How To Paint Wood Paneling Beautifully In 7 Steps

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You can paint your wood panel walls and change the feel of the room. First comes a quick overview of the 7 steps and a list of tools and materials. Then there is a run-through with more details.


Painting wood panels happens in 7 steps:

  1. Put down drop cloths
  2. Clean the wood paneling with a cleaning solution*
  3. Fill in any cracks or holes with wood putty and a putty knife
  4. Lightly sand the wood paneling even with 150-grit sandpaper or higher
  5. Apply paintable caulk to any caulked areas
  6. Prime the wood paneling
  7. Paint the wood paneling using 2 thin coats

An optional eighth step is to paint the trim so it looks just as new as the walls between it. Trim includes the borders at the tops and bottoms of walls.

If your wood paneling is varnished you may want to follow the steps to painting varnished wood.

Don’t forget that at the end of every project is the cleanup.

*Many people prefer tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) for cleaning their walls

Let’s see the tools and materials you’ll need if you want to do this project.

Tools And Materials Check List

Full Details On Each Step For How To Paint Wood Paneling

1. Put Down Drop Cloths

This makes clean up easier for you. Most of the dust and any stray paint should end up on here. It’s an important part of setting up a room for painting.

We use them for every job.

2. Cleaning The Paneling

Paint doesn’t stick well to dirty surfaces. This means it’s more likely to crack and peel faster. Painting over dirt can leave you with a messy looking surface too.

Make sure to open windows and turn on fans when using a cleansing solution.

3. Filling In Any Damages

This helps make the wood paneling look nice in general. Painting can make any cracks or holes stand out even more.

4. Sanding It Even

This step can be optional if you plan on using a wood primer. It may be an extra step but sanding can really help the paint stick on your walls.

Sand it just enough so that it has a slightly gritty feel. Wipe the dust off so the paint doesn’t pick it up.

5. Caulking Certain Areas

You can also consider this an extra step. It does strengthen the current caulk and can make your walls look even better.

6. Priming The Wood Paneling

This step can help prevent the wood grain and imperfections from showing through the paint. It also helps the paint stick firmly to your walls.

Look for primers that say “stain-blocking” on the label. Also, make sure to choose the appropriate primer. Solid woods need a water-based primer while wood veneers (or fronts) need a shellac-based one.

7. Painting The Wood Paneling

Start by using your brush. Paint a border around the paneling about 1½ inches in. Switch to your roller and start at the top on one side. Paint horizontally (left to right) not vertically (top to bottom) and work your way down.

Make sure not to let too much paint gather in any panel grooves. Wipe them out with your brush.

Sanding between your 2 coats of paint is a good additional step to include.

Love The Feel Of Your Room

You can create an entirely new feeling by painting your wood panels. Even if it is the same color or stain it can provide a refreshing, new feeling. You just may love the new results more than the original.