Painting paneling??

by Sharon
Our Family room is wall to wall paneling. I have not seen this type of paneling before and the "nails" are wood also. Would love ideas for either painting/white washing or other idea. It is in an 1830's house which does not have gyperock so it would be an expensive mess to remove. Thanks,
painting paneling, paint colors, painting, wall decor
painting paneling, paint colors, painting, wall decor
  38 answers
  • Mary Insana Mary Insana on Oct 26, 2013
    Painting would work great on your walls, just be sure to use a good tinted primer first. Tinted primer would be best on a dark wall. What type of ceiling do you have? Check out one of my old posts about foam crown moulding. Very easy to put up, inexpensive and looks like you put a lot of money into it. Years ago in a different house I had paneling and it wasn't the nice wood paneling. It as a laminate type and the wood grain was almost like a thin layer of paper with a shiny finish. Lovely, I know lol. I put wallpaper at the top then a chair rail and then left the bottom fake wood. It worked for me as a single lady owning my own house with little spare money back in the 80's.

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 26, 2013
      @Mary I. Thanks Mary, our ceiling is painted white. I will go check out your posts.

  • As Mary stated you can easily paint the paneling. you need to buy a good primer for this project (I prefer Zinsser). Then paint at least 2 coats to cover well. IN this room you may want to go with a antique white if you leave the trim alone or if you paint the trim semi gloss white you could paint something very nice as Oatlands Subtle Taupe by Valspar at Lowes (it is very similar to Dust Bunny that I painted my hallway). It is a great neutral color and would even work with the trim now. Is the room well lit with lots of sunshine? If so then maybe even a deep color.

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    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 26, 2013
      @The Garden Frog with C Renee Thanks!

  • Suzy Myers Suzy Myers on Oct 26, 2013
    I have painted paneling before. Make sure it is clean before you start. I used Kilz first then painted it and it looked great! Look at some of the tinted whites the Valspar has. They give you a touch of color without overpowering the room.

  • Waysouth Waysouth on Oct 26, 2013
    I too have panelling that I'm not sure what to with. The room is a bit dark as it is. What with changes in fashion and peoples taste, I have been thinking of chalk paint, one of the reasons being, that without varnish to seal, it might be easier to remove should trends change

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    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 26, 2013
      @Waysouth - good idea, although I've never attempted anything like this before.

  • Simple Joys Simple Joys on Oct 26, 2013
    I noticed the boat display on the wall. Is the theme of your room nautical? I think a color wash similar to whitewashing would really be stunning in this room. You also mentioned you have a abundance of light/windows, keep that in mind when choosing your whites so that it not "stark white". I have had good luck with the Zinsser as well. Good luck and post pics when done. Don't be intimidated..have fun!!

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 26, 2013
      @Simple Joys Thank you Kris....I was thinking that as we do have lots of windows in this room and French doors leading to the deck. Thanks for the encouragement.

  • Carla Gruen Carla Gruen on Oct 26, 2013
    My parents used a masking tape in the "groves" and then painted the dark paneling with light colored paint. The room bounced light and seemed massive in their walkout lower level. They had originally intended to remove the tape after it was painted but enjoyed the look so much they just left it on the paneling.

  • Lori J Lori J on Oct 27, 2013
    I am going to plug Ace's new line of paint. Colors are rich and the coverage has been wonderful, but what I love most is that they will mix a free quart for you so that you can be sure you are in love with the color. I just finished woodwork in a room using their product and am comparing it to Valspar (which I used recently in another room). Liked it much better.

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 27, 2013
      @Lori J Thanks Lori that's a great idea, I'll check it out.

  • A New Leaf Painting, LLC A New Leaf Painting, LLC on Oct 27, 2013
    Mary did mention this, however, I feel its worth repeating! Depending on the type of paneling you have installed, it is highly recommended that you apply an oil base primer to seal the paneling properly. All paneling tends bleed through badly, and a quality primer will save time! Being a professional painter, homeowners tend to skip steps thinking they will save time. Although this can help at times, this is usually not the case with paneling.

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 27, 2013
      @Tdrake I appreciate your professional input, thanks.

  • Janet Smith Janet Smith on Oct 27, 2013
    As I have said before, the key to a good paint job is definitely in the prep work. Clean the paneling well to get rid of dust, grime. I would sand the paneling before applying primer and sand between each coat of primer and paint so you have a smooth finished product. I realize that is a lot of work, but skipping prep work will not give you a good final result.

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 27, 2013
      @Janet Smith Thanks Janet......nervous about the job, not the work just the courage to do it.

  • Deb S Deb S on Oct 27, 2013
    I would put wood putty into the cracks between the panels and on the nailheads. The type of putty that dries to a hard sandable, paintable finish. Smooth it with a 3M sanding block and it will look like drywall. Anything else may peel away and you don't want that to happen.

