How to Brighten Up Dark Wood Paneling

To paint over wood paneling:

  1. Lightly sand the paneling with 100-grit sandpaper to remove any gloss.
  2. Use a damp cloth to wipe any sanding dust off the walls.
  3. Prime the walls with a quality primer and allow to dry.
  4. Apply two topcoats of wall paint.

For a smooth look, after priming:

  1. Fill the paneling grooves with drywall joint compound and allow to dry.
  2. Sand the joint compound smooth.
  3. Apply a second coat of joint compound and allow to dry.
  4. Sand the second coat so it’s smooth with the wall.
  5. Use a damp cloth to wipe any sanding dust off the walls.
  6. Prime and paint the walls.

Watch this video to find out more.

Further Information

Danny Lipford: Loraine asks, “What’s the best way to paint over dark paneling?”

When I was kid, the old, dark paneling like this was so popular. Nowadays, people want to brighten things up a little bit. And whether you have real wood paneling, like this, or sheet paneling, the process to brighten it up is pretty much the same.

You need to start out with 100-grit sandpaper, and just sand all of the gloss off the wood surface, wipe it down, follow that with a good quality primer. And after the primer’s dried sufficiently, then would be the time, if you had the sheet paneling, to eliminate all those little grooves by using drywall joint compound.

Six-inch drywall knife, probably take a couple of coats with a little sanding in between to create that nice, smooth surface. Then, two more coats of a very good quality wall paint, and you’ve brought your paneling and your home right into this century.


  1. I have a home of 1100sf with every wall paneled w/dark paneling. I am going to start in the bathroom first to brighten it up. I cannot wait to see the difference. Thanks for the how to instructions. Linda

  2. What’s the fastest and easiest way to lighten up tongue and grove wood paneling that’s been stained and polyethylened? I’d like more of a driftwood or whitewashed look to it without loosing the integrity of the wood.


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