How to Paint Wood Paneling

Some wooden furniture and wooden home fixtures are made of wood panels. These panels are usually intricately designed and can have modern, contemporary or classic designs. Although most wooden panels come ready to be installed, some do need to be painted and varnished.

Applying paint finish on wood paneling will help protect the panel’s surface from the elements. It will also enhance the natural grain or appearance of the panels. There are a lot of projects that use wood paneling and an expert woodworker will be able to paint on these pieces with ease.

Painting wood paneling basics

Before anything else, you must consider that wood paneling could be made from different species of wood; therefore, you may need to use a different kind of paint as well as treatment compared to the wood where it is attached to. The following are steps that will introduce and simplify wood panel painting.

What you will need

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


1) Preparing your working area


Prepare the room where you will be working on. Remove any furniture and cover the floor as well as the floor and any cabinetry and remaining wood furniture that you don’t want to paint on. Inspect the panels and the wall for any imperfections. Treat holes, gashes, or blemishes found on the wall.

2) Repair imperfections


Fill cracks, gouges, and scratches with joint compound or spackle. Use a putty knife or a trowel to apply the putty on the wood. This compound will naturally shrink as it dries and because of this, you may apply two coats of joint compound.

3) Sanding the wall


Use a fine grit sander to sand the wall surfaces. You may also use fine-grit sandpaper. For hard to reach areas you can use a ladder to reach or use an extension pole. Once you have finished sanding, remove dust and residue on walls. This will affect the final look of your paint and make the surface smoother.

4) Clean your wall thoroughly


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Clean your wall thoroughly by applying TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) or a TSP substitute. After applying TSP rinse it off with a clean cloth and allow this to completely dry. If there are grooves in the wood panels, use joint compound to cover these and create a smooth surface on the painting.

Use a trowel to smooth the compound and let this dry completely. Wipe with a dry cloth to remove any residue that may have been left after sanding.

5) Priming and painting the wood panels


After preparing the wall, you may now apply primer. Tape the edges around the window and door frames to protect these from paint splatter. Apply a coat of primer that is specially made for wood. This will make the area light and clean and easier to cover. Wood primers are water-based and this means that these dries in just 2 to 4 hours.

6) Mix and aerate the primer well before applying

Mix the primer well and use up and down motions so that primer is distributed evenly on the mixture. Let the primer coat dry completely. Afterwards, sand it with fine-grit sandpaper. After sanding, remove sawdust or residue as a result of sanding. Use a tack cloth or a clean brush to completely remove all dust that can affect your work.

7) Paint the paneling with a brush


Remember to cut around windows, doors, and ceilings. After you are done with edge work, paint the walls with a brush or roller. Apply the paint evenly and let this dry for at least a day or more.

You may apply a second or third coat of paint. Make sure each layer is very dry before applying the next layers of paint. Use fine sandpaper and a terry cloth to smoothen the coat of paint for a more even look before you apply the next coat.


Painting wood paneling is quite similar to painting actual wooden walls but you need to match the paint or treatment according to the type of wood the paneling was made. Painting wood panels also involve enhancing the base wall and this involves removing imperfections and applying primer and your choice of top coat or coats.

  • January 5, 2019
  • DIY