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How to Paint Wood Paneling

A newly painted white barn

The moment for wood paneling has passed. It was popular as an alternative to drywall in the 1970s. It has since fallen out of favor for several reasons. Mostly, it just looks outdated. However, many homes still have wood paneling. If there’s no drywall underneath your wood paneling, you have a few options. You could pull out the paneling and replace it with drywall. You could leave the wall bare, or you could paint the wood paneling. Painting the paneling will quickly update the look. However, there are some extra complications to painting wood paneling.


Sand the Paneling

 Wood paneling is made of very thin layers of wood but it is still sandable. Paneling often has a layer of paint or finish already on it. You need to sand it so that the paint can adhere properly.

Use a medium grit sandpaper to remove the finish from the wood paneling. A coarse grit would eat away at the wood far too quickly, and you could actually sand through the wood. After the medium grit sandpaper, use a fine grit to smooth out the finish. Wipe it down with a static cloth and/or some mineral spirits to remove all of the sawdust.

Let it dry, and then you’re ready to paint.


Use a Soft Roller

 If the wood paneling is clean and sanded, the biggest difficulty will be the depressions between each panel. You will need to apply the paint as evenly as possible on the flat surfaces as well as in the depressions. Oftentimes, when people paint wood paneling, paint accumulates in the depressions or the roller completely misses the depressions. A soft roller will get into the crevices better.

However, the best option is to use a paint sprayer. A paint sprayer will apply the paint evenly regardless of the surface.


Choose The Right Color

 Choosing the proper paint in the proper color is very important because wood paneling has wood grain. Once you sand it, it will be a generic wood tone as well. A thin coat of lightly colored paint simply won’t cover up the grain or the color of the wood. If you want to leave some wood look, that will work well. However, if you want to cover it up completely, you’ll likely need primer underneath a light color or a dark color. You’ll also likely need more than one coat of paint. As always, use multiple thin coats and not one thick coat.

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