How to Paint Wood Paneling 

Many homeowners with older homes have a common instinct to rip out old wood paneling or use drywall on top of it to start fresh with their space. But getting rid of wood paneling isn’t always the best move. In fact, leaving wood paneling and painting over it can add character and personality to your space. Not only will it save you money, you can also transform your home into an English country style home, beach house, or give it a Scandinavian feel.

A fresh coat of paint will create a textured look, and brighten and modernize your walls. Don’t have wood paneling, but want to get the look? You can emulate it with vertical vinyl siding to add historically inspired elegance to your home!

Painting your wood paneling is a simple task, but you’ll need all necessary tools and materials. Don’t worry, it’s possible to paint over knots as well as over waxy veneer. For five tips on painting wood paneling, follow the instruction guide below the materials section to ensure your walls are prepared for long lasting paint coverage.

First things first! What materials will I need?

If you’re like most people, you want to be 100% prepared and get this project done in one go, which means acquiring all the tools and materials before you start. See below for a list of items.

Safety Purposes:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Long sleeve shirt you don’t mind parting with
  • Respiratory mask (if you will use a toxic cleaner)
  • Goggles


  • Caulking gun
  • Prybar
  • Spackling compound
  • Sandpaper
  • Trisodium phosphate (TSP) (a toxic compound soluble in water for cleaning and degreasing – use rubber gloves!)
  • Rags or sponges and a bucket
  • 2-inch paint brush
  • Paint roller with foam sponge cover
  • Primer (optional) and paint

For cleanup:

  • Newspapers
  • Drop cloths
  • Vacuum

Guidelines: 5 Tips to Follow

1. Clean the Panelling

Use a clean and damp rag or sponge to remove dust and dirt from the wall. You’ll notice the dirt accumulation in the crevices, as well as a grease build up on the walls. To degrease, use TSP and water mixed in a bucket, and wipe the panelling with a sponge or rag. In this stage, note any nail holes and fill them with a spackling compound.

2. Protect Your Space

Lay down newspapers, or a large drop cloth to ensure paint splatter doesn’t end up on your floor. Use painters tape to mask any areas you’d like to protect, such as windows.

3. Sand the Panelling and Caulk Cracks

To take the sheen off the finish of the wood panelling, sand it with a pole sander or sanding block using 100-200 grit sandpaper. The goal is just to scuff, don’t get carried away. Wipe away dust with a damp rag as you go. Use your caulking gun to apply to any cracks and gaps where paneling meets the baseboard.

4. Remove Trim (If Necessary)

Use a prybar to remove trim if you plan to leave the trim colour as is or paint it a different shade than your wood paneling. Replace it when you’re finished painting.

5. Prime and Paint

If you are worried about the wood grain showing through the final coat of paint, use two coats of primer before painting. Solid wood needs a water-based product; for veneer, a shellac-based one. Once your priming is finished, make sure it’s dry before you paint. Use your paint brush to cut in at corners, and then use your paint roller for the rest of the wall. For a great job, you will need a minimum of two coats, perhaps even three. Lightly sand the wall between coats and be sure to wipe out any thick excess paint that collected in the panel grooves.

Ready to start your painting project? Use our tips to paint your wood paneling and transform your space!