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 27, 2013
      @Deb S oh my that's going to be a lot of putty. It's a huge room, but if I decide to do it I want to do it right. Thanks.

  • Brenda Bee Brenda Bee on Oct 27, 2013
    I painted the panelling in my basement. Washed it first with TSP and rinsed. Used really good primer (latex/oil friendly) then Behr paint. It turned out wonderful. Go ahead and do it. The "lines " in the panels are not that noticeable with a light colour of paint..

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 27, 2013
      @Brenda Bee Thanks that's good to know about the lines.

  • Margene Margene on Oct 28, 2013
    I have painted panelling many times and it looks great! Brightens the room up so much. I used a cover stain first and then painted it! Good luck!

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 28, 2013
      @Margene do you mean you stained it first and then painted it? did you prime or just use the stain as a primer?

  • Nest Home Improvement Nest Home Improvement on Oct 28, 2013
    I like the paneling but maybe I am just old school. I would keep it the way it is and not paint over it.

  • Karon Nelson Roberts Karon Nelson Roberts on Oct 28, 2013
    Wipe down the walls good! BTW, I love the paneling-- I' love everything wood and the older there better. And I would not paint over it, Just wash it good and use a stain, Do Not use putty on the walls--your not repairing the paneling. In a corner(behind a chair or couch) Paint an area..let dry good then try to peel the paint off. If the paint peels off, them you need to sand the walls. If paint stays on walls... Have fun painting :). Again, Do Not Use putty on walls..You are not repairing your walls, just painting them. Once you picked your color--I think a Beachy/Lighthouse them would look good with all the windows-- paint an area, and then wipe off. This will let some of the wood show through--like a weather-beaten boards at the beach. What ever you decide, do your research, and wash/wipe the walls good-- prep work will give better finish. Good Luck!!

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 28, 2013
      @Karon Nelson Roberts Oh thanks Karon, I do love the paneling too. Still not sure if I can convince my hubby to let me paint it. I too am thinking a beachy look would be perfect.

  • Diane C Diane C on Oct 28, 2013
    Our home was built in the 1890's. Paneling must have been the thing for remodels years ago, because, our living room and bedroom are paneled. My husband primed and painted these rooms not masking the groves. The rooms now seem to belong to the age of the ho use. My suggestion is, prime and paint a small area without covering groves, see what you think, before going to the trouble of masking.

  • Wally R Wally R on Oct 28, 2013
    We moved into a 1970's era house with a large "office" that was covered in paneling. We had a professional put up a heavy duty wallpaper that covered it nicely. I've also painted paneling in the past. so it's all a matter of personal taste and the effect you want to achieve. Just do the prep work first, as everyone has said, and it should go well & look good!

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 28, 2013
      @Wally R Never thought of wallpaper - another idea to contemplate....thanks.

  • Kim Dagenais Kim Dagenais on Oct 28, 2013
    The wood kind of looks nice. You could put a chair rail and paint above or below. Even sand and stain the bottom a dark brown, and paint the top above the chair rail an off white or light beige colour. Since it is real wood it would be shame to tear it all down. Or if you are into a funky design, paint each plank different colours, and stay within a three to four colour limit. Then again if you paint it all a light colour and like a beachy type theme it would work perfectly. Let us know what you have decided. Have fun.

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 28, 2013
      @Kim Dagenais great idea - not one I thought of, the wood is nice and in great shape, and unlike any paneling I've seen before, paint above might be a way to 'freshen' the room. Thanks!

  • Molly Meredith Molly Meredith on Oct 28, 2013
    I'm getting ready to paint my paneling and don't understand the reason to 'prime' since primer is already in certain paints. I thought about mixing paint in joint compound plus adding liquid nails or something. Skim coat it then wait a minute to do whatever texturing. That is another option too. Also after texturing happens I will use a glaze with whatever hint of color to add 'fun' to the walls as well. Yes, I make everything complicated and tend to overwork certain projects but it's fun learning in the process.

  • Lynn Lynn on Oct 28, 2013
    You won't believe how it brightens your home!

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 28, 2013
      @Lynn I'm sure it will although this room receives a lot of light from all the windows and doors.

  • Patricia Patricia on Oct 28, 2013
    I keep reading about "chalk paint" that will cover anything and needs no sanding first. Would that work here? (with or without filling in the cracks) I have an ugly old 1930's buffet with ruined finish that I'm planning to try it on soon. There are expensive ready-made versions of chalk paint and also lots of crafter home recipes for making it, usually by adding plaster of Paris to latex paint--just Google it.

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 28, 2013
      @Patricia I have never used chalk paint but I understand that it may not be as durable on walls. I appreciate your input. Good luck with your buffet.

