How To Paint Paneling
A lot of people are considering painting dated 1970s paneling in their own house. Danny gets some tips from a professional painter on just how to paint paneling and trim. Watch this video to find out more. ...More

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A lot of people are considering painting the 1970s paneling in their own house. Here’s how to go about painting paneling:

  • Clean: Clean the paneling to remove any dirt or grease.
  • Patch: Putty any nail holes and caulk any cracks, then allow to dry.
  • Sand: Lightly sand the surface of the paneling with 100 grit sandpaper to allow the primer to adhere.
  • Prime: Paint the paneling using a stainblocking 100% latex primer tinted to match the wall color. Oil-based primer can also be used if desired.
  • Paint: Finally, roll the walls with two topcoats of latex wall paint.

When painting the trimwork around the paneling, such as baseboards and door facings, use a similar procedure but use oil-based paint and primer for a smoother, high gloss finish. Watch this video to find out more.

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35 Comments on “How To Paint Paneling”

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  1. Norma Vonderheide Says:
    July 27th, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    What can I do to get rid of the lines in the paneling. Because it looks just like painted paneling to me. thanks Norma

  2. Official Comment:

    Danny Lipford Says:
    August 18th, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    About the only thing you can do other than replacing the paneling is to fill in the grooves with drywall joint compound using a 6in drywall knife. Then you will need to sand, prime and paint the walls.

  3. Deb T Says:
    August 28th, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    I have used textured paint with a degree of success however it depends on whether you want textured walls or not. ;) Depending on how thick the paint texture is you will still see lines when the light hits just right if you aren’t very careful in painting. filling the grooves is the obvious answer..texture painting is the easy way out but not always the best solution.

  4. Carole Says:
    October 2nd, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    I covered the grooves in my paneling by covering it with a wallpaper product that I purchased at Lowes. It is basically a heavy white paper with no pattern that I put up like wallpaper and gently smoothed over the paneling. There were one or two places in the panelling that was irregular and that showed thru the paper, but otherwise I was well satisfied with the “sheetrock” look of the wall.

  5. Deb T Says:
    October 3rd, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    Yes I have used that same paper on a home we lived in that was built in the 1800s and of course all the walls were in perfect condition..cough….

    It didnt work that well for me in that situation…I used textured paint there as well then decorative painting on top. It came out beautifully. Wish I had pics..unfortunately we rented the house and when we moved out a contractor bought it and put up an apartment complex..what a shame. Three fireplaces..etc. But the sills were bad and alot of work would have to had been done to restore the home which is why we moved and bought our house here on the lake which brings its own set of problems like flooding.. which I am dealing with now.

  6. Joy W Says:
    January 20th, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    After experimenting with many different paneling “groove fillers”, I found something that worked and seems like it will be durable. When I tried Joint Compound, spackling, caulk – paint just scratched off easily. It is Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood Filler it is paintable and sandable, comes in a tube and only $2 at target. Be sure to sand excess using a drywall sanding block (it is soft) spray some water on the filled in areas and it is very clean to use. This stuff probably only works if you have paneling with shallow grooves. Use a sanding block to Sand in the grooves a bit before applying.

  7. Martha M Says:
    March 3rd, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    I have just bought a mobile home and it has all the walls and cieling covered with wood paneling. I want to paint them but what type of paint should I buy???

  8. milly r Says:
    March 21st, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    i would like to paint my paneling, but i am not sure of the color that i would like to paint, (furniture is victorian style) colors on the furniture is pink,mavue,blue,gold,teal,beige, my rug also has the same colors (the wood color is cherry) and my curtains are a mauve color, do you have any suggestions or tell me where i can look to see what color would go well???

