How to Paint Paneling Correctly

Old brown paneling looks brand new when painted white. Painting paneling is easy, but there is usually a lot of prep work involved.

Paneling must be cleaned, sanded and primed before applying paint. If you take the time to do the job correctly, the paneling will look awesome in the end.

Step 1. Prepare the Room

Clear the work area and remove furniture that might get in the way. Throw painter’s plastic on top of the furniture. Unscrew and remove the outlet covers. Cover the flooring with canvas drop cloths.

Step 2. Clean the Paneling

Buy TSP (trisodium phosphate) to clean the paneling. Cleaning the surface isn’t fun, but it’s a really important part of the job. The TSP eats away dirt and grime. Wear gloves and follow the mixing directions on the container. The brand I use the most is Savogran Trisodium Phosphate (TSP).

Step 3. Sand the Paneling

Now comes the fun part – sanding. Nobody likes to sand, but it has to be done so the primer and paint can bond well to the surface. Wrap 120-grit sandpaper around a sanding block and sand the surface. When you’re done sanding, wipe the surface with a tack cloth or a damp rag to remove the dust.

Step 4. Caulk and Fill Holes

Fill nail holes with drywall joint compound or painter’s putty. I like to use drywall joint compound because it barely shrinks, and it dries faster. You can buy drywall joint compound that dries in as little as 5 minutes. I like to caulk after the filling and sanding is done. That way falling dust particles won’t ruin the fresh caulk. Inspect the paneling for cracks, and caulk where needed using white paintable caulk.

Step 5. Apply Oil Primer

Use oil primer sealer, not latex. Oil primer seals the surface of paneling, preventing old stain coloration from bleeding through the new paint. It also provides a sticky surface to get a stronger paint bond. If you don’t prime the surface, the paint is more likely to rub off, and the paint color might look yellowed if white paint is used. If you’re using a brush and roller, use a 1/4-inch nap roller for rolling. The best oil primer to use for paneling is Zinsser Cover Stain.

Step 6. Select the Best Paint

Semi-gloss paint is a good choice, but if you’re paneling covers the whole wall then maybe choose eggshell or flat because semi-gloss might look too shiny on an entire wall. I use white semi-gloss paint for paneling. Benjamin Moore Regal or Impervo semi-gloss is good. Sherwin Williams Pro Classic acrylic semi-gloss is my number one choice though for paneling and interior trim. You get what you pay for.

Step 7. Paint the Paneling

Depending on how dark the paneling is, it might take three to four coats of paint to get solid coverage on top of the primer. Use a 1/4-inch nap roller, and apply the paint the same way as the primer. Cut-in the edges with the brush first. If you’re using shiny paint, start on one side of the wall and work towards the other side, in one direction, to avoid roller marks. Roll evenly from top to bottom.

Category: Interior Painting Ideas, Painting Techniques for Walls

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