Asked on Feb 06, 2015

How do u paint paneling and make it look decent?

by Debbie
The house I am renting has 4 out of 5 rooms covered with paneling! Help!!!! I want to live in a home not a dungeon. That's how it dark. If someone can help or give ideas I would love to hear them. Thanks in advance!!!
q how to paint panelling, painting, wall decor
  27 answers
  • Hi Debbie! I would start by cleaning them well to remove any dust, dirt, oils, etc., then scuff them with a sanding sponge. You don't have to sand a lot, but just scuff enough where the paint/primer will adhere better. Then prime it...I like Kilz primer myself...then paint it with your paint of choice. I like Benjamin Moore paints...they are higher in price, but go a long way and you don't have to use as much. I would use a roller cover to apply the paint that is thick enough to get in the cracks of the paneling if you are going to leave them that way. Best of luck!!

  • Ginger Robinson Ginger Robinson on Feb 06, 2015
    I had the same thing in my home when I moved in. I cleaned the walls and used primer, making sure I got in the grooves and then painted. What a difference, light and airy. In the 15 yrs I've lived here I've painted the walls 3 times to change the feel of the room.

  • Workerbee Workerbee on Feb 06, 2015
    The first step is making sure it its OK with your landlord.

    • Barb Burnham Barb Burnham on Feb 07, 2015
      Amen! Step 2. If answer is yes, will you reimburse materials from receipts and take it off my rent when complete since I am improving YOUR house. 3rd. I do not agree to use a heavy nap roller because your walls will become texture from the paint. Once I took flexible, paintable caulking and a 6 inch putty knife to all the seams and ribs using damp rag to really smith any outside edges floating them into the flatness of the paneling. I primed and painted. Gripper primer negates need for sanding first. You could pick one color but two slightly different tones of that color and paint stripes with no seam work. Just know you have to paint seams with a brush then walla with "smooth" or sponge roller.

  • PainterNoni PainterNoni on Feb 06, 2015
    I agree with workerbee.......the landlord my not want his walls painted. If not, perhaps there are temporary coverings you can use.......and take with you when you move.

  • PainterNoni PainterNoni on Feb 06, 2015
    Is this real wood paneling or laminate?

  • Colimbia1 Colimbia1 on Feb 06, 2015
    If you want to eliminate the paneling look you can fill the grooves and sand it even and then the Kilz, etc.

  • Sherry Sherry on Feb 07, 2015
    First check with the landlord for sure! Then wash with TSP solution (TSP is available at hardware and paint stores. Directions on container for mixing and use.) Rinse well. Let dry. Prime. Let dry and paint. I have done this several times and it works great. I did not find it necessary to rough up the surface but it wasn't a high gloss surface I started with.

  • Judistar Judistar on Feb 07, 2015
    Chalk paint may work if you aren't supposed to paint. It is supposed to come off without damaging the original piece. I painted my paneling in my last home and used the TSP first. Prime, paint and then did a technique called dragging. I used a darker color and mixed it with glaze. The directions were to drag your "dragging" brush down a straight line which the paneling provided. It turned out very nice.

  • Judistar Judistar on Feb 07, 2015
    You can also crinkle up brown paper bags and paste them to the wall and paint over them. Or buy the thin insulation sheets and tape or staple them to the wall and paint over that. I put a stucco on first and then painted. Or put batting on the wall and staple fabric over it. Or just hang curtains. I used to live in a 1912 house in Virginia so I tried lot of things to make it fun.

    • See 3 previous
    • Loni Loni on Feb 08, 2015
      @Jen Alley I would love to see a picture of that, sounds very interesting, were they random pieces, how did you match the sides?

  • Karen Karen on Feb 07, 2015
    I painted my paneling. Be sure to use flat paint as that will be less likely to show grooves, etc. I think painted looks very nice.

