Can You Paint Wood Paneling Walls?

Image of wood paneling but Can You Paint Wood Paneling Walls?Wood paneling walls, especially those featuring veneer wood, allow for various decoration options. You can either conceal the wood paneling behind the drywall or tear out the paneling. However, these techniques involve avoidable costs that are difficult to justify. So, it would be best to answer the question can you paint wood paneling walls as we look for the best value for money alternative.

Yes! It is possible to paint wood paneling walls. Though, it is prudent to ensure that the paneling is decent and in good condition. Luckily, the procedure is quite easy. Begin by cleaning the wood and priming it to facilitate paint adhesion. Then, paint it like a normal wall and give it enough time to dry before use.

That said, it will help if you follow the correct procedure when painting over wood paneling. Also, you may find sanding, cleaning, and priming unnecessary, but they are the key to a sophisticated finish. So, please pay extra attention to this article on how to deliver a successful wood panel walls painting.

How To Paint Wood Paneling Walls

It is wise to begin this project with an inspection. Hence, check whether it is possible to remove the paneling and work on the walls directly. But remember that paneling installation requires adhesive and nails. Therefore, take care not to damage the walls when removing the paneling.

In addition, the paneling may be directly on the wall studs with nothing behind it. Here, make sure that it has solid wood when you are ready to paint. The paneling may also consist of a vinyl print that enhances and stimulates the wood’s look.

Fortunately, it is easy to make these assessments. All you need to do is sand a small wall area, and the vinyl layer will come off quickly. Thus, you can easily see the pressboard underneath. Also, it is prudent to take extra care when painting walls with a thin veneer finish or vinyl.

On top of that, you’ll have to determine the materials needed for the project. The primary tools and materials for the job include rags, a caulking gun, a putty knife, a paintbrush, a paint roller with foam roller covers, wood filler, wall paint, caulk, TSP, or TSP substitute, 150-grit sandpaper, stain-blocking primer, and trim paint.

Then, follow the following steps to get an accurate finish.

  • Clean the Wall Paneling With Diluted TSP.

Any dirt, dust, debris, or oily fingerprints are an enemy to paint adhesion. They prevent the paint finish from sticking well to the wood paneling. Even worse, the finish will look low grade as the paint will pick up dirt clamps. So, ultimately, it may be hard to deliver a flat, clean look.

Therefore, please begin the venture by washing the wood-paneled walls thoroughly. Consider a trisodium phosphate (TSP) solution with water for a better outcome. Also, it would be safe to put on protective gear like full sleeve clothing, goggles, rubber gloves, and a respiratory mask.

Dilute the TSP in a water bucket and dampen a sponge. Then, wipe down the wood paneling to remove most of the dirt. In addition, open the window to ventilate the area if you are working indoors adequately.

Consider using a TSP substitute or a heavy-duty cleaner if you do not have TSP. This way, you will not struggle to remove layers of grime. Also, rinse the surface and allow it to dry well.

  • Fill and Sand the Wood Paneling.

Use a putty knife to apply some wood putty on any cracks and holes on the wood. Then, allow it to dry and assess if the surface needs sanding. However, it is wood be best to sand the surface even if it looks perfect.

Scuffing or lightly sanding a surface creates a superior mechanical bond between the initial primer coat and the paneled wall. Thus, the process delivers long-lasting insurance against chipping paint. And so, it is worth it!

It would be best to use 220-grit sandpaper and work in even circular motions. This way, you’ll move consistently with the wood grain and deliver a uniform and smooth surface. Also, please remember to wear a dust mask for health reasons.

Wipe away the sanding dust with a damp rag or tack cloth. The process helps you to deliver a clean surface for painting. You can also vacuum the surface to avoid tracking the dust from room to room.

Note that sanding wood paneling is optional and also often not necessary. More so, you do not have to sand the surface when you have a good primer that sticks to the old finish. However, please remember that the paint will not stick well if the primer fails, and sanding is a sure way to improve adhesion.

Some paneling may be a faux melamine finish instead of wood. Thus, it would be best to sand and prime before painting. Also, check with your paint supplier for the most suitable primer.

  • Fill the Grooves Caulk and Around the Trim

This step is necessary when you want to minimize the appearance of the gloves. Apply lightweight spackle with a putty knife and allow it to dry. Then, sand and smoothen the surface.

It may take some time to fill and smoothen all the grooves. In addition, it is best to give the spackle around 24 hours to dry before priming or painting. Therefore, please be patient to get the best outcome.