  • Becca Frierson Becca Frierson on Oct 28, 2013
    I understand you wanting to paint your paneling.... I had toooo much paneling... I like color ... if I want wood I want barn wood ... it isn't hard to paint paneling and it will brighten your rooms sooo much if you are afraid of seeing the lines in the paneling, texturing the wall will keep those lines from showing. back when I did mine, i washed the wall with bleach to clean any oil off the wood.. then painted it, but now the new paints might not require anything but paint... it will look amazing ... it will still be real wood .... it doesnt change the fact that it is good paneling ... just has some character .. :) good luck

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    • Nancy Spencer Carlson Nancy Spencer Carlson on Oct 28, 2013
      @Becca Frierson I textured some paneling without spackling the seams first. The seams showed through. I recommend using lightweight spackling to fill the seams before trying the texturing. It's a fast job if you use the lightweight stuff. (It looks and feels a lot like cotton candy - the tub will almost feel empty!) A coat of primer is a must. It will keep the wood from bleeding through. Even an extra coat of paint won't fix that.

  • Karenelle Karenelle on Oct 28, 2013
    My friend wanted to change her paneling but also could not have it removed. She took clothsline (available at the local hardware store) and glued it into the seams/cracks and then painted over the clothsline as she painted the wall. it gave it a neat effect as it was now convex and not concave. I have seen the paneling after you have covered the seams/cracks with wood putty and you would never know it was paneling. Looks like just like regular wall board.

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 28, 2013
      @Karenelle That's another great idea, thanks so much.

  • Osborn Robert Osborn Robert on Oct 28, 2013
    I have over 25 years in all phases of residential construction from Paneled rooms and Finished Basements of the '70s to outside living areas (decks & patios) of the late '90s. Part of what I write may be redundant as I did not have time to read every post. 1st, is it real paneling or a 1/4" laminate? Real paneling will be 3/4" thick with cut nail (square nails) holding it in place.. This was quite common in homes that were 150 years+ OR rural homes were built up to the depression era. Rather than vertical board paneling as you have shown, most higher end homes used wood paneling and wainscoting which was cheaper than plaster.If it is real, those wooden "nails" are actually wooden plugs used to cover srews and nails. Normally, wall paneling does not get plugs (only random width or wide plank flooring. However, if it is real and was starting to cup, I have seen screws and plugs installed to pull the wood back flat. If it is real and old, it is quite valuable for restorations and renovations. But you can still paint it as anyone who would take it down to reuse it will refinish it as well. If it is after market paneling (from the 60's-70's it will be 1/4" thick. It may be nailed or glued directly to a plastered or gypsum wall, a common practice to cover up cracked or damaged plaster walls, To see if it is 1/4" remove a wall socket or light switch cover and check around the box. You will be able to see the thickness there. ALSO, check the groves. If they are very shallow, it is thin. Deeper groves (lap joint) will be 1/2 the thickness of the panel or about 3/8".. Now, if it is real and you still want to paint it, go ahead. Just clean it and scuff it with some fine sandpaper (most paneling has a top coat of varnish) before putting on a good primer. If it is 1/4' and real wood, the same steps can be taken to paint it. HOWEVER, as wood got more expensive, paneling was made with a photographic finish. In other words, a photo of wood paneling and printed on paper that is glued to the wood. If I were to guess, I would say that is what you have. If you look at the paneling, note a specific wood knot or grain shape in one of the boards. Check to see if it is repeated elsewhere. If it is, then it is more than likely Photographic. Paneling is made by peeling the wood off a tree the way you peel a paper towel off a roll. Anyplace there is a branch on the tree, will show as a knot on the panel, If it is real, it will get progressively smaller and change shape slightly. The smaller diameter the log, the closer the knots. If it is a photographic finish, it will be like painting wallpaper, you must make sure it is tight to the panel or it will peel off. but it can be done. GOOD LUCK....

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 28, 2013
      @Osborn Robert thank you so much for your input, something to think about for sure. I'll check it out closer, I do know the wood is not all the same size, there are varying widths of the paneling. Some of the 'strips' don't have any discernible pattern.

  • S S on Oct 28, 2013
    Your paneling actually looks pretty nice. I had some old dried out ugly stuff. So I used the TSP on it. Then I got a Cherry stain with poly. I used that flat paint brush and a pan. So I stained my paneling. And "oh my!" It turned out beautiful.

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    • Nancy Spencer Carlson Nancy Spencer Carlson on Oct 28, 2013
      @S Such a great idea about the old dried out ugly paneling. My trailer bedroom and hallway have that same real wood plywood paneling in desparate need of work. I'll have to give it a go with some stain/poly.

  • Letha Letha on Oct 28, 2013
    I had a wall something like that years ago and wanted to lighten the room and give it some color. I gave the a light sanding, used a water based paint brushed it on and wiped most of it back off. If you do this test a small first. Just a little paint soaks in to the wood so the wood can still show through.

