Refinishing Wood Paneling

Refinishing wood paneling can completely change the ambience of a room from being one that looks tired and neglected into one that has a sense of utter style and opulence. For many years having wood paneling in a room was seen as rather ‘old fashioned’ and not in keeping with the modern minimalist styles.

However, as with many things, the style gurus are now proclaiming homes with original and classical wood paneling features to be back in fashion, so it could be an ideal time to consider refinishing that wood paneling.

Repairing Paneling

Regardless of the design of your wood panels some of them might actually need replacing, let alone refinishing. As you’re going to be refinishing all of the panels, that fact that by replacing some of them they’re going to stand out awkwardly, as they don’t have the color intonations that the others have built up over the years, really doesn’t matter. So, this really is your opportunity to replace any damaged or warped panels.

Although you might only want to replace one board, releasing one board from a section of paneling can often mean that several others have to come away too, due to the fact that they’re tongue-and-groove joined. However, follow this method and, if you only need to replace one board you should only need to take out that one board.

Near the top, drill a hole close to the edge of the damaged board; then use a dry-wall saw and cut down from the hole along the joint between the boards.

Using a chisel, lever the board out along the cut you’ve just made. Cut the replacement length to suit, cutting off the tongue and the replacement board can then surface fixed with nails with the nail holes being filled in and sanded smooth; alternatively use a grab adhesive.

Finish and Cleaning

The easiest way to fill any gaps that have appeared along the joints, or indeed any small holes that have appeared, would be to use a suitable caulk and then smooth it down with a glass paper when dry.

You’ll have to make the call as to whether this will be acceptable to you, rather than stripping off all of the panels to refit them or replace any panels with small holes in them. Basically it comes down to a question of if you have time to strip all the panels off or are reasonably skilled in using a caulk gun.

Dependant on the state of the wood panels you might need to re-varnish or even re-stain them. However, it could be that they just need a good clean. You’ll find plenty of preparatory wood panel cleaners at your DIY store but do make sure you choose one that is suitable for the finish on your panels; varnished, waxed, stained or natural.

Start cleaning from the bottom of the wood upwards to reduce the risk of drip lines occurring below the cleaning line. After cleaning one section wipe it over with clean water and then buff dry wit a soft cloth.

If the wood paneling is particularly dirty or scratched, you’ll need to completely refinish the surface. Use a fine grained glass-paper to remove any current layers of varnish or wax, spirit (Stoddard solvent) can also help here.

Having removed the old coatings and scratches, you could if you wish stain it a darker color and/or apply new layers of varnish or wax to give it a really great wood paneling refinished appearance.