How to 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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Fill Nail Holes

    Putty any nail holes or other imperfections with spackling compound. Allow to dry, then sand the spackling flush with the surface.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Caulk Cracks

    Apply caulk to any cracks and gaps where the paneling meets the baseboard or around doors and windows. Allow the caulking to dry thoroughly before painting.

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    Protect the Surrounding Areas

    Cover the floor with drop cloths, and mask any areas you wish to protect with painter's tape.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Paint Trim

    Prime the trim with a primer. Topcoat the trim using either oil or latex enamel as desired.

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    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.

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