Covering Wood Paneling for an Updated Look

When you purchase a new house, or inherit one from a relative, you would like it to be decorated in a fashion that is not outdated. One of the common wall decorating options from decades past is the use of wood paneling. While it may have been all the rage in the 1960s, it is a far cry from the decor of today. You have a few options for transforming that outdated paneling from dull and drab to modern and hip, so let the tips below help you.

Wood paneling tips


Evaluate First

Before you break open the can of paint, start tearing the paneling from the wall, or whip out the wallpaper paste, there are some things you need to consider. Take a look at the paneling and figure out what it is made from. Is it solid wood paneling or a thin paneling composite? Has it been glued to the wall or is it nailed in? What is the surface of the paneling like? Is it rough or smooth? The answers to those questions will help you determine the easiest way that you can give the paneling a more modern look.

Painting the Paneling

Most people think that this is the easiest option for updating a room that has been paneled. In many cases, that is true. If the paneled surface is smooth and made of real wood, it can be given a quick sanding before priming and painting it. This allows you to quickly change the look of the room. If the paneling surface is rough and scratchy, keep in mind that painting it could be a challenge. If the paneling is very dark or the wood grain is very prominent, be sure to use a strong primer to help conceal it. Even with a strong primer, you may need two coats of paint if the wood grain or color is very strong.

Papering the Paneling

Another option to painting the paneling is to cover it in wallpaper. Today’s modern wallpapers offer natural and contemporary looks that many homeowners are unaware of. This is an excellent option if the paneling is difficult to paint or cannot be removed without severe damage to the walls. There are even some wallpapers that can be painted if you have your heart set on a painted room.

Removing the Paneling

Tearing out the paneling from the walls can be a very tricky thing to do. The problem with it lies in not knowing the condition of the wall underneath. If the paneling has been up for a long time and the pieces have been glued to the wall, you may end up needing to do more than just fill a few nail holes and paint the wall when you are done. If you can remove a tiny piece of paneling to check the condition of the wall and see how easy it is to remove it from the wall, you may have better results.

Updating your paneling with a new and modern look can be done with some creativity and hard work. Never underestimate the potential damage that could be on the wall beneath the paneling, and use removal as a last resort.


Alyssa Davis, writes exclusively for, and specifically about designing with horse wall hangings and iron art.