Painting drywall and wood paneling

Heather Kuhl
by Heather Kuhl
We have atrocious 70's fake wood paneling going up our stairwell and into our finished attic. Pretty sure that it's possible to paint it, but a friend told me that even with primer the paint will rub right off (is a fairly high traffic area). Also, our upstairs is a finished attic, but they didn't finish off the walls (I'm pretty sure it's the drywall as you can see the tape between the wall panels. Is there a way to disguise that to make it look more finished (other than wall paper)...was thinking of some kind of stucco type situation, but I don't want to make it look even cheesier than it already does. thanks!!
  11 answers
  • Nancee Barnett Nancee Barnett on Jun 11, 2013
    Finish the drywall by getting drywall compound and smoothing it over the tape. Sand, until smooth and feathered into the wall. Then paint with a paint that contains primer. As far as the paneling, yes you can paint it. Try a section with paint that has a primer in it. Test it 24 hours later to see if it rubs off. If not, you're good to go, if it does you will have to sand it first, just enough to make the paint stick.
  • Marci Keith Marci Keith on Jun 11, 2013
    I have that same paneling in my basement.... It's been painted twice. I've had no problem with the paint "rubbing" off..... using a paint other than flat may help.... good luck!!!
  • Kimberley N Kimberley N on Jun 11, 2013
    Paneling is easy to paint but prep is important before painting. Go over the walls lightly with a fine grit sandpaper just to rough up the surface. Each section will only take a couple of minutes. Once complete, wipe down the walls to remove any dust. Now you are ready to apply the primer. Apply by roller- Zinsser 1-2-3 Primer (found in HD or Lowes) and cut in the remaining areas with a brush. Zinsser comes in oil or a water base and I find the water based product very effective. Cleans up easy too. Once primer is dry, roll on your wall paint (water based). I have painted many paneled walls and have never seen paint rub off. The key is the prep- sand, prime and then paint. Best of luck!
  • Postcards From the Ridge Postcards From the Ridge on Jun 11, 2013
    Hi Heather. We've got 3 different types of 60's paneling in our house and I've painted most of it. If you can get the taped areas repaired, the painting part isn't too bad. I've got a post here on hometalk if you want to see how I did ours. Here's the link:
  • Kimberly Barney Kimberly Barney on Jun 11, 2013
    Oil based primer works best on paneling. You can also fill in the grooves if you want to have it look like a flat wall by using the same drywall compound that you are using to fix the areas where the previous owner did not put enough compound over the tape.
  • Heather Kuhl Heather Kuhl on Jun 11, 2013
    thanks so much everybody!!!
  • Sherrie Sherrie on Jun 11, 2013
    You can use either oil base which means you put up with the smell and eyes burning or water base. I have used both and I like water base better. Do a light coat let dry, I let it dry for at lest 48 hours so it sticks and cures. Then two coats of paint. Let each coat dry 24 hrs. The attic I would get fry wall mud it's cheap and mud it and sand it. It's a mess but if they have taped it and gotten it ready the rest isn't easy but it will look so much better!
  • The issues with paint not sticking is due to the products used in the past to clean the paneling. Most folks during the day used lemon oil or similar types of products. The thin wood coating on the surface absorbed this oil making it difficult for paint to adhere to the surface. You would combat this by using a good high quality oil based primer after cleaning and lightly sanding the surface of the panel. If you want to remove any groves in the paneling you simply purchase sizing paper. Its a wall paper product that comes in larger slightly wider rolls. It comes pre-pasted, but you want to add additional paste to the mix to wet it. And you can purchase this in a smooth finish or a textured pattern finish. You apply it right over the paneling, again after a slight sanding to increase the ability of the glue to bite into the panel surface. Much like wall paper you brush it and carefully push the seams tight together so to hide them once the wall is painted. If need be a small amount of spackle once the paper dries may be needed between the seams to fill in any gaps that occur as the sizing paper dries and slightly shrinks. Let the paper dry for several days. Once dry paint it as it was new drywall. Good primer then color of choice. We did this in our family room several years ago, and it still looks just like dry wall that was painted. You cannot tell that the wall was paneling.
  • Pauline Pauline on Sep 24, 2015
    For the wallboard in the attic, do a textured painting. There are any number of easy ways to texture the walls, everything from using a scrunched up plastic bag to using a spray gun. The Internet is full of ideas on DIY textured walls.
  • Patricia Patricia on Sep 24, 2015
    Prime it or use two coats. Looks great.
  • Susan Susan on Oct 21, 2015
    i used tsp to wipe down walls first before primer. use a good name such as kilz in a waterbase form, 2 coats if necessary before painting final color. take the time to let paint dry between coats. i have no problems with paint rubbing off in the years since doing my house project.