Do it Yourself – Paint Over that Old Wood Paneling for a Brighter Look

If your house was built or remodeled in the 1960’s or 1970’s, chances are at least some of the walls are done in wood paneling. That’s not such a bad thing, because it seems that everything retro is considered cool nowadays. But if walking into the dark living room is like a flashback to visiting your grandmother’s house, you may want to do something about the paneling.

There are two main choices: paint the paneling, or rip it down and start fresh, perhaps with sheetrock. Your decision will depend on your preferences and your budget. If, like me, you are on a tight budget, painting is the way to go. And the great news is, you can do it yourself.

Sounds simple, right? Well, it is, sort of. There is a bit of work involved in painting wood paneling, but nothing you need a specialized degree to figure out. Really, there are only three steps.

Tape It

The first step, as with any room painting project, is to tape off the trim or flooring, anything you do not want painted. That’s the easy part.

Cover It With Primer

The next step is to cover the paneling in a coat of primer. There are products available now where the primer is mixed with the paint. Trust me, this does not work on wood paneling – I tried. Make sure you cover all of the paneling with primer. It is a good idea to have the primer mixed to match the color of the paint you choose.

As you are spreading on the primer, you will discover the problem with painting paneling – a roller does not fit into the grooves. Even the extra-thick rollers will not work, so you will need to roll on what you can and do each individual groove with a brush. I found it easier to paint the edges and the grooves first with a brush, and then use the roller.

Use A Good Quality Paint

Now for the paint. Even with the primer you will need at least two coats of paint, done the same way – brush in the grooves and edges, then the roller. If you use a good thick paint, you can usually get away with two coats. A thinner, less expensive paint, and you are looking at three coats. In this case, it really is worth it to use a better quality paint. One factor that can make a difference is how light or dark the paneling is.

My entire house is paneling. That’s right, every room. The hallway and kitchen were thankfully already painted when we moved in. I’ve since painted three rooms (one twice), with at least one more to go. The rooms are brighter and more personalized, and nobody even realizes it is wood paneling unless I point it out to them.

Painting wood paneling is time consuming, much more so than painting a sheetrock wall, but the cost is very low in comparison to replacing it. All you need is some primer, a gallon or two of paint, brushes, tape, a roller, and some elbow grease. And to avoid the feeling of being trapped at your grandmother’s house, it is well worth it.

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