How do I renovate tricky wall paneling?

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I recently purchased a home with some interesting textured wall paneling throughout the entire place. I believe the panels are MDF and do not have anything behind them except for insulation and beams.


I am debating if I should rip them out and replace with drywall - or attempt to smooth, mud/skim coat, and paint over them. The panels are uneven in some places so I am worried painting won't be enough to hide the imperfections & grooves, but drywalling the entire house will be quite expensive due to all of the doors and trim work required.


Any tips or advice out there? Photo attached :)

q how do i renovate tricky wall paneling
  14 answers
  • Flipturn Flipturn on Jun 08, 2021

    Even if you put all the money and work into trying to smooth, mud, sand, and paint, the walls are never going to look the same as drywall, simply because this type of panel surface does not accept finishing products and respond the same way to procedures as sheetrock does.


    If you think that you may not be satisfied with under-par results, then I would advise to tear all this out, and being with new correct materials.

  • FrugalFamilyTimes.com FrugalFamilyTimes.com on Jun 08, 2021

    I think you’re right about this being MDF panels. It will be a ton of work to try and smooth them - and even then I’m not sure you’d be happy with the results.

    You could maybe wallpaper?

    if you did redo with drywall - it would give you the opportunity to add insulation - just a guess but it probably needs improving - which is a money saver long term.

  • I would drywall one room at a time. Since the panels are uneven, I don't think you'd be happy with the results of painting them.

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Jun 08, 2021

    Since the panels are uneven in places and there are grooves, skimming might help to an extent, but that leaves the panels that still have a pattern and texture.

    A suggestion to resolve this, or some of it is textured wallpaper.

    Another idea is to remove the MDF and replace it with a new MDF, there are many attractive panels.

    Have you considered shiplap?

  • William William on Jun 08, 2021

    I doubt they're MDF. Look like particle board or hardboard with a textured vinyl overlay. Similar to mobile and modular homes. Way too much work to skim coat, sand and smooth with drywall compound. All the trim would still need to be removed. The skim coat may not even last due to the shiny look of the surface. Drywall may be costly but less work and you'd get better results. You would be able to check out the insulation and add/replace if needed by removing the panels.

  • Dmholt4391 Dmholt4391 on Jun 08, 2021

    Remove it or cover it up.

  • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Jun 08, 2021

    You might try taping and mud on the seams and then wallpaper.

  • Dee Dee on Jun 08, 2021

    Even if you fill the groves in with drywall compound, they will be uneven and never look right. You could cover the paneling up with a different paneling of your choice maybe one that is wide like drywall. Or you can Wallpaper the area after you mud, but you may still see the seams.

    Drywall can be installed over wood paneling that is in good condition. Removing paneling can be a time-consuming and costly so many homeowners opt to drywall over the paneling. Installing drywall over paneling is a workable solution if it is done properly.

  • Dee Dee on Jun 08, 2021

    Drywall can be installed over wood paneling that is in good condition. ... Removing paneling can be a time-consuming and costly so many homeowners opt to drywall over the paneling. Installing drywall over paneling is a workable solution if it is done properly.

  • Cheryl A Cheryl A on Jun 08, 2021

    drywall is your best bet for even wall textures - or you could cover it with shiplap or reclaimed wood

  • Mogie Mogie on Jun 08, 2021

    I realize installing dry wall would be a little more costly and require more work but in the long run you will be glad you bite the bullet and did that.

  • Betsy Betsy on Jun 09, 2021

    Hi Jasmine: Boy, that's an odd wall covering :) I can think of three things. One, of course is new wallboard. Check with your local Habitat for Humanity Restore: https://www.habitat.org/volunteer/near-you/find-your-local-habitat. Or, you can paint it with liquid sandpaper and then apply a textured wallpaper, but I think you will still see some of the ridges. Do one room at a time so you don't feel so overwhelmed and you won't have to spend so much money at once. The other thing is to go on Freecycle.org or Trashnothing.com and see if anyone has any wall board they want to give away. Those are 2 really neat sites, they are all over the US and everything on there, whether you are getting or giving, must be free.


    Good luck

  • Jasmine Jasmine on Jun 09, 2021

    Thank you all for your detailed responses! This is incredibly helpful. Sounds like I just need to bite the bullet and go for drywall.


    I’ll take a stab at removing the panels in one room to see how challenging it is and if it might be better to just hang drywall over it.


    Thanks again! Excited to start the project :)

  • If you want a temporary fix, you could try peel and stick wallpaper but that won't tackle uneven walls. The best way to do this is take on one room at a time as budget and time allows, replacing with drywall. Don't put drywall over the panels, that's a recipe for disaster.


    You'll be happier with drywall, the walls more insulated for it, and the rooms quieter. Plus, you'll greatly increase your home's value.

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