Updating a Room that has Wood Paneling

Are you tired of that wood paneling in your home? Here are several options to giving your space a new look.

Wood paneling does date a home and space. The colors range from dark brown to very light beige. The darker woods can also make a room look smaller and unattractive. In older homes, this paneling was nailed to 1.5 x 96 inch fur strips or to 2 x 4s.

If you want to do away with the wood paneling and don't have concerns about insulating the space then you have three options:
  • Painting the wood paneling,
  • Plaster over the grooves to make it look like a regular wall, or
  • Just drywall over it.

After- Finished basement with drywall and wood engineered floors

Option 1- Sand, Prime and Paint It
This is the low cost option and takes little labor. It assumes that you can live with the paneling, but just hate the color. Your options here are to sand and paint it with an oil-based primer that will cover the dark stains and prevent the natural stains in the wood from bleeding through. Note, you'll rough the wood paneling up to ensure that the paint adheres to it well. Generally a small hand held sander speeds the job up.

Then you'll need to apply two coats of primer that is designed to cover stains and darker wood colors. Don't apply just any primer. There are paint primers especially designed to do this. Also we prefer the oil based primer, if you have adequate ventilation. After priming, you have to add two coats of regular paint.

Despite the above efforts, you run the risk that some of the color of the wood will bleed through and the paint may even flake off over time. Mind you, we're not talking about a lot of flaking. We know this is the case, because we did this and some paint just won't hold even after we roughed up the wood with sand paper.

Option 2- Plaster over the grooves then follow Option 1
The second option is to use drywall or joint compound to fill in the grooves between each of the individual wood panels. Your objective is to make the paneling look like a wall. Just apply the joint compound with a spatula and make it nice and smooth.

We have not done this but saw it done on a job and on HGTV's Designed to Sell. After applying the drywall compound, you then prime and paint as described in Option 1. You'll end up with a smooth wall, but may still run the risk of paint that bleeds through or chips.

Option 3 - Just nail dry wall over the wood paneling
This option is pretty straight forward if your wood paneling goes from the floor to the ceiling. And if your wondering whether it pays to remove the paneling, the answer is no. You can use 1/4 inch dry wall since you just need a thin covering.

Just make sure to locate the studs or the fur strips beforehand so that you can fasten the drywall to it in the correct place. Tape and apply joint compound, wait a day for it to dry and then sand the areas. Then, use a drywall primer and apply two coats of paint. After that, apply some base molding to your baseboards.

There's also another option if you are going to be insulating a basement.