Well, you'd be right. It isn't rocket surgery... or brain science, or ... whichever dyslexic analogy you prefer to use but my point is this: Most people do it backwards.
Let me explain:
Here is an innocent piece of pine baseboard trim that was removed with the finish nails still attached.
I have to admit, just looking at that picture makes my feet hurt. I'm surprised I was able to capture that image without somehow stepping on it and puncturing through my work boots. One would think I have magnetic soles with my impalement history.
In any case, what most people do when they want to remove these nails is to pull out a hammer and bang the nails back out. Kind of makes sense, they were hammered in so doing the opposite would be the best way to get them back out, right?
This is what happens when you hammer them back out
See how the wood around the nail head has exploded outward as the head of the nail pushes back through? This happens because wood is porous. It has an inherent moisture content and when the head of the nail passes into it, the wood itself constricts and closes back around the head of the nail. Adding moisture laden products such wood filler for the nail holes and paint afterwards only makes it worse when you try to remove nails using this method.
Here's what mine look like, all rusty and abused.
They have a rounded face and sharp teeth (much like Rosie O'Donnell) perfect for grasping a nail shank.
Now, if any of you have ever seen Clint Eastwood in Two Mules for Sister Sarah or any Rambo-style action movie where someone was impaled with an arrow or similarly shaped instrument of doom, you'll probably remember what inevitably has to happen...
Right...You have to pull it through.
This is exactly what you want to do with a finish nail. Grasp the nail tightly and apply pressure against the surface of the wood where it penetrates. What you want to do is use the rounded face of the dykes to roll and pull the nail through the trim board until it comes out the back side.
I will now attempt to use a series of pictures to demonstrate how that is done. (view very slowly, I need to go get another cup of coffee)
If done correctly, when the board is turned over, this is what you'll see...
As always, there are a couple of things I should mention so read the disclaimers carefully.
This method doesn't work with framing nails or those with large heads (*ahem*....Rosie O'Donnell) but it's your safest bet when removing finish nails from door & window casing, baseboards or any moulding/trim boards that you plan on re-installing.
Rosie O'Donnell is a wonderful and talented individual. Any references to her were purely to make pulling a nail more interesting than, um.... pulling a nail.
Be sure to catch her cinematic genius in such films as Another Stakeout.
Before anyone dissects my analogy, if you are ever shot with an arrow? Don't pull it through. Also, don't pull it out. Call 911 immediately and seek emergency medical assistance... unless of course you are Rosie O'Donnell in which case, pull it through with your teeth.
Oh, and always remember... If you hate it? RENOVATE it!