    • See 2 previous
    • Shari Shari on Feb 07, 2015
      @Barb Burnham I 100% agree with you about not using flat paint on walls. I had always used an eggshell or satin sheen on the plaster walls in our former home but I used flat when we first moved to our current home 5 years ago because I had heard it hides imperfections better...and good grief our (drywall) walls here have their share of imperfections. Well, no flat does NOT hide them better and it just looks so...flat...and dull. Smudges don't wipe off easily either. I'm in the process of repainting some rooms with an eggshell sheen, which is not shiny at all but has more *life* than flat. In my opinion, eggshell looks MUCH better than flat.

  • Dorothy Dorothy on Feb 07, 2015
    Check with landlord (might even get something off the rent if you do something he likes). Clean and primer. Use joint compound and spackling knife and "stucco" making surface as smooth or rough as desired. Dry for at least 48 hours. Then paint with lighter colored warm toned paint, second coat with second color that is close to first and wipe as you go. Finally, glaze with "antique" color and again, wipe as you go. Completely covers the grooves, lightens the color, sticks like glue and gives totally different look.....can go warm adobe or Tuscan look easily.

  • William Tillis William Tillis on Feb 07, 2015
    Before doing surface refinishing, it is a good idea to clean the surface of any grease or grime that would interfere with the bond of the new surface. The vertical grooves of the paneling add to the height of the room. In order to change the ambiance of the room, you might consider using a limestone stain. You would brush the stain on, wait a bit and with cloths or paper towels wire the excess away, leaving the wood grain finish only in a much lighter tone.

  • Nancy Spencer Carlson Nancy Spencer Carlson on Feb 07, 2015
    TEMPORARY fix: Here's a thought. It could get expensive... but if you only do one wall per room, to give the room some personality and lighten it up a bit, it would help a lot. Of course, you COULD do the whole place! lol! Staple fabric (or painters cloth, painted whatever color you want!) to 1"x2"s. Keep in mind that painters cloth will have seams in random places, so if that's an issue with you, stick to sheets or yard goods. Put saw-tooth hangers on back of the 1"x2" so you can hang them on the walls as you would a picture. Put a hanger on both ends of the 1x2 and 2 or 3 in the middle depending on the weight of the cloth. If you have to use more than 1 piece of wood, you could duct tape the seams to keep it a bit more stable and of course, use a hanger at the ends of that one, too. I would recommend marking the board at 2" in from each end and then at a specific distance (say, 24") so that you can easily put nails in the wall to hang the piece without having to take elaborate measurements. Hang about an inch from the top of the wall so you (and one or two of your friends!) have room to lift the curtain up on the nails. PERMANENT fix. The biggest thing is to make sure it's okay with the landlord to paint the paneling, of course. That being granted, remove the strips that cover the seams. Use a lightweight spackling (I like Red Devil from Ace) and fill in the groves. It's very time consuming, but oh so worth it! The good thing about the lightweight spackling is that you can flatten it out with the putty knife and it dries very fast. Use very little at a time. Run the knife flat across the groves at an angle instead of straight across or up and down - it will stick in the grooves better. When the spacking is dry - 30 minutes or so - take a damp sanding sponge or regular sponge and lightly run up and down the groove to blend the edges. Prime. Paint.

  • Linda Linda on Feb 07, 2015
    As a landlord I would be furious if a Rentor painted paneling.

  • Centrd Centrd on Feb 07, 2015
    The first home we bought had that same fake wood paneling painted peach. Wow. We painted it white and it made a world of difference. It actually looked like real wood (caulking the seams between sections helps before painting). It lightened up the space beautifully. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. If your landlord has okay'd it, I'd be all over that. It's seriously the easiest and cheapest option. I'd paint it a nice white for the most realistic wood look. Painting fake paneling some other color is still going to look pretty fake, imo. You can also use liquid sandpaper on such a large surface area...would be easier than hand sanding. I've used liquid sandpaper a bunch of times and it works well. You can just mop it on and wipe it back down with water. If your landlord has NOT okay'd painting (although I'd sure try to talk him into it, it would probably greatly increase the value of his property), then there are some removable wallpapers out there these days. Might get pricey to do 5 rooms. Another idea I love is using fabric as wallpaper. You just starch it well and stick it up...pull it down when you're ready to move. Since your paneling looks like the faux stuff, the grooves shouldn't be too deep, but if they do show through the fabric, you'd get a better look using some lightweight quilt batting behind the fabric. But then you'd have to staple the fabric along the top. Maybe trim it out with some binding tape. I've seen designers do that with canvas binding and upholstery tacks and it looks really nice. If you like the fabric wallpaper idea and want to get the best possible price on fabric, look into theater supply companies. You can get huge pieces of fabric for very reasonable prices. Shop around, because I've seen some places that charge a lot, but others that are ridiculously cheap. They come in 14 foot wide and 22 ft wide fabric, so you can easily do a whole wall. Or you can also put regular fabric up just like wallpaper in strips. Especially if you're looking for some pattern. Here's a tutorial and example of fabric wall paper done by Miss Mustard Seed.

