Dark wood wall paneling sure had its heyday, and it surely is over! Wall paneling can be tricky to update, and whether you can resurface it by filling in the grooves depends on if your paneling is solid wood or plywood.
Here are some tips and suggestions for how to update wall paneling in your home.
Solid Wood Paneling
If your paneling is solid wood made from individual, tongue-and-groove or V-groove boards, don’t try filling in the grooves, since it will tend to crack and fall out as the wood shrinks and expands with the seasons.
To give solid wood paneling a new look, either lightly sand and paint the wood or remove the boards and replace with drywall. If the paneling is knotty pine, be sure to use a stain blocking, oil or shellac based primer to help prevent the resin in the wood from bleeding through the paint.
If the paneling is the thin plywood variety that was popular in the 1970s, you have a few more options:
Painting Plywood Paneling
You’d be surprised how far a nice, light paint color can go in updating the look of wall paneling. If your paneling flexes or gives when you push on it, painting is probably your only solution, since filling the grooves will tend to pop loose over time.
To paint plywood paneling:
- Step #3: Paint Paneling: Finally, apply at least two coats of latex wall paint. The finished wall will still have grooves, but they will be much less noticeable, and the overall look will be dramatically improved.
Resurfacing Plywood Paneling
If the plywood paneling is rigid and doesn’t flex when you push on it, you may be able to fill in the grooves with drywall joint compound before painting to give a smooth surface.
Follow these steps to resurface plywood paneling:
- Step #7: Paint Paneling: At long last you’re ready to roll two coats of high quality, latex wall paint on the paneling!
Removing or Covering Over Paneling
If you’ve come to the conclusion that all that filling and sanding is a lot of work, you may want to skip redoing the paneling in favor of a permanent fix.
If the moldings and trim are installed over the paneling, as is usually the case, start by removing them. Use a hammer and flat pry bar to take off any quarter round, baseboards, crown molding, chair rail, or door and window casings. Mark where each molding came from on the back, and save them for reuse later.
- Option #2: Cover Over Paneling: Alternatively, you can install a layer of 1/4” drywall directly over the paneling, making sure to nail or screw the drywall into the wall studs. Next, tape and fill the seams and nail or screw heads as you would any drywall job. This may sound difficult, but compared to filling and sanding several hundred paneling grooves, a few drywall seams don’t seem so labor intensive! Covering the paneling will cause the wall to be thicker, so some of the moldings will to need to be trimmed, and the casings around doors and windows may need shimming to cover any gaps.
- How to Paint Paneling (video)
- Whether to Use a Brush or Roller When Painting Paneling (article)
- How to Cut and Hang Drywall (article)