Apply caulk to any holes or gaps between paneling planks, especially between the trim and panels. Also, please consider the area around doors and windows. And lt the caulk to dry as recommended by the manufacturer.

  • Use a Drop Cloth or Painter’s Tape

This strategy protects the floor and other areas from paint splatter. Therefore, you save yourself from cleaning and scrubbing errant paint splatter and drips after the painting project.

You can also use a bunch of old newspapers if you do not have painter’s tape or a drop cloth. This way, you will protect any molding or ceiling area that you do not want the formula to inadvertently color.

  • Apply Two Thin Coats Primer

The next step is to apply a primer. I always prefer multiple thin coats instead of thick ones. This way, it is much easier to deliver a more consistent and even finish. Also, multiple layers help you to cover flaws in the previous coat.

The initial coat primer prevents any wood imperfections and grain from showing through the final coat paint. Therefore, a primer is worth it despite being an additional cost to your work.

On top of that, it is prudent to choose the correct primer. For example, use a water-based formula for solid wood and a shellac-based one for a veneer material. Also, you can try to match the primer with the topcoats shade.

Another detail to look out for is the word stain-blocking on the product label. This attribute aids in hiding knots that show through the wood paneling. Otherwise, you may see them bleeding sometime later.

Start applying the primer with a two-inch high-quality angle sash brush. Ensure that you cut in at corners to get full coverage. In addition, please dab away drips as you work to avoid leaving a messy workstation.

It is okay to switch to a roller for the rest of the painting project when you have a large surface. Also, you do not have to worry about paneled walls grooves. A paintbrush will help out with these hard-to-reach areas.

Additionally, it is possible to avoid ending up with an orange peel-like texture that rollers produce. Consider working with a foam sponge roller cover. Fortunately, it is cheap and easily accessible in most local paint shops.

Finally, check the primer’s instructions to determine the drying time between coats. Also, consider working with at least two coats to deliver superior surface protection and finish durability.

  • Apply the Paint

Most paint application strategies are similar to those of a primer. Therefore, the above primer application tips apply in this area. However, it would be best to pay attention to how much paint the panel grooves collect. Then, wipe out any excess. This way, you’ll avoid a thick and tacky finish.

It is okay to sand the wood between coats and ensure that you give them enough drying time. Also, it assures you a perfect outcome whether you choose a lighter color for your airy farmhouse or a matte black hue for a cozier feel. 

Begin at the top of the wood paneling and work your way down. In addition, ensure that you cover all the gaps between the panels. You can use a paintbrush to remove any excess paint that remains in the panel grooves.

  • Paint the Trim

You can pick any preferred color for the trim. However, it would be better to go for a glossier finish for the walls. It helps the trim to stand out and delivers a smooth surface that is much easier to clean.

Can You Paint Over Paneling Without Sanding?

Yes. You can paint over paneling without sanding. But there are some reasons like unrepaired holes or a rough surface that can require you to sand before painting. Therefore, it all boils down to the state of the wood and the desired finish.

Sanding the wood may make the work area dusty and create more work for you. The fine dust spreads all over the room through the home cooling and heating systems. Even worse, it redeposits throughout the whole house.

So, you’ll have to dust the entire house. And if you get super yucked by fine dust, you’ll probably have to wash any linens that are not in drawers or the closet. You may also want to check for asbestos in your home products before sanding.

How Do You Paint Wood Paneling With Grooves?

You are good to go with any roller if your paneling has fairly shallow grooves. However, the story changes if the wall has deeper grooves. Here, you require a roller with a ½-inch or ⅜-inch nap. Also, the deeper the grooves, the higher the roller nap needed to reach inside the groove.

Sometimes the groove is too deep for a roller to reach. Thus, consider having a paintbrush nearby as you roll the surface. Also, it would be best if you brush all the lines and roll the rest of the surface. The process may be time-consuming, but it delivers the best coverage.

What Kind of Paint Do You Use on Paneling?

The perfect paint to use on paneling projects is interior latex paint. The formula lasts longer and is more durable than other products. More so, it will not chip or crack over time. Therefore, you will have a smooth finish for a long, long time.

Also, please remember that using good-quality latex paint does not substitute for proper surface preparation or priming. Therefore, ensure that you use the formula on a clean and primed wood surface.

You can choose either an oil-based primer or a stain-blocking one for added protection. In addition, it would be best to apply multiple thin coats and give the finish enough time to dry. This way, you’ll deliver a more consistent and even result.

Is Eggshell Paint Good for Paneling?