  9. Denise McGrady Says:
    April 17th, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    WE just bought a mobile home,even though it is nice every thing is late 70′s early 80′s paneling.I’d like to know the easiest way to paint it without any seams or shadows of them showing.It also has a huge sorta window sill behind the bed in the master bedroom,it looks like plywood,how could I make it look more like real wood.Al so some of the panels on the hall ceiling needs replaced.I’d rather just put in a plaster ceiling,how? And the bathroom had a look of puffy glow in dark stickers on the walls and ceiling.I took them off but they left a lot of residue,if I paint over it it will show terribly.How do I remove all the residue?
    Thank You.

  10. Deb T Says:
    May 11th, 2008 at 12:49 am

    Sorry I am so late answering these questions but I have been ill and not paying alot of attention to the site. Martha m: I would use a latex eggshell or satin paint of good quality. I like the texture effect but if you are going for a “cottage feel” then perhaps whitewashing the paneling is the route to go. remember to sand the panelling a bit to give it “tooth” to let the paint adhere to.

    Milly: As far as your question goes, look at a color wheel. Find the predominate color of the room..in your case it sounds like mauve. Then look across the wheel to find the complentary color.. you can also go monochromatic or autogolous, but for suggestions try going to behr.com or valspar.com and they have actual rooms that you can try different colors on. If you subscribe to the behr site you can upload your own pics and actually see what the colors will look like on the walls. You have alot of colors going on there. I would tend to stay with a very neutral color such as ivory.. with a tint of green red or yellow in it depending on what colors you want to highlight. When you have so many colors going on, make sure you find a good focal point so the eye isnt going crazy when you walk into the room. make sure when you enter that it focuses on one thing then its more soothing to the eye.
    Denise.. you can faux finish anything to make it look like a wood finish.. gel stains are good for that. as far as the ceiling goes you dont want plaster you probably want sheetrock.. and the residue can be removed easily usually with a product called goof off or sometimes wd 40 will take it off. if that doesnt work there are stronger adhesive removeers on the market. just make sure that it doesnt damage the material underneath.

    I hope this helps.

  11. Holly Says:
    July 6th, 2008 at 7:58 am

    I am attempting to remove 2 layers of wallpaper over hardwood paneling in our bedroom. Our home was built in 1957-58,we live where my husband grew up.
    What is the best way to paint the paneling after paper removal. (my husband likes the paneling, he remembers it from a small child)uhgg . Is it okay to prime/paint only?
    Should I fill in the grooves first?

  12. cheryl Says:
    September 17th, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    do you think drywalling over old paneling is good idea?

  13. marriana Says:
    January 19th, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    I have a 1950′s beach cottage with knotty pine wals and want to paint them off white to give that beachy feel. I was told that there is a primer that adheres to polyurethane. That way I don’t have to sand the whole darn room. Is this true and do you know the name? Thanks

  14. need help - DoItYourself.com Community Forums Says:
    January 28th, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    [...] Is it really wallpaper? Or, is it decorative paneling that looks like wallpaper? Many of the older mobile homes had paneling on which there was a pattern stamped so the panels looked like wallpaper. If you are not the original owner, it is possible that a previous owner wallpapered over the paneling. Check carefully to see if there is a seam that is raised or coming undone. Find a corner to see if you can lift any wallpaper. If you do, indeed, have wallpaper, it needs to be removed. The panels likely have plastic strips between them. Lazy wallpapers often paper over these. The plastic strips can be removed and the gaps filled with spackle. When dry, sand smooth. Removing wallpaper requires a little patience. You can buy a paper tiger, a little gizzo that punctures little holes in the paper, at the local paper/paint store. The more holes the better. Put a tablespoon of fabric softener in a quart spray bottle of water. Saturate paper. Use a putty knife to lift and peel off. Wash walls down afterwards to make sure all adhesive residue is removed. After you have removed wallpaper or have determined that you simply have decorative paneling, you need to very lightly sand, apply oil-based primer and apply a couple coats of latex paint. In the following video, the painter used a tinted acrylic primer. DIY: How To Paint Paneling – Danny Lipford [...]

