Everything you ever wanted to know about painting wood paneling

how to paint wood walls

 

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about painting wood paneling lately. I figured it would probably be better to address all the questions in one post. This is a bit of an updated re-run from a post I did on my old blog about this, so sorry if this is old news to you readers who have been around for a while.

First off, wood paneling is an entirely different beast than drywall. If you think you are going to knock it out in an afternoon, you are going to be sadly disappointed. Ask me how I know that. Just get it out of your head before you start, and all will be well with the world.

how to clean wood walls for painting by chapter37

Before you begin browsing the paint isle, you’ll have to have some bonding time with a rag and some TSP. Depending on how shellacked and dirty your walls are, you may have to spend a lot of time. TSP will get the oils, dust and other unidentifiable substances off the wall…which you must do before painting. Don’t use TSP on a surface you don’t intend to paint, it will remove the finish. I’m going to have to go back and re-lacquer all my ceilings because I made this mistake. Bummer, but at least I know they are clean now! Since I had an entire house of walls to clean, I used a floor mop on them…faster and saved my back muscles a little.

how to prep wood walls for painting chapter37

TSP will make the walls look super streaky, sure sign you are doing it right! You must let the walls completely dry before moving on to the next step. Wood walls ooze, and it’s highly important everything be dry between each step.

how to prep wood walls for painting chapter37

Some people (like contractors and other nefarious professionals) will tell you to sand the wall at this point, board by board. Unless you’d like to spend the next decade sanding, and re-cleaning the walls, I wouldn’t suggest it. On particularly over used spots, like my kitchen walls, I wiped the walls down with liquid sander. Again, if you do this, let the walls dry completely before you move on to the next step.

Klean-Strip 1 qt. Easy Liquid Sander

So, now that you’ve spend at least a day prepping the wall and letting it dry, you are ready to prime. Notice, I’m skipping any mention of painter’s tape. Do yourself the favor of lifetime and learn to paint without tape. If you don’t, you will have to re-tape between every coat. The tape will ruin your paint job if you leave it up through the whole process, since you are letting paint/primmer dry fully in between steps.

Primer is a necessary and important part of a painted wood wall. It will seal the wood so it can stop it’s infernal oozing, and will keep it from bleeding into your nice paint job. This is the primer I use. It’s very good, and it cleans up with water so it’s easy to use. It costs about $20 a can. I have had no bleed through, or yellowing issues using this primer.

This is where the fun really begins. All those wonderful little cracks between boards that are so picturesque and cottage-y must be cut in by hand with a paint brush.

how to prime wood walls by chapter37

This is what make these wonderful walls take so forever long to paint…all the cutting in that has to be done. I had time to listen to the audio books Cheaper by the Dozen, Johnny Tremain, and 1984 in their complete entirety just while painting the living room walls!

how to paint wood paneling by chapter37

You had better just settle in and enjoy yourself, this is not going to go quickly. The kitchen almost drove me to mental distraction, because almost the entire thing had to be done with a paint brush.

painting wood walls chapter37

Once all the cutting in is done, you can roll it just like a regular wall. Just don’t put on too thick of a coat. The wood will already be sweating, and it will drip badly it you roll it too thick. I put on two coats of primer, before ever cracking the lid of a paint can. The first coat is going to look horrific, and will probably yellow quite badly. Don’t panic, it’s just the first coat.

how to prime wood walls chapter37

Let each coat of primer dry thoroughly before applying another one. Painting is the easy part, and the fun part. You finally get to see how pretty it is! You can do the paint a little thicker than the primer, because the wood is already sealed at this point. I do a pretty thick first coat, and then a touch up second coat.

DSCF3715-001

I use Behr’s “paint and primer in one” paint (from Home Depot) in a semi gloss sheen. I like a bit of sheen on the wall. It’s easy to clean, and it looks a little richer than a flat paint. A lot of folks have asked what color white I’m using…I think I had brought in a random paint chip to have them match at the hardware store, so I actually have no idea what color it is. (Hangs head in shame) I just keep a lid to my last paint can and bring it back in for them to match. The girls’ room is a white I mixed up myself, as is the guest room. That said, I have used “swiss coffee” from Behr in my last house, and it’s a very soft white similar to the white I’m currently using.

Edited 4/7/14: The color paint I have been using on all the main parts of my house is Antique white by Glidden. I had it color matched in Behr brand paint.

painting wood paneling by chapter37

I think that about covers it. But, as I only have half a house done, I’m sure I still have more to learn and share in the future.  Feel free to weigh in with your own experiences, and add any suggestions you might have!

