How to Paint Wood Paneling

Paint Wood Paneling
Take your home out of the 1970s by painting your wood paneling. Better Homes and Gardens contributing editor Danny Lipford shows you how.

Preparation Is Key

If you're tired of the wood paneling in your home, you might want to consider painting it. While painting paneling isn't hard to do, proper preparation is important to allow the paint to adhere well. Without taking appropriate measures, you could end up with an uneven paint job that you'll have to redo later on. 

Clean Paneling

Start by wiping the paneling clean with a damp rag to remove any dust or dirt. If grease or other problem stains are present, remove them using an appropriate cleaner, then wipe with a clean, damp rag. Be sure to get in the crevices of the panels, which tend to collect a lot of dirt. Make sure the wall is completely dry before moving to the next step. 

Fill Nail Holes

Putty any nail holes or other imperfections with spackling compound. Use a putty knife to best spread the compound over the holes or imperfections. Don't worry about the color of the putty—it will dry neutral and covered with paint. Allow putty to dry, then sand the spackling flush with the surface.

Sand Paneling

Sand the paneling with 100 grit sandpaper using a pole sander, sanding block, or orbital sander. This will take the sheen off the finish, which will allow the paint to adhere to it better. Don't get carried away and sand the surface down to the bare wood—just enough to rough up the existing finish.

Sand Trim

Lightly hand sand the wood trim, such as baseboards and door and window facings, to allow the paint to adhere to it. Once everything has been sanded, go over the walls and trim with a clean, damp cloth to remove any sanding dust. Touch up any rough sanding spots along the way. 

Caulk Cracks

Using a caulk gun, apply caulk to any cracks and gaps where the paneling meets the baseboard or around doors and windows. This will give your room a nice, polished look. Allow the caulking to dry thoroughly before painting. Consult with the manufacturer's instructions to see how long you should wait. 

Protect the Surrounding Areas

This step is important if you want to keep your room looking clean when you're done. Cover the floor with drop cloths large enough to fit up all the way to the walls. Paint may drip and the drop cloth will save your tile or carpet.  Also, mask any areas you wish to protect with painter's tape, such as vents, doorways, or windows. 

Choose a Roller Cover

Use a roller with a medium nap to paint the paneling. It should have a long enough nap to fill the vertical grooves in the paneling, but short enough to leave a smooth surface. We also advise using a roller with a large or adjustable handle. This will help you reach all areas of the wall with ease. 

Paint Paneling

Prime the paneling with a latex, stain-blocking primer. To improve the hiding ability over the dark wood, tint the primer with colorant so it is similar to the finished paint. Once the primer has dried, topcoat it with two coats of latex wall paint.

Editor's Tip: Take a trip to The Home Depot and chat with a paint associate about what PPG options are the right fit for painting over your paneling. 

Paint Trim

Prime the trim with a primer, as well. When working with trim, it's best to trade the paint roller in for a 4-inch paintbrush. This will give you better control of your tool and a more even application. Topcoat the trim using either oil or latex enamel as desired.

A Modern Look

While painting over paneling takes a bit of extra preparation, the end result looks great. And it involves much less work than tearing it out and replacing the room with drywall. Try your hand at this intermediate painting project and see how easy it is to upgrade your space in a weekend. We think you'll be glad you did!

Danny Lipford: How to paint wood paneling.

How to Paint Wood Paneling

Check out how easy this project can be. Painting expert Danny Lipford walks us through his fool-proof process for painting wood paneling. The results are smooth, even, and updated! There's nothing stopping you now from tackling that room makeover. 

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