  15. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    February 5th, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    For info on painting knotty pine, check out our article How to Paint Knotty Pine.

  16. Sarah Olsen Says:
    February 5th, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    I am trying to decide what color and how to paint over the notty pine walls and ceilings. I love it but the stain is too dark. I have a new white bedroom set, and I would like to make the room like a seaside cottage look, as I live on the water. If you have any suggestions, I would appreciate it. Sarah

  17. Jacki Says:
    April 2nd, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    I have a mobile home that has panelling that looks like wallpaper and has a shiny texture. Can I paint over this and would I need to put Kilz or a type of primer first?

  18. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    April 3rd, 2009 at 7:26 am

    Hi Jacki,
    It’s probably a vinyl coating, which does not hold paint well.

  19. flora merrill Says:
    August 20th, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    I just purchased a manufactured home built in 2005, I love the home but I hate the walls, they are textured but I can’t make out if they are wallpapered or if its a panel every couple of feet there is a strip running vertically,that has the same print on it… can i remove that strip and paint the walls?

  20. Bambi Miller Says:
    October 24th, 2009 at 10:41 am

    i am having a problem with painting my paneling. I cleaned the paneling and primed to get it ready for painting but now i am painting it with white paint, i have had to apply 3 coats of white paint. The paint is holding to the walls but it seems no matter how many coats i put on it, it wont cover up the dark color of the paneling. What else should i do?

  21. lucy pena Says:
    March 16th, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    I am trying to paint my mobil home I have used primer and it still peeling off the paint in some places.It also has paneling that looks like wallpapper.I am at a stand still.Please help!

  22. Amanda Sheehan Says:
    March 23rd, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Hi. I want to start painting the walls in my manufactured home. They are paneling that have a thin layer of something that is like wallpaper and it is textured. I want to take out the strips that hold these up and fill them in and then paint the walls. My concern is that I won’t be able to make the spots where the strips are look the same as the textured panels. I am also concerned that these won’t hold paint well. Do you have any suggestions on how to do this? I have a 2005 manufactured home. Thanks.

  23. Rachel Says:
    May 31st, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Our living room had dark wood paneling and trim. The ceilings are white and we have dark wood beams also. We just painted the paneling a tan color to try to lighten up the room. We are now faced with a dilema of the white ceiling, tan walls, and dark wood trim. What should we do? We have considered painting the wood trim white, or paint the ceiling a lighter tan color to get rid of the awkward white.

  24. Carra Says:
    July 13th, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    I am geting ready to paint over the wood paneling in my house. I am not sure what brand in the best joint compound to fill in the grooves. Could anyone help please? I have read so many things and I want one that will not crack over time.

  25. julena zrebski Says:
    August 19th, 2010 at 11:23 am

    hey,im trying to redo my living room we just bought this house and of course its paneling in the living and dining rooms,yuck….i want to buy a textured paint to cover it and use a textured roller??? my question is color i love warm colors id love to have like a beige light beige???but i have a pine trim that is varnished and im thinking it wont look right together any suggestions??? i love the trim…my living rm has forest green carpet and i have mauve n green furniture….PLEASE HELP…….

  26. Irene Says:
    November 8th, 2010 at 11:13 am

    I have dark paneling in the bathroom, bedroom and in the living room. Can I use the acrylic latex paint & primer for all the rooms? Or do I use something different for the bathroom?

