Paneling used to be more popular than it is today. During the 1950s and 1960s it was all the rage to install it in the home’s den, game room, or formal dining room. It is preferable to remove it, repair the underlying drywall, match the texture, and then re-paint. But – this is a lot of work.
Consequently, many homeowner find themselves asking how to paint paneling.
Another situation is in new home construction where paneling has been applied. Many designers realize that while wood color is cozy, it also makes the room darker and creates the illusion of a smaller space.
The answer is to paint the paneling with a lighter colored paint.
Prep the Paneling Prior to Painting It
Paneling can either be solid wood, wood veneers, or cheaper press board emblazoned with the look of wood. With either existing or new paneling the first thing to do is prepare the surface.
Is there of any kind of damage to the paneling? Any gouges or nicks should be repaired with wood putty.
Remove all of the switch plate and electrical outlet covers. Put them in a safe place where you can find them later.
Some paneling has vertical indentations or “paneling grooves” to give it a “plank” look. If the end goal is to have a smooth appearance, skim the paneling with drywall compound. Two coats may be required.
Sanding is the second step. For existing paneling, this gives the primer a better surface to adhere to.
An alternative to sanding is to apply a deglosser. This should be applied with a clean towel, wiping with the grain. When dealing with new paneling, sanding the surface not only supports adhesion, but also eliminates surface imperfections.
After sanding or deglossing, the paneling should be painted with a good quality primer. Carefully mask off the edges of the paneling before doing this.
Be sure to use painter’s tape, not masking tape. Painter’s tape can be removed well after the primer and paint has dried. Using masking tape, on the other hand, runs the risk of taking off the new paint. Better safe than sorry.
Priming the Paneling
Once the decision is made which type of paint to use, oil based or water based latex paint, apply the proper kind of primer. There is a difference between oil based primers and water based primers. Use the proper one.
Has the paneling sustained any damage from smoke or water damage? Use a primer-sealer with a stain blocker built into it. These formulations are also effective against “cedar bleed”.
Although the primer can be cut in with a brush and rolled on, a better finish is achieved using a paint sprayer. Whichever application method you choose, lay down drop cloths to catch all the overspray or splatters.
Painting the Paneling
Once the primer has dried, the painting of the paneling can begin. Plan on applying at least two coats. What sheen of paint should you use? Painted paneling is attractive when painted with an eggshell or satin finish. In a kitchen area you might want to step up to a semi-gloss because it lends itself well to cleaning.
You might need two coats of paint. If so, allow the first coat to dry completely before applying the second coat. Once the final coat is dry, carefully remove the painter’s tape and replace all of the switch plate and electrical outlet covers.