Painting Over Unfinished Wood Paneling

There are many ways to paint over wood paneling and a lot of advice on how to do it properly. The problem is that most of those ideas assume that the paneling being painted over is relatively smooth and flat. What happens then if the wood paneling in question is rough and uneven? That type of wood paneling is much more difficult to paint over, but it can be done. Try the tips and tricks below to smooth out and paint over rough edged, unfinished wood paneling.

Evaluate the Surface

Begin by analyzing the surface of the paneling. If it is smooth, you will have a relatively easy time priming and painting it. However, if the surface of the paneling is rough, be prepared to do extensive prep work before being able to paint it. Be sure to also locate any areas that may need to be patched or holes from picture frames or wall decor that need to be filled.


When the surface is rough, there is little choice but to sand it down before priming and painting. An electric sander is going to be the best tool to use, as it can quickly and efficiently smooth out large areas of the room. Make sure that you wear proper eye protection and a mask to prevent dirt, wood particles and dust from getting into your eyes, nose and mouth. If possible, start at the top of the wall and sand down toward the bottom. Use a sturdy ladder or step stool to reach the top of the wall. Sand the surface completely until it is no longer rough to the touch.


Priming the wall is going to be a critical step. If the paneling is, for the most part, untreated wood, you will find that the primer is absorbed into the surface. It will take a few rounds of primer to get an even coat on the paneling. While it is ideal to use a high-quality primer for all coats, if the budget does not allow for that expense, use a less expensive primer for the first coat and a higher-quality primer for additional ones. Take the time to prime the wood paneling correctly, so that you end up with smooth and color-true walls.


The final step in refinishing wood paneling walls is to paint them. Select a high-quality paint in a color that matches the rest of the room’s decor, or that matches a new decor you have in mind. Be prepared to apply at least two coats of paint to the walls. If you have primed the paneling sufficiently, it should take no more than two coats of paint to create an even and smooth finish.

Painting over unfinished wood paneling is less expensive than ripping it down and repairing the wall underneath. While it may not be an ideal situation, painting rough wood paneling can be done with the proper preparations. Take the time to do the job right and you will end up with a room that looks and feels completely new.

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One Comment

  1. The outside of your home takes a beating from the weather everyday. That is why your tip to prepare weathered wood correctly is so important. Like you say bare wood is going to rot faster. I’ll have to try your tip to sand my wood first before I even think about painting it.

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