How to Paint Wood Wall Paneling Like a Pro

table and plant in front of painted wood paneling wall
Photo: Marty Baldwin

Take your home out of the '70s by painting wood paneling. We'll show you how simple it is to give wood paneling a clean, modern look with paint.

01 of 09

Preparation Is Key

table and plant in front of painted wood paneling wall
Marty Baldwin

If you're tired of the wooden wall panels in your home, give them a new look with a fresh coat of paint. 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. Follow our step-by-step instructions for how to paint wood paneling, and get a new look in no time.

02 of 09

Clean Paneling

wiping surface of panelled wall with wet rag
Marty Baldwin

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

03 of 09

Fill Nail Holes

adding putty to hole on wood panelled wall
Marty Baldwin

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 be covered with paint. Allow the putty to dry, then sand the spackling flush with the surface. Wipe away any dust with a tack cloth.

04 of 09

Sand Paneling

sanding stain roughing up finish on wood panel wall
Marty Baldwin

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 better. Don't get carried away and sand the surface down to the bare wood—just enough to rough up the existing finish.

05 of 09

Remove Trim

removing baseboard with pry bar to sand
Marty Baldwin

If you plan to keep the trim's color as-is or paint it a shade different than your wood paneling, remove it from the wall. Use a prybar and gently pull it loose. If you plan to paint the trim the same color as the wall, lightly sand the adjacent wood trim on baseboards 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 dust or particles. Touch up any rough sanding spots along the way.

06 of 09

Caulk Cracks

adding caulk paste in gap between wood panel wall and ceiling
Marty Baldwin

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

07 of 09

Protect Surrounding Areas

add painters tape and flatten to protect ceiling
Marty Baldwin

This step is important to keep your room clean while painting wooden wall panels. First, cover the floor with drop cloths large enough to reach along the paneled walls. The paint might drip, and the drop cloth will save your flooring. Next, mask any areas you wish to protect, such as vents, doorways, or windows, with painters tape.

08 of 09

Prime and Paint Paneling

paint priming panelled wall with roller
Marty Baldwin

Prime paneling with a latex, stain-blocking primer. We recommend having your primer tinted with a colorant similar to the finished paint for even coverage.

Use a roller with a medium nap to paint 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 the entire span of the wall with ease. Once the primer has dried, finish it with two coats of latex wall paint.

09 of 09

Modern Painted Wooden Wall Panels

table and plant in front of painted wood paneling wall
Marty Baldwin

While painting over wood paneling takes a bit of extra preparation, the end result looks clean and crisp. Simply painting the trim involves much less work than tearing it out and replacing the room with drywall. Also, we love the textured look of painted paneling! Try this intermediate painting project and see how easy it is to upgrade your space over a weekend.

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