CommentaryHome Improvement  February 2, 2024

Yes, Virginia, You Can Paint That Wood Paneling

Popcorn Ceilings.
Wood Paneling.

If you envision your grandparent’s house, or the house you grew up in (if you’re old like I am), you’ll know those are the calling cards of a dated home. Why avocado green or harvest gold were upscale colors for appliances or why wood paneling was the rage in the decor of the 20th Century is unknown to me, but they were.

Growing up in my childhood home, we had a playroom that was added in the early 1960s (my mother never grew tired of reminding me that the cement slab was poured the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated), and it was covered in a lighter tan wood paneling. I thought nothing of it growing up in the 1970s, but when I started showing homes as a Realtor, whenever we walked into a home with paneling I’d hear gasps from the buyers about the expense of replacing it.  It did make a home, shall we say, a period piece, but the solution is actually not that involved.

Re-doing a room with wall paneling is not a huge expensive project. It can be if you chose to physically remove the paneling and replace it with sheetrock, but you don’t have to. You can simply paint the paneling. Some sources recommend spackling the grooves to make it smooth like drywall, but you really don’t have to.

Here is the least expensive, fastest and simplest way to update the walls:

  1. Apply an undercoat of primer
  2. Paint the color of your choosing
  3. Enjoy the updated room every day the rest of your ownership of the home.

This is what I did. It transformed the room. I’ve done it in more than one house, as my current home’s basement office was all paneling.

If you have reservations about the efficacy of the method or are worried that the panel grooves will make it look clunky, let me assure you this: You have walked through rooms that had painted paneling and you didn’t even realize it. Millions of homes had paneling in the 1960s and 1970s. Those millions of homes that no longer do seldom did a gut renovation of those rooms. They painted over it. I’ve posted screen shots of videos from my office before and after the paneling was painted, and while you can discern the grooves, so what. You were looking. No one notices and even if they did it’s not unattractive.

Just paint it and you’ll love the result. It’s not even a compromise. It’s the easiest and most sensible way to transform a room from 1967 to 2024. You’re welcome!