  27. Kelly Says:
    November 30th, 2010 at 12:27 am

    We just moved into a manufactured home for the first time, and it is beautiful but the walls need to be painted. I have paneling that is like wallpaper. I am guessing I will have to wash it down, then use a primer such as kilz for a few coats, and then finally paint. However, when I caulk them, should I squirt some sort of something between them with a caulking gun first, and then spread it and then sand it, and on and on? Or will that push the paneling apart when it expands and dries? Any particular caulking better for these seams? Thanks for your help!!! :)

  28. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    November 30th, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Hi Kelly,
    Filling the grooves shouldn’t cause the paneling to pull apart, but the filler may crack or come loose over time. You basically have two choices for filling the grooves, spackling and drywall joint compound or caulking. Spackling and drywall joint compound are applied from the container with a putty knife. They dry hard and can be sanded when dry, resulting in a smooth surface. However, they are also hard and brittle when dry and may crack if the paneling is flexed by bumping it if it isn’t firmly supported behind it. Caulking is applied from a tube, then smoothed out with a putty knife or finger. It usually shrinks a bit on drying and remains flexible. On the down side, that means it can’t be sanded and the grooves will probably still be slightly visible after painting. On the plus side, caulking won’t crack or fall out when flexed like spackling or joint compound. One other very important thing to consider is that if your paneling has a vinyl wallpaper or other vinyl coating on it, paint won’t stick to it. Good luck with your project!

  29. don sly Says:
    April 17th, 2011 at 1:06 pm


  30. Renee' Kaz Says:
    June 27th, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Is it necceasary to fill the grooves with filler? Can’t I just prime the awful wpaneling, then paint it? The room is our basement, we had rain water come in last month so we decided to replace the florr. I’m having a hard time picking out a new floor due to the paneling, so why not paint the paneling?? any thoughts on the this?
    thanks so much!

  31. Angie Says:
    November 10th, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    I used ready mixed plaster(joint compound)to apply a thick hand texture to my paneling. First, I covered the grooves in the paneling with a thin waffle joint tape. This was the only prep required. I made sure to fill grooves well with plaster as I was going, making sure tape wasn’t visible, & using a method similar to spreading icing on a cake. Was fun, but time consuming! Used almost 4 gal. for a 144 sf wall. Let plaster dry for 48 hours,then I painted and glazed. It’s beautiful! Warning: I did my bathroom before trying tape over grooves. I filled the grooves with plaster first & let dry, then plastered over that. Several grooves cracked! Don’t do it without taping the grooves!

  32. bill russell Says:
    November 14th, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    I have dealt with the vinyl paper glued to 4×8′ panels in a mobile home and regular wood grain look paneling in a 79′ m obile home. In the first, I tried to remove the vinyl paper and found it almost impossible. So I took my razor knife and scored it in a grid pattern to give it tooth. Then I applied lightweight joint compound, in a somewhat smooth design. After that dried, I applied another coat, then took sandpaper and sanded the rougher edges. After this I took old cut-up towels and rubbed the walls to smooth it a little more. Then I painted it with primer and a topcoat. It turned out beautifully.

    In the second instance, I sanded the paneling (it was a fairly light color), cleaned it with a spray cleaner, and filled in the grooves with lightweight joint compound. It took two coats of the compound, and in some places three, but it went fairly quickly. The results were good. The same as you would get with painted drywall.

  33. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    November 14th, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Hi Bill,
    Thanks for the tips!

  34. Ben Says:
    January 8th, 2012 at 3:04 am

    I was thinking of using a burnt orange on the bottom of my old messed up cherry colored paneling and a lighter color on top with a chair rail strip or some other moulding dividing the two. It looks good in simulation, but I’m not sure yet. Local home center told me I’d have to first sand and then use a stain killer (like Kilz) before I paint it. How does all this sound? Some of all you guys’ comments sound good as well, things I hadn’t thought of yet. The room is a rectangular living room on the north side of the house and is dark, gets very little sun. The dark cherry paneling maks it even worse, depressing to habitate.

  35. Katie Says:
    April 27th, 2012 at 12:47 pm


    We have followed all of the directions…cleaned, filled with joint compound twice, cleaned, primed, and now our test patches (one with 2 coats of primer, one with 1 coat or primer and 2 coats of paint) still have visable lines from the paneling. We are at a total loss as far as what to do about this? We really do not want the lines to be seen…especially after so much work. Thanks.

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