A Step-by-Step Guide To Painting Wood Paneling

Painting Wood Panel walls
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If the retro look isn’t exactly your thing and the paneling in your 1960s and 70s era home has you squeezing your eyes shut in agony, never fear!

You don’t have to remove it to bring your home into the 21st Century. Simply painting over paneling would bring a more modern, updated and brighter look.

Before you begin the wood paneling makeover project, gather the tools you will need to complete the job.

Items you will need

paint roller tray

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  • Soap and water

  • Sandpaper. 220 grit is best

  • Multi-purpose primer sealant

  • Interior latex paint in a color you love!

  • 3/6 roller cover for each of your paint brushes

  • Paint rollers

  • Paint roller trays

  • Paint brushes

supplies for painting wood paneling

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Be sure that you are confident in your decision of painting over paneling before you begin the project. If you aren’t sure you want to paint, pick an out-of-the-way spot on your wall and do test swipe or two and see if it speaks to your inner designer. If it does, you are ready to move forward.

You should check to ensure that the wall with the paneling you want to paint is made of real wood prior to beginning the project. Some wall paneling is actually made of vinyl that simulates how the wood looks.

Here’s how you check for this: Simply sand a small area of the wall. If it is a vinyl coating, it will come off quickly and you’ll soon spot the pressboard that is underneath it. If this is the case, be extra careful when applying both the primer and paint to the wall after you have removed the vinyl coating.

Clean and prime the wall

Before you paint, be sure the wall is free of dirt and oil. Use a mild detergent (dishwashing liquid works great) to wash the wall down.

cleaning wood panel walls

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After the wall has completely dried (this can take a few hours), break out the 220 grit sandpaper and lightly sand it down. To make the job easier, consider using a pole sander or ease your work with orbital sander. After the wall has been completely sanded, use a damp cloth to wipe away the dust and debris.

Sanding wood paneling

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If your paneling has grooves that are 1/8 an inch or less and you want to minimize their appearance, use a putty knife to apply a lightweight spackle to fill them in. After the spackle has dried, use a sanding block to make it smooth and give it a uniform appearance.

Now it’s primer time. Mask off the ceiling, trim and baseboards before you begin. Be sure to use a stain blocking primer and a 3/8-inch roller cover for the job.

best primer for panelling

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Tip: If your paneling has knots, use a shellac-based primer to prevent the color of the knot from bleeding through the primer.

With your brush, apply the primer along the perimeter of the paneling. Begin at the top corner of the wall and then continue along the ceiling and baseboards.

Use the brush to remove any excess primer that gathers in the grooves. It will take at least 24 hours for the primer to completely dry and it is best to apply two coats before you paint.

Paint wood paneling

After you’ve primed the wall and its dry, you can move on to painting. Pour your paint into the tray and work the roller around until it is completely covered. Starting at the top corner of the wall, paint from top to bottom in three-foot increments.

painting wood paneling

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After the first coat of paint has dried (again, give it 24 hours) apply a second coat in a similar manner.

When your DIY wall paneling paint project is complete, you will have changed the color of the panels themselves, but the grooves will remain their former color.

before and after painting wood paneling

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A Step-by-Step Guide To Painting Wood Paneling was last modified: October 31st, 2017 by Paul Moore
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