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 28, 2013
      @Letha thanks, it's nice to know you had a good experience with it. Did you prime first?

  • Margene Margene on Oct 28, 2013
    I used "Klitz" I think that is how you spell it. It's by the paint, and if you ask for it they will know right what you need. Good luck...I am sure you will love it.

  • LeSannO LeSannO on Oct 28, 2013
    I painted my mom's paneled family room. We cleaned the wall good, filled in nail holes as on any other wall surface, did a layer of Kiltz and came back with color...Our daughter just bought an older house that had paneling in every room and the hall..they did the same. We consulted with professionals and they said you could sheet rock over it or paint over the paneling so we did.. the lines of the paneling give character to the walls. Makes a world of difference and really upgraded our daughter's house. We used a semi-gloss laytex. If you wanted to give it some texture and take away the panel lines you could do a form of chalk paint. I did it for my kitchen that I couldn't get the wall paper off of. I painted one layer of paint in the color I wanted for the walls. To cover the lines and give a paster texture, I bought a bag of texturing powder. I mixed some of the texture into the paint enough to give it a slight thickness. I applied the mixture to the wall making a stucco design...the texture powder gave the paint that dull look of chalk paint. I want to put a glaze over it but havent's fine without it though.

  • Jill J Jill J on Oct 28, 2013
    Try Annie Sloan chalk paint. No need to prime--it's pretty amazing.

  • Wilma Hurley Wilma Hurley on Oct 29, 2013
    Make sure you sand It alittle the shinny surface will peel ...And prime then paint ....If not when heat hit It will bubble .

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 29, 2013
      @Wilma Hurley I have taken from this discussion the need to prime, never thought of the heat factor though and we use lots of heat here in Maine come fall/winter. Thanks!

  • Becca Frierson Becca Frierson on Oct 29, 2013
    either spackling or filling the lines with some texture..(about same thing I guess) would take care of the lines.... when I texture, I use a pretty heavy texture and I don't drag it down... I leave it like a stucco and lines are going all directions. but yes if you do a light texture or drag it down , they probably would show ... they used to make a product that was like a wall paper that filled the seams, but I wouldn't go to that trouble ... then you have really covered up your paneling .. ha ha

  • Kim Dagenais Kim Dagenais on Oct 29, 2013
    Hi Sharon I was thinking of you when I was on Houzz today. Go to this link Not only check out the first page but the pages to follow. If you are going to paint your paneling white for example, this will give you an idea of what it will look like. See how it brightens up the rooms and give it a beach type feel? Hope this helps you visualize what the panel would look like painted. Once it is painted, there is no going back, at least not without a little trouble.

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    • Jennifer Vallot Jennifer Vallot on Jun 19, 2016
      Thank you for the link. It gives me some awesome ideas. I, too, have dark paneling that I want to lighten up after my house purchase finalizes.

  • Kim Dagenais Kim Dagenais on Oct 29, 2013
    You are so welcome. I can't wait to see the finish product. LOL Hope you have fun and take lots of pictures.

  • Sherrie Sherrie on Oct 29, 2013
    Preparation is key to making anything look finished and professional. Cleaning, sanding, prime, and painting. This includes chalk paint. I have taken many classes bought many books and re- painted everything possible. Preparing your furniture is the key to having the finish you want. Even CeCe's classes they wanted a table I was painting sanded. Anne Sloan also believes you need to prepare you pieces before you paint. Use common sense when refinishing a piece of furniture. I have a very shiny table I am refinishing using CeCe paint and I am priming I first. Because the paint is expensive and I want this piece to be professional when it goes into someone's home. Preparing is key to having nicely painted paneling. Cleaning TSP, lightly sanding, priming, painting , sanding I between coats. It will look professionally finished. But I really also liked the idea of staining it also. You have some wonderful idea's!

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 29, 2013
      @Sherrie thanks Sherrie, I am leaning towards whitewash or light but not a bright white paint.

  • Sherrie Sherrie on Oct 29, 2013
    I agree and I painted my mothers and her room was dark so when we did it the room flooded with light. You will love it. To bad your not closer I would help! I just re painted my whole house. I paint every other year because we use wood heat and I don't like dirty walls! Drives my husband nuts!

    • Sharon Sharon on Oct 29, 2013
      @Sherrie gee thanks Sherrie......that would be nice & fun!

  • Wilma Hurley Wilma Hurley on Oct 29, 2013
    Your Welcome

  • Laurie Powell Laurie Powell on Jan 15, 2015
    You could use barn wood & put it right over the paneling, on your largest or main wall. Then using a light color from a piece of barn wood, paint the rest of your room.

  • Sue Ryan Sue Ryan on Aug 16, 2016
    If you like to look of barn board. You could sanded to get the finish off. Then you would do a variety of white, grey and brown, to get the same look. If not, I would sanded and paint it white.