Some of the veneered plywood paneling installed in American homes a few decades ago has a dark wood tone that can seem oppressive. However, you don’t need to tear out paneling to get cheery walls. In some cases, tearing out would be disastrous because paneling was sometimes installed over studs without wallboard first being hung. Instead, paint it. The paneling will take on an entirely new look and give the room a textured character, as well as a bright atmosphere. Excellent color choices include white, off-white, ivory, beige, light taupe, pale or bright pastels, and muted or grayed pastels. If the paneling is in decent condition, you can paint an average bedroom in a day.
Inspect and Prepare the Paneling
Cracks, holes, and other imperfections will not be erased by paint – in fact, paint may actually highlight flaws. Fill such openings with caulk and immediately wipe with a damp sponge, or use wood filler, sanding the surface after it dries.
Lay plastic sheeting along the paneling baseboard and cover with tarps to make it easy to walk on. Then wash the paneling carefully with commercial wall-washing compound. Rinse with clear water containing ¼ cup white vinegar per gallon. Towel dry. Rubbing in the direction of the wood grain, wipe down the paneling with a de-glosser to roughen its surface.
Choose a paint color. Ask the paint dealer for an alkyd or alcohol-based primer especially formulated to bond to a glossy surface. Have the primer tinted to 75 percent of your color. Apply two coats of this primer with a brush, letting it dry completely between coats. Fill in any imperfections you notice at this point, and prime those spots. Then brush on a coat of flat, eggshell, satin, or semi-gloss latex (or alkyd interior paint, if preferred). Allow time for the paint to dry.