Yes. Eggshell paint is good for wood paneling projects. It is among the most popular paint finishes in the painting industry. In addition, you will deliver a flat appearance even though the formula has a slight sheen.

The downside to an eggshell finish is that it is difficult to clean. Therefore, it would be best to use it in a room or space that does not receive much human traffic, such as an entryway or the living room.

That said, the formula is still a much better formula for shiplap and delivers a durable and flat look. In addition, it works well for board and batten paneling, especially when you do not need a lot of shine.

Can You Use Latex Paint on Wood Paneling?

It is okay to use latex paint on wood paneling. More so, the formula is the most suitable product for paneling projects and delivers a durable finish. However, it is prudent to prepare the surface well and prime it for a better result.

Proper surface preparations remove dirt, dust, and grime that can compromise a smooth and quality finish. On the other hand, priming enhances a tight bond between the wood’s surface and the latex paint topcoat.

Can You Whitewash Over Wood Paneling?

Of course, yes! It is possible to whitewash over wood paneling. All you need to do is sand the surface and then apply the whitewash mixture. This way, you’ll create a rougher surface that helps the paint stick to the wood paneling.

Previously, whitewash was a combination of slaked quicklime or hydrated lime and other materials like egg whites, milk, and Portland cement. Also, its main purpose was to deliver paint that would deliver protection to bare wood.

Today, whitewash is not that complicated in its manufacturing. You only need to mix paint and water. And you will create a whitewashed effect on furniture, paneling, and other materials.

The recommended ratio of water and paint for creating a whitewashing solution is one to one. In addition, it would be best to apply the formula with a brush to deliver a more consistent and even finish.

You can either use white latex paint or oil-based paint for the project. However, please ensure that you mix the latex formula with water and the oil-based one with turpentine.

  • How Do You Whitewash Paneling?

It is always prudent to begin a whitewashing painting project by sanding the surface. Paneling is often smooth, and thus, creating a rough surface enables the paint to stick to the wood tightly. So, try 220-grit sandpaper and begin!

The next step is to clean the wall to remove accumulated dirt and sanding dust. You can also use warm water and dish detergent for a better result. In addition, it is okay to use other specialty products for panel cleaning.

Use an oil-based primer once the walls dry. Alternatively, you can utilize a bleach and water solution instead of a primer. This way, you’ll whiten the brown hue on the panel but still leave some pigment behind instead of covering the brown with the primer.

Prepare half water and half paint solution to get a perfect whitewash result. Then, apply it directly with a paintbrush. Also, it would be best to have plenty of rags around to help mop up excess water.

Lastly, assess whether you live coverage level once the walls dry. You can always add a second layer of whitewash to spice up the look.

  • How Do You Gray Wash Paneling?

Gray washing wood paneling is a perfect way to brighten up a dark space. However, it is best to remove and cover any furniture with plastic before you begin painting. This way, you’ll minimize the mess to clean after work.

Clean and sand the paneling to deliver a suitable surface for gey washing. Also, please remember that grey wash works both inside and outside. Therefore, you will not feel like you’ve done something wrong as you turn the whole house grey.

It is also prudent to get the required tools and materials for the project. You need grey paint, 100-grit sandpaper, painter’s tape, a paintbrush, plastic wraps, putty, and rags. Some supplies are suitable for the painting job, while others are necessary for safety purposes.

Check out the following procedure once you have everything ready!

  • Select the room that you want to start with and remove all the furniture. However, you can leave the furniture in the room if you only want to paint the wall. Also, it is okay to wrap the furniture if there is no other space to keep the furniture.
  • Begin working with sandpaper and paint once you secure every item. Get a towel and some mild detergent to clean any grease and dirt on the surface. You can work the surface section by section or clean the whole area at once.
  • Repair the cracks and holes on the panel. You can fill them up with some putty and leave them to dry.
  • Get 100-grit sandpaper and sand the paneling. It would be best first to establish if the surface needs sanding and which sandpaper is most suitable. For instance, you can consider 200-grit or 220-grit sandpaper when you have thick wood.
  • Make sure that you have the correct paint formula, and then begin painting the wood paneling. Also, there are multiple paint colors to choose from, and it would be best to pick the best color match.
  • Mix the paint with water to create the grey wash. Ensure that the color consistency needs to have a runny batter of pancake-like. On top of that, the paint should not be too runny, or else you’ll have to apply many coats to get the desired finish.
  • Get the correct brush size and start coating the wooden color evenly. It is also prudent to wipe the wall later with cotton clothes or a flannel sheet.
  • Apply more paint and clean the surface again if the wall is too light. Then, allow it to dry overnight.