  • Becky Klein-McCreary Becky Klein-McCreary on Feb 07, 2015
    I've painted both laminate and real wood paneling and it looked great! Wiped it down and used either flat or satin paint. No big deal to it.

  • Barb Burnham Barb Burnham on Feb 07, 2015
    Shari- appreciate we're in sync. i A have NEVER used flat since I left home and lived with flat wallpaint. The whole family and friends have converted. If you like "grandma's", go for it. It is passe for good reason.

  • Carrie Krumrie Carrie Krumrie on Feb 07, 2015
    Prime, paint, caulk and it will be beautiful!

  • I agree with Carrie, I painted my dark dark paneling from the seventies and I could not be happier. It brightened everything up. I used semi gloss because my wood was real and there was no way to hide the fact it is wood paneling. The color I used was near a brown egg. Love it. I also have gotten many compliments on how it looks. For me it was a hard decision to make because I didn't know how it would look. It took two coats. Did I say I love it! Wouldn't go back.

  • April E April E on Feb 07, 2015
    My sister had this issue and we did a swirl texture treatment before painting after that thier was no clue that there was ever paneling in the house

  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Feb 08, 2015
    Would approach the landlord and sell him/her on the idea of improving the space for future rentals. Then I would ask - and expect - to receive payment for your materials since you are doing the labour. Can't imagine any landlord who wouldn't like to update his rental just for the cost of materials! (Have been a landlord and a tenant.)

  • Emma Reid Emma Reid on Feb 08, 2015
    what's the wall like behind it ? Could be decent and only have a few pieces of strapping. It's worth a quick peek.

  • Sandra Stromstedt Sandra Stromstedt on Feb 08, 2015
    I too have painted 70's must first use a product called liquid sand to dull the finish then prime and paint...I used an eggshell finish paint. Amazing difference in the room. However, in the house I currently live in I wallpapered over the paneling with a product called textured wallpaper, which is white and meant to be painted. Calk the grooves first, prime with a wallpaper primer them go to the wallpapering. I used a texture that looks like cracked leather...the result is beautiful, and people are amazed that it is wallpaper. I would recommend going on google and looking up textured will be amazed at what is available out there.

  • Postcards From the Ridge Postcards From the Ridge on Feb 09, 2015
    Our 60's house has 3 different types of lovely (not) paneling. I've painted over most of it and it looks 100% better. It's a cost-effective way to update it. I shared how I did it here . It's not that hard to do, but does take primer plus 2 coats of paint. And I didn't fill in the grooves because there's no way to do it where they don't show. Good luck!

    • Rita Revell Rita Revell on Feb 16, 2015
      Don't forget to do the lines (ridges) first and get them filled in well. Otherwise you will see a lot of areas that didn't quite get the color. It will stick out like a sore thumb.

  • Teresa Martin Teresa Martin on Feb 16, 2015
    I used a rag wash to camo mine. I used a light color followed by rag painting in a darker color. The last time I used spackling to fill the holes but it is time consuming

  • Style-Sack Style-Sack on Jun 19, 2016
    I am curious what the outcome was, did your landlord allow you to paint?

  • Great suggestions. My daughter is getting depressed in her dark paneled rental from the 70's! I'm sending her your suggestions. oh and the landlord finally said yes to painting. :)