Cutting Installed Chair Rail

With the right tools, surgically removing existing trim before setting a new cab can be the simplest course. September 30, 2010

I need to install some new cabinets and casing in a room that already has the base and chair rail installed. What is the best way to cut that molding after it has been installed?

From contributor D:
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor M:
I recommend the Fein Multimaster. Or you could use a flush cut hand saw.

From contributor L:
If you are good enough, a Sawzall with a fine blade would work.

From contributor A:
You can tune up Contributor L's cut with an 80 grit disc on a grinder also known as the "detailer". We do our best boat work with Sawzalls and grinding wheels.

From contributor J:
I hate to say it, but you may be in for a stinker of a surprise. I install every day, and have found that if you are in a corner, it is near impossible to get the cuts on both walls right as the cabinets will be held out or in by forces of nature. Also, a cabinet cannot just slide into the trap created by cutting the trim, as this is a (small) four corner box. Point being, I just give up quicker than France and pull the trim off in the install area and cut and reinstall it after the cabinet is in.

From Gary Katz, forum technical advisor:
If you do this often, like we do changing out casing and having to cut base and chair back, a Multimaster, no question. Itís easy to use, cuts clean and accurately and there is very little vibration. There is very little noise and it is extremely precise. There are other choices for multi-function tools (these things sand and scrape, too).

From contributor M:
I would just remove the trim and then cut it to fit once the cabinet is installed. Cut the caulk and pull it off the wall. It doesnít take much time.

From contributor M:
I like to add that it is just as easy to remove the trim and cut it back after the cabinet(s) is installed. But what if you are dealing with an old house that has the old style plaster? Every time you try to remove any trim, that plaster wants to crack or fall off and and it's not easy to patch. What about baseboard that was installed before the floor went down? Where the trim man put nails at the bottom of the trim and the hardwood floor is tight against the baseboard? Itís very hard to get to it. That's why I would rather cut the trim with a Multimaster. No cutting of caulking and no re-caulking. Use putty nail holes and re-paint the trim. I think homeownerís like that much better.

From Gary Katz, forum technical advisor:
I very rarely find it easier to remove the trim. There's always something: furniture in the way, carpet and tack strip, old trim splits, you can mar the wall easily. It's almost always much faster to cut the base and chair rail with a Multimaster. I used to hate cutting molding in place with a backsaw, but with a Multimaster it's so easy and perfectly clean. I'd feel silly doing it otherwise.

From contributor P:
Multi tool is the way to go. I have been installing cabinets for 25 years and it is the best way to deal with the problem