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How to Paint over Paneling

Renovate your walls without removing the paneling; Just Skim, Prime, and Paint!

© 2008 by ; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile

A Kid Painting Paneling

A kid painting paneling.

This article was updated on 03/01/20

This article explains how to paint over existing paneling. If the walls and shag carpeting make the home look sad, fix the walls without removing the paneling. Skim, prime, and paint!

This is an easy job to do yourself but if you want to hire a pro check out a recommendation service like Angie's List, or ask around with your friends. Don't play yellow pages roulette. The same vetting and hiring tips to follow with roofing contractors apply with painters.

There was a time when paneling was much more in style than it is today. Around the 50s and the 60s it was a big thing to install paneling in the home’s formal dining room, the den (especially), or the family game room.

But if it’s in the home and needs to go, it’s best to remove the paneling, refinish the drywall underneath, re-texture, and finally re-paint. However — this is a load of work. Anyone wanting to take an easier route, read on, and learn how to paint paneling; an easy DIY project. The steps are similar to painting a new sheetrock wall.

Another possible scenario involves new home construction. The new home owners may just decide that the wood color is cozy, but it makes the room too dark, as well as creating the sense of a much smaller space.

Prep the Paneling Prior to Painting it

Paneling is either solid wood paneling (most expensive), a hardwood veneer, or the cheapest stuff — press board with a somewhat-convincing wood “picture” on it if one doesn't look too closely. The initial task is to prep the paneling surface. Is the paneling damaged in any way? If it’s gouged or nicked up, smooth it out using wood putty and then sand lightly.

Now remove any switch and electrical outlet covers. Store them somewhere handy so they can be re-installed later. Paneling typically has vertical paneling grooves. If the goal is to a smooth or textured look (the usual goal), skim the paneling surface with mud (drywall compound). Two coats may be needed. Sand until smooth. Now give it some character by using one of these drywall texturing techniques.

Paint the Wall with Primer

The next step is to paint the wall with primer. The purpose is to leave the wall with a good surface for the paint to stick to. The choice of which type of paint will be used dictates the kind of primer to use, oil-based or water-based latex primer. The difference is important. In almost all cases latex is the best choice.

If the paneling has been damaged from smoke or any water, use a primer-sealer containing a stain blocker like Kilz. This will also prevent against “cedar bleed”.

Begin by masking off the edge of the baseboard and any door or window trim. Be sure to use quality painter’s tape, not regular masking tape. Painter’s tape is easily removed after both the primer and the paint has dried. Masking tape will take off the dried paint in spots. Better safe than sorry.

Painting the Paneling

As soon as the primer is dry, it’s time for painting the paneling! Again, use painter's tape if you don't feel comfortable cutting-in with a tapered trim brush. The highest quality paint will cover in one coat. Decide which sheen of paint will be used. Paneling painted with an eggshell sheen or a satin sheen is the best idea. Or in a kitchen, a semi-gloss is a good choice because of its ease of cleaning.

Using a lower quality paint will result in needing two coats of paint. In this case, give the first coat time to dry completely and then cut-in the borders and roll out the second coat.

Finishing the Paneling Painting Project

When the second coat has finished drying, finish the paneling painting project by carefully removing the painter’s tape and replacing all of the switch plate and electrical outlet covers. Now it’s time to hang the pictures!

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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