How to Paint Over Wood Paneling

Wood paneling is any decorative piece of wood attached to a wall, furniture or any kind of wooden structure. It can be made from the same wood from where it’s attached or it can also be made from other wood species.

If this is so, how do you paint over wood panels?

This guide will help you apply paint on simple or intricate wood panels and improve your woodworking and painting skills as well.

Painting wood paneling basics

Consider that if wood paneling is made from different species of wood then it would use a different kind of paint and treatment than the wood it is attached to. Being so, you must find out about what kind of wood you are working on and what treatment it needs before and after the painting process.

What you will need

  • Googles, mask, and gloves
  • Sandpaper
  • Joint compound
  • Putty knife or trowel
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • TSP (tri-sodium phosphate)
  • Clean tack cloth


1) Preparing the area


Remove any furniture inside the room and cover the floor with a drop cloth. You must also protect furniture pieces that you don’t want to be painted on.

Spot-treat any holes, gashes, or blemishes in the wall. Use spackle or joint compound to cover these imperfections. Use a putty knife or a trowel and fill any uneven surface with joint compound. Use a putty knife to press the compound into the blemishes. You may apply two coats of the compound because this shrinks when it dries.

2) Sanding the surface


Sand the wall down with a fine-grit sander on all the wall surfaces. The best tool to use is an orbital sander but sandpaper will work great. For hard to reach areas, use an extension pole or ladder.

Never overlook sanding because proper sanding will remove any protective coating on the paneling, will increase adhesion of the paint and will increase the smoothness of the surface you will be working on.

Remove dust and residue on walls. Dust or residue will affect the final look of your paint and will also make the surface rougher. One way to totally clean your wall is by applying TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) or a TSP substitute. Rinse TSP off with a clean cloth and let a few hours for the walls to completely dry.

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3) Repair the surface


Use joint compound to any grooves in the paneling. This will create a smooth surface on the painting. Use a trowel to smooth the compound and allow this to completely dry. Wipe the treated area with a dry cloth to remove any residue which may be left by sanding.

4) Priming and painting


Time to prime the paneled walls. First, tape the edges around the window and door frames and near the ceiling to protect these areas. Start applying a coat of primer. Choose one that is specially made for wood. This will create a light and clean area that will be easier to cover. Most wood primers are water-based which means that this dries in just 2 to 4 hours. This means you have less time to spend on your project.

For best results, you must mix and aerate the primer really well before applying it to the wood paneling. Mix the primer using up and down motions so that it distributes more evenly. After letting the primer dry completely, sand it down with fine-grit sandpaper. You must remove any sawdust or residue after sanding. Use a tack cloth or a clean brush.

5) Start painting the paneling


Use a brush to cut around windows, doors, and ceiling. After the edge work is done paint the walls using a brush or a roller. Apply an even coat of paint and let this dry for a day or so. Apply a second or third coat of paint if this is necessary. But make sure each layer is sufficiently dry before applying the next layer.

Inspect the paint and make sure this is dry before moving it back into the room. For an even, smooth look, use fine sandpaper and a terry cloth to smoothen the coat of paint before you apply the next coat.


Painting over wood paneling is not so different from painting on regular surfaces. But to be successful in your project, you must deal with any imperfections on your walls and apply the ideal paint for the type of wood paneling.

  • January 5, 2019
  • DIY