How Do You Refresh Old Wood Paneling?

Wood paneling is a beautiful addition to a room and lasts a long time when you care for it. However, the wood may become dull and lose its shine over time. Also, the lack of a regular cleaning routine can make the wood look faded and unattractive.

Fortunately, it is possible to refresh old wood paneling. Thus, you do not have to dispose of the wood once it starts aging. Below is are the recommended wood revamping tips.

  • Remove all dirt and dust from the wood paneling. You can use a vacuum with a hose or a soft cloth. Also, follow the woos grain as you wipe the panels.
  • Use a cleaning solution to remove fingerprints, stains, or markings on the panels. It is okay to use dish detergent as it is mild to the wood.
  • Wipe the cleaning formula on a small, inconspicuous area of the paneling. This way, you can observe any texture changes or wood discoloration before applying the solution to the wood. In addition, allow the wood paneling to dry overnight and observe further changes in the morning.
  • Please avoid scrubbing the wood panel too hard. Also, it would be best to follow the wood grain as you wipe the surface. Otherwise, you may interfere with the wood grain and texture. 
  • Mix a polishing solution to restore the wood’s lost shine. Use one cup of water and ¼ cup of vinegar. You can also add 20 drops of lemon oil and ½ cup of mineral oil for a better result.
  • Apply the solution generously to the wood paneling using a tack cloth. It will be oily, and you should see an immediate change in the panel’s glossy finish. Also, remember to wipe the panels following the wood grain.
  • Rub and buff the polishing formula to deliver a glossy sheen. Also, continue buffing until the oily feel is no longer there.
  • Repeat the process until you get the desired result. However, please do not repeat the cleaning process as it may remove the first coat of polishing solution.

How Do You Brighten a Room With Dark Wood Paneling?

Paneled walls can deliver a cozy and attractive theme for your home. However, decorating them can be a challenge. The deep wood tones can easily create a gloomy space. Therefore, it would be best to find strategies that counter the room with lighter elements.

Check out the following tricks that will help you create a cozy, intimate, and balanced room.

  • Allow Light in the Room

Your room will benefit from natural light, especially if it has dark paneling on the walls. Therefore, opt for coverings that allow light to penetrate through instead of heavy drapes or curtains.

Sheers are also ideal for brightening a room featuring dark paneling. So, please go for ivory or cream sheers that give the room a crisp and fresh feel. In addition, you can pair the sheers with blinds or shades if you want some privacy.

It is okay to incorporate artificial light as it aids in balancing the dark paneling look. Therefore, go for fixtures and lamps that allow you to direct the light towards the ceiling. This way, the light appears higher and spreads throughout the room.

  • Keep Flooring Light

Always choose flooring in light colors as it helps to balance the dark paneling. It also creates a striking contrast for the room. Therefore, you eventually get a lit-up space. In addition, you can carpet the floor with a neutral shade like tan, beige, or taupe.

You do not have to cover the room with wall-to-wall carpeting when the room has dark wood flooring. Instead, get a light-colored area rug that covers a large portion of the room’s floor. This way, you’ll counter the dark paneling on the walls.

  • Add Warm Colors

You do not have to fight the dark paneling on your walls. Instead, work with it to create an inviting and cozy space. In addition, incorporate warm colors in the design to deliver the desired vibe.

Choose a light shade like peach or gold to brighten and warm the room, especially for areas without paneling. Also, remember that similar shades work best for large furniture items such as armchairs and sofas.

On the other hand, smaller accessories like throw pillows are better with deeper and warm tones such as terracotta, brick, and eggplant.

  • Use Wall Hangings

It is wrong to assume that you cannot decorate dark-paneled walls with artwork or photos. More so, the room will have a drab and lifeless appearance if you leave the walls bare. Therefore, please consider wall hangings that add personality and color to your space.

Often, homeowners do not want to damage the wood by driving screws and nails into the paneling. Thus, they tolerate a dark and joyless room. Fortunately, we have damage-free hooks that you can stick to the wall. So, you won’t leave any holes on the walls.


Wood paneling was a more common term in the ’60s and ‘70s than any other time in history. It is part of most homesteads, and homeowners wonder what’s the way forward. Especially if retro is not their decorating style. Therefore, they keep asking:

Can You Paint Wood Paneling Walls?

The good news is that you can paint wood paneling walls. You do not have to live with or tolerate outdated wood panel walls. Choose your favorite color and follow the correct painting strategy.