Psalms 70:4   Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified.

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About Abby

I'm a mom, blogger, and shop owner. I love all things creative, especially sewing! Follow along at www.chapterthirtyseven.com
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25 Responses to Everything you ever wanted to know about painting wood paneling

  1. oy. I don’t envy you all that work. my sunroom was all paneling that I had began to paint, but then we decided we needed to do more, so we took it down, ran electrical, and drywalled. I only wish I actually hadn’t started painting it before we decided to demo!

  2. Kathryn says:

    So much better! I love how much more open it looks!

  3. Hani Shabbir says:

    Wow.. Your hard work certainly paid off! What a difference a fresh coat of paint can make.. :)

  4. Leslie says:

    Congratulations…this post was featured on Create It Thursday #29! Thanks for sharing such a great idea with us last week!

  5. Dailylentes says:

    It is such a great way of restoring old paneling! Definitely gonna use it in my garden house. You did a great job.

  6. Judy says:

    Thank you for these instructions. My bedroom has 2 of the walls paneled in a dark paneling. It was done 20 years ago because the wallpaper we were trying to strip just would not come off. I have been wanting to give my bedroom a lighter look for years and now I know how!

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  8. beth mercer says:

    how to clean paneling that as been painted with flat paint without it coming off????

  9. HI, I happened upon your blog checking out your stairs. I am in the middle of redoing my hallway and just installed beadboard. I’m torn if I should use primer “123 Plus” or BIN shellac for the knots. How has your wood walls held up and still no bleed through?
    Looks fantastic by the way.

    • Abby says:

      It’s been over a year since the first wall was painted. I’ve not had any issues with bleed through and the paint has held up perfectly! Good luck with your beadboard!

  10. you shared very nice post with us. Glade to read it. Here is my website. Where you can get more ideas for interior design.

  11. Jessy says:

    I’m glad I found this post. I’m going to start painting tomorrow and now know exactly what I have to do get everything just right! I am hoping painting the ugly paneling in my house will make a big difference like it did in yours.

  12. Just desire to say your article is as surprising. The clarity on
    your put up is just cool and i could assume you are knowledgeable on this subject.

  13. Cheryl says:

    Love the new look. I’ve been wanting to paint my living room for years. I have the 70′s paneling that isn’t really wood. Would I prep that the same way? That’s where I am stuck. I’ve heard so many ways to do it.

  14. Pat says:

    Did you just use the Behr’s paint & primer ? Or did you use
    it first and then use another paint? Or did you use a different primer and then use the Behr’s paint and primer as the final.

    I plan to do a white anyway so if I could do it all with one
    product it would feel easier. I think.

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  16. mythicpaint1 says:

    Its a very nice blog.

  17. Shannon Keith says:

    Hi Abby! I saw this post a couple of years ago, and came back to see how ya did it! It inspired me to do my stairs….and now I’m FINALLY getting to it!!! LOL…thanks for all the hints and experience you share on your blog…praying for you and your family…take care…Shannon Keith… :)

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  19. Jennifer says:

    My paneling is very “rough”. Lots of small holes etc. How do I get the tsp (?) in to clean and then back out and how do I get the paint in all the holes and crevices?

  20. Jill Shillam says:

    I just painted a small piece of panelling…didn’t follow any steps…it looks great! Added stain and paint and water wherever it felt it should go…it worked. And it’s beautiful. Now…I see I should have stripped it and used a primer. Ugh!

    Is there a way to seal it now that I’m finished so it won’t skip right off every time I wipe it with a wet cloth…and to deal it so it won’t scrae off at every turn? Help.

  21. Jill Shillam says:

    I just painted a small piece of panelling…didn’t follow any steps…it looks great! Added stain and paint and water wherever it felt it should go…it worked. And it’s beautiful. Now…I see I should have stripped it and used a primer. Ugh!

    Is there a way to seal it now that I’m finished so it won’t come right off every time I wipe it with a wet cloth…and to deal it so it won’t scrape off at every turn? Help.

    • Jill Shillam says:

      I just painted a small piece of panelling…didn’t follow any steps…it looks great! Added stain and paint and water wherever it felt it should go…it worked. And it’s beautiful. Now…I see I should have stripped it and used a primer. Ugh!

      Is there a way to seal it now that I’m finished so it won’t come right off every time I wipe it with a wet cloth…and to deal it so it won’t scrape off at every turn? Help.

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