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Painting 101

How to Paint Over Paneling

If a kitchen looks dated because of dark paneling, it can easily be brightened up with a few coats of paint. Lighter walls are much more stylish than darker paneling.

More in Painting

use long napped roller on grooved paneling

Step 1: Inspect and Prepare the Paneling

In some instances you may be able to remove the paneling and paint the walls directly. But often paneling was installed with both nails and adhesive, and you could damage your walls if you try to remove the paneling. Also, in some cases the paneling was placed directly on the wall studs with nothing behind it.

When you're ready to start painting, make sure that your paneling is made of solid wood. Some paneling actually consists of a vinyl print that simulates the look of wood. To check, sand a small area on the wall. Vinyl coatings come off quickly, revealing the pressboard underneath. If your walls have a vinyl or thin veneer finish, you'll need to take extra care when painting them.

Another point to consider is the texture you want your walls to have. If you want a smooth finish, you can fill the paneling grooves with wood filler, a time-consuming job, or hang a liner over the paneling and paint the liner. Otherwise, you can simply paint the paneling for a look of added depth and texture.

Step 2: Place the Drop Cloth

After gathering materials together, move any furniture out of the way and place a drop cloth on the floor near the wall.

Step 3: Wash the Paneling

Wash the paneling with trisodium phosphate, also known as TSP, to remove grease from the walls.

wash paneling with tsp to remove grease from walls

Courtesy of Blake Brinkman

Step 4: Fill Holes With Spackling

Fill any damaged areas with spackling compound and then sand them smooth.

Step 5: Place Masking Tape

Remove any outlet covers and switchplates and place masking tape over any areas that you don't want painted.

Step 6: Prime and Paint the Paneling

Apply a coat of primer to the wall. The primer is important because it helps to cover the wall's imperfections, provides a better surface for the paint to stick to and keeps fresh paint from soaking into patched areas. If you have your primer tinted the same color as your paint, you may be able to get the job done with just one coat of paint.

Step 7: Tips to Speed Up the Painting Process

Use a sash brush to paint the walls near the corners, ceiling and base molding. Image: This process, known as "cutting in," will make the job easier because these areas are hard to reach with paint rollers.

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