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How To Paint Wood Paneling

DIY, Interior Design & Decorating
By on Aug 20, 2017
How To Paint Wood Paneling

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You’d be surprised how quickly an old room can look up-to-date with a fresh coat of paint. Wood paneling is one of the biggest culprits of making a room look older than it really is. But, you don’t have to take it all down and start from scratch. A fresh coat of paint can instantly brighten the room and make it look fashionable.

Painting wood paneling is a project you can DIY if you have a few days to spare. It's best if you’ve done some small painting jobs before so you’re familiar with DIY paint techniques. If you think this is a project you’re ready to try, here are a few tips on how to paint wood paneling.

Painting wood paneling takes more time than just painting a plain wall. You can save time by hiring a pro. Contact a painting contractor today for up to four quotes from contractors in your area for free.

Cost To Paint Wood Paneling

Painting Costs

Painting a room is often a project homeowners turn to when they need a refreshed look. This is especially true for outdated wood paneling. While once popular in the 1960s and 1970s, it’s no longer a chic look. However, a fresh coat of paint can make for a beautiful disguise. It can be budget-friendly as well depending on the size of the room. The average cost to paint a room is between $1,679, with most homeowners spending between $1,130 and $1,826. Expect for this project to take at least a weekend to complete.

Beautiful Painted Wood Paneling

Determining Wall Paneling Color

One of the largest issues with wood paneling is that it’s dark. It can make a room seem small and dreary, not to mention block natural light from spreading throughout the room. To brighten up the room, stick with a light color. A popular choice for homeowners is an ivory or off-white. You will notice an instant difference in your space. It will seem larger and airy. Another popular choice is soothing pastels such as a light blue or lavender. This is a great choice for a bedroom or nursery as it can brighten up the space while adding a soothing color.

Once you’ve determined what color you’ll need for your space. It’s time to get to work. Use ImproveNet’s paint calculator to help determine how much you’ll need to complete your project.

Materials Needed

Materials Needed

  • Paint
  • Paint Brush
  • Paint Roller
  • Cloth
  • Sandpaper
  • Sander
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Tarp
  • Caulk
  • Spackle or Wood Filler
  • Putty Knife

1. Clean The Wood

Unlike other painting projects, wood paneling has the tendency to collect dust over time. This creates a barrier between the paint and wall itself, preventing it from bonding together. To start, take a damp cloth and clean the walls. You don’t have to scrub, but gently wipe any dust off that may be there. Do this on each wall that you intend to paint.

Now is also a good time to use painter’s tape and tarp to keep the areas you wish paint-free.

2. Fill Holes & Grooves

If there were frames hanging prior or cracks in the wood, you’ll need to fill these holes up with wood filler before continuing on to paint. If you want the grooves in the paneling to stand out less, you can fill them with spackle. If you decide to fill the grooves, be sure to do it to every single one for a consistent look. However, filling the grooves will be based on your personal preference and the look you wish to achieve.

2. Sand The Wood

A very important step in painting wood paneling is sanding it. This roughs up the surface so the paint can adhere correctly. If you chose to keep the grooves open, you’ll need to sand between these as well, which can be time-consuming. Use a sander to easily rough-up the flat surfaces of the wood paneling and pieces of sandpaper to sand in between the grooves. Don’t forget the trim as well!

How To Paint Wood Paneling

3. Caulk Gaps

Often in wall wood paneling, there are large gaps left between the ceiling, floor and the wall. Use caulk to seal these off before beginning.

4. Prime The Wood

Now that you’ve prepped your wood paneling as much as possible, it’s time to paint! Using a primer before painting a color is always important, but it’s an especially important step if you’re painting over dark wood. This will help your new color really shine. Be sure to paint the grooves thoroughly as well using a smaller brush to get in between.

5. Paint The Wood

Finally, it’s time to truly transform with color. Using a smaller roller, paint the flat side of the wood panels evenly. Then, paint between the grooves. Be sure your strokes are even as you do this. If you’re using a lighter color, this process may take one to two coats to complete.

6. Paint Trim

Before you put your paintbrush away, don’t forget your trim! Evenly paint the trim in your desired color.

Now, remove the painter's tape and let the paint dry. Wait about 24 to 48 hours before moving furniture back in.


It’s easy to refresh your wood paneling with paint and you can do it in as little as a weekend. In no time at all, you’ll have a room you’ll love!

Are you ready to start your next paint project? Read Tips For Picking Out The Best Paint to see how you can have the most successful project!

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