supplies to Remove Trim and Fretwork from Old Furniture
A few basic supplies are all you need to remove trim from furniture. What the best piece of equipment is for your job depends on what you’ll find on close examination.
It helps to have the following tools at hand:
- Flat head screwdrivers, fine edge chisels, flexible putty knife
- Razor edge, sharp utility knife
- Pair of pliers
- Rubber mallet or hammer
The best approach to remove decorative trim
There are a few ways to go about this, depending on the trim. Take a closer look: do you see any small trim nails or staples in the trim? Also, check along the edges to see if there is any wood glue or paint sealing the trim to the piece. If there is paint or glue, you’ll want to run a razor edge along the seam to break the seal and allow for easier removal without impacting too much of the surface of the piece of furniture.
After slicing the seam, gently insert a flat head screwdriver, putty knife or fine edge chisel (or in a pinch, a butter knife!) at the end of the trim piece, close to a corner. Look for a little gap that will be a good starting place to slide your tool under. Use a rubber mallet or hammer to gently tap the end, slowly prying the trim away from the piece of furniture.
It’s important to move slowly and pay attention, the goal is to try and get the entire trim piece off in one go. If not, you may, unfortunately, end up really having to use that chisel and break the trim off in pieces. Most trim glue does lose some of its strength over time, so if it’s an older piece, chances are good that the trim, even if nailed or stapled, will release pretty easily from the piece of furniture.
How to get old glue of furniture in a few simple steps
After removing all the pieces desired, be sure to scrape away any remaining glue. If there are large and stubborn pieces of glue left you can either use a chemical glue stripper or try to weaken the glue with a heat gun. Heat will generally make old hardened glue soft again so you can scrape it off.
The last step before you can start painting or staining your piece is to sand away any remaining glue that may have seeped into the surface of the furniture, as it will affect how the wood stain or paint appears on your newly refurbished piece. Make sure to wear a mask, as glue dust is not good to inhale!
Furniture can so easily be reworked and given a new life with just a little bit of time and elbow grease, and the tired piece you find at a yard sale or inherit from a friend can swiftly be updated and personalized to fit your unique style.
Comment below if you have any thoughts, or if you’ve tried this yourself!
priyanka raval says
Nice article. All designs are good and very creative. Furniture design is really nice, it really looks great.
Thank you for the information. We’ve been trying to figure out how to get the trim off an old free-standing cabinet and we feel more confident now.
One thing though, I believe you mean to use a flat head screwdriver (which is flat)rather than a Phillips (which is round) to slip under the trim to remove it.
Do you mean straight blade screwdriver, rather than Phillips? I can’t see how a Phillips would work.
Yes I do, thank you for pointing out that mistake!