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How to Cover Wood Paneling?
Wood paneling was once a popular wall covering for homes. Today, it can look out-of-date, especially if it’s really made from plywood. As long as your panels are in decent condition, you can save yourself the effort of tearing them down. Paint them instead, or paper over them with a sturdy wall liner.
Painting Wood Panels
Prepare the area. Move all furniture well away from the paneling, and cover the floor with drop cloth. Gloves and a face mask are recommended, especially if you’re working with a large area or in a room with poor ventilation. Check all product labels for safety information. Ventilate the room with open windows or fans.
Sand away the finish. Most paneling has a glossy finish, which needs to be roughened up for the primer. Scuff up the wood a little with a medium grit sandpaper, around 150 grit. Wipe away dust with a damp cloth.
Apply primer. Coat the surface thinly and evenly with an oil- or latex-based primer. If the roller can’t reach into the grooves, prime them with a paintbrush. Let dry for 24 hours or the time recommended on the label.
Fill grooves with drywall joint compound (optional). Do this only if your boards are rigid enough to handle this (as described), and you want to hide the groove texture. Mix a standard drywall joint compound “mud” with a power mixer or hand tool. You can also buy a pre-mixed compound. Spread it over the grooves in a thin layer with a putty knife, then let dry overnight. If necessary — and it usually is — apply another thin coat or two, until the compound is flush with the panel surface. Let each coat dry overnight. After the final coat is dry, sand it down with a fine-grit sandpaper.
Fill in holes and dents. If there are any holes in your panels, fill them with spackle. If you are filling the grooves with joint compound, you may use it for these holes as well.
Paint the panels. Roll on at least two coats of paint, letting dry and sanding lightly in between. Use a foam sponge roller to avoid unwanted textures. Once you’re satisfied with the look, you’re finished.
Covering with Wall Liner
Choose your wall liner. Wall liner, also sold as bridging material, is a heavy-duty covering that stays flat across the gaps between panels without sagging or blistering. Most wall liners are designed to have wallpaper plastered over them, but some are paintable. For most walls in good condition, a medium-grade (1200 rating) lining paper is a good choice.
Prepare the wood surface. Clean the wood surface and let dry. Most finishes will not interfere with adhesion, but check your product info to make sure. If the wood is especially glossy, rough up the finish with medium grit sandpaper.
Cut wall liner. Cut lengths of wall liner about 4 inches (10cm) longer than the width of your wall. These horizontal strips are generally best, so the liner seams don’t end up in the grooves between panels.
Coat with adhesive. Pre-pasted liners just need water brushed onto the back to activate the adhesive. For a non-pasted liner, brush the strip generously and evenly with a special liner adhesive, getting right to the edge. Fold the paper accordion-style as you go so it’s easy to handle. Typically, you’ll need to let the adhesive soak in for about ten minutes.
Attach your first strip. Hold the folded liner up against the edge of a wall, and unfold it bit by bit as you go. As you unfold, brush it in place with a wide wallpaper brush, flattening it against the panels. When you reach the last fold, pencil a line where it will hit the edge, cut along the line, then brush it in place.
Cover the rest of the paneling. Put up each strip the same way, leaving a minuscule gap between strips to avoid bumps from overlapping.
Let dry. Wall liners usually take 24–48 hours to dry completely. Check product info for a specific estimate.
Add the decorative surface. You may now wallpaper the new surface, or paint over it if your liner is paintable. Enjoy your new look!
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