Painting and Updating: Wood Paneling

At some point in my home’s history — the owner thought wood paneling would be a nice update. Over the years, many old houses have had their plaster walls covered with inexpensive wood paneling. The reasoning is simple…it is inexpensive!

However, wood paneling has become a bit outdated and often makes rooms feel a little cheap/gloomy.

One option is to cheaply paint the wood paneling and give it a nice updated feel. I’ve done this several times in houses and feel confident in the quality of my work. Paneling generally has a shiny coat and requires close attention to detail in order for paint too adhere.

Paneling Paint 2018
Before Picture

First: Clean the wood paneling using warm water and vinegar. This removes the buildup of oil, grease, and dust.

Second: Prep the wood by sanding; use a semi-fine grit sand paper and make sure you rough up all areas. I recommend sanding up and down in the direction of the panels. Circle sanding might show through your finished paint. You do not need to sand all the way through the finish — just insure it is rough to the touch after sanding. Wipe off sanding dust with damp paper towels.

Third: Brush a quality interior primer on the wood paneling. Allow this to dry completely for 24 hours to increase adherence. I always use the KILZ Hide-All primer which costs under $15 a gallon.

Fourth: Choose your paint color and buy a quality paint + primer in one. I prefer the look of Satin finishes for interior work. Semi-Gloss often ends up too shiny for living spaces. I brush the first layer on to insure I get all the nooks within the paneling. After this I roll on another coat of paint for a smooth finish.

Paneling Painted 2018
After paint: Light Gray with slight purple hue

This is an easy project that can be done in 1-2 days. The most time consuming step is lightly sanding the glossy finish off of your wood paneling.

Let me know if you have questions.


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