Paint Wood Paneling For a Fresh New Look

Wood paneling was routinely installed in homes during the 1960’s and 70’s and usually covering dens, basements and family rooms. These are the rooms that we spend the most time in and unless you really love the retro look, you probably want to get rid of them.

Unfortunately, removing paneling from walls is a major home improvement project and should be left to a professional remodeling contractor for best results. But, you can paint them and if done well, they can come out looking professionally done. Make sure you really want to cover these walls in paint before you do it, because depending on the paneling, there is no going back after you start.

In this DIY Reviews article, we will outline how to update your wood paneling by adding a fresh coat of paint, as well as the tools and supplies you will need to complete the project.

Materials & Tools Needed:

  • Spackle or Wall Compound
  • Latex Paint
  • Eye Protection
  • Painters Tape
  • Oil Based Primer
  • Detergent w/Degreaser
  • Sponge
  • Gloves
  • Sandpaper – 120 Grit, or a Sanding Block
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint Rollers
  • Putty Knife
  • Dropcloth
  • Indoor Outdoor Vacuum

Before you begin any type of home improvement project you should make sure you are wearing eye protection and have proper gloves to wear while completing the job.

Prep the Paneling

  • With painters tape, tape of ceilings, fireplaces, and windows so you don’t get paint on them
  • Remove all electrical wall plates. For safety purposes, you may want to place a small piece of painters tape over the circuits after removing the plates.

Clean the paneling

  • Using a large painters sponge, thoroughly clean the wood paneling to remove and grease, dirt or debris. This is an important step, so make sure you take your time.

Fill Cracks and Sand

  • Using spackle and a putty knife, fill in all holes, bumps or rough spots.
  • Important: If you have paneling with large grooves and you want fill them, apply drywall mesh tape before shackling.  Sand until smooth.
  • After the spackle dries, sand all the paneling with sandpaper. Make sure you make the entire surface rough so it will accept the primer and paint.
  • Using a clothe, wipe the dust off the paneling.

Apply Primer

  • Using a paint roller, apply the oil-based primer to the paneling. Use 2 coats if needed and make sure to let dry between coats.
  • Discard this paint roller as oil based paint is very hard to remove and you don’t want to mix it with your latex paint.


  • You want to use latex paint on your walls, and the color is up to you. Primarily, white is going to always look the best and really freshen up the room.
  • We suggest 2-3 coats and allowing at least 2 hours in between coats

If you feel that this project is too much for you to handle, you can definitely call in a painting contractor to do the job. Beware to ask the right questions before you hire anyone for the job.

But, if you take your time and do this correctly, you will have beautiful, bright walls that look fresh and new!

To take a look at a do it yourself video on painting paneling, check out this video:

Have you painted over your paneling? We would love to hear your tips or even have you share some photos! Leave us a comment 🙂


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