How to EASILY Paint Over Wood Paneling

Are you wondering how to paint over wood paneling?  There are so many posts found on google that make it so much more complicated than it really it.  Here is a simply tutorial on how to paint it like a pro!

When we bought our house in 2010, there was A LOT of wood paneling… the foyer, the kitchen, the dining room and another room downstairs.  Needless to say, I’ve have to paint over wood paneling quite a bit in my house and have tried several methods.  The method that I’ve found works best is actually the easiest as well!

And the picture above is the FINAL paneled wall in our house finally covered with paint!  This wall is part of a DIY series where Lauren and I are (slowly) redecorating our dining room.  More to come!

 Retro Paneling

Here’s how it looked before painting.  As far as wood paneling goes, it could be a lot worse, but it’s definitely not our style.

Contrary to many popular methods that you might have found on the internet, you do NOT need to sand or de-gloss the paneling (unless its like a super mirror finish – but most are not).  Also, this can be done in only 2 coats total, including the primer!  The key to making this work is in the types of products that you use.  Here’s what you will need:

  • High quality OIL-BASED primer.  I use KILZ Interior Oil Primer and have had great results.  This barrier stops anything from bleeding through, and also helps the paint go on evenly.  Tip – you can tint primer to match the final color.
  • High quality latex paint.  I used to buy bargain paint, and sometimes if I was in a really crazy mood, I bought the “middle-of-the-road” paint.  Then one day Lauren came home from Lowes with a gallon of the Valspar Signature Series paint, and I was not happy about it (it’s not cheap).  But then I tried it.  Literally ONE nice & even coat is all it took.  That stuff is great.  I don’t know about you, but I’d gladly pay an extra $10 or $15 to NOT have to paint a room twice!  (note that certain colors cover differently, so you might need more than one coat regardless of what paint you choose)

I’ve painted 3 of my rooms using this method with fantastic results.  If you take a look at the walls in our back toy room, this is how I painted those as well.

Do you have any paneling in your house?

Have you tried different methods for painting paneling?


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  1. Laura says

    I have paneling walls in my living room, but they keep pealing must be cheap not real paneling. Would I have to peal off the stuff or just paint over the stuff that is pealing? I feel as if I start to peal it off I be here for days!

    • Mark says

      Hi Laura. Not having seen the peeling you are talking about, I’m not really sure. Maybe before paint it you could use a metal paint scraper to try and scrape off as much of the peeling stuff as you can.

  2. Sarah W. says

    We had to paint over miles of similar panelling in our house. Good primer/paint was our key too. We just used the top of the line paint from Lowes that is primer/paint in one for our hallway and loved it. It was pricey, but worth it since it meant 2 coats instead of 4.

      • Sarah W. says

        We also have an amazing family friend who likes to paint and is good at it. She did my daughter’s room and our hallway, and I may twist her arm to do the youngest girl’s bedroom soon. I often bring her lunch so I feel like it’s an even trade (after a while!). I can paint but don’t like to, and she is so fast at it!

        • says

          Sarah, secret is that I am not allowed to paint in my house. I am a horrible painter and take forever. Mark is perfect and fast! I hate painting so I am glad that I suck at it :)

  3. Sandra says

    Thanks for the info !! I have been waiting too long to paint my kit. It only goes up half way on the walls and its cheap paneling. Did you have a hard time with your kit because of built up goo or grease. Did you have clean it first with a special cleaner? This is the only thing that’s stopping me. Thanks :)

    • Mark says

      My walls were pretty clean, but I did clean any gunk off that was there. If there is a build up of anything, I’d try to scrape it off before painting.

  4. Stacey says

    I have knotty pine almost everywhere in my house. But it’s the good stuff. I want to refinish most of it but I want to paint the paneling in the kitchen. Thanks for the advise.

  5. Deborah says

    I wish I had know this in the 90’s when I painted our very dark panelling. It was just so dark and dreary in the whole house. I didn’t use oil paint, but did use the semi-gloss latex paint. Didn’t know about the Kilz either

  6. Ashley says

    Oil based Kilz is what I used when painting over the paneling when I moved back into my family home that had been empty for six years…. along with a coat of great paint… you wouldn’t believe the difference…Amazing

    • Mark says

      I’m glad you also had great results. And it’s so much easier than following some of the “how to” articles about painting paneling that I’ve seen on the internet. It’s all about using good products.

  7. says

    Ha! I was wondering whether to use the primer KILZ offers or something else for improving my living room. This tutorial was really easy to follow. Thanks.

    • Mark says

      Hi Callum! Yes, there are other products you could use, BIN works ok. And I’m sure there are other great oil-based primers out there, but KILZ is the one I’ve had the most success with and it’s pretty inexpensive.

  8. says

    I have painted over a lot of paneling. But the paneling had no shine to it at all. I filled the cracks with compound, and sanded it to make it a solid wall. Never would do that again. took a lot of time. I used paint with primer from Wal-Mart and it worked fine. Also painted paneling with out filling the it in with paint with paint from Wal-Mart. As long it has a primer in it. It works fine.

  9. barbara says

    Hi Mark Quick question was your paneling real wood paneling (knotty pine or tongue and groove) or was it sheet paneling that was used in the 1970’s? the reason I ask is because before I paint my knotty pine I want to make sure yours is the same I am looking for the effect you created. Also how is it with the kids? my painter told me painted wood will always chip but we have wood molding on the corners of our walls in the hallway (because of the bikes and balls in our house) and it has not chipped ((fingers crossed)) . Did you use any top coat?? thanks for your time

    • Mark says

      Hi barbara – sorry it took me a couple days to reply. Anyway, the paneling I painted in my home was a combination of cheap sheet paneling used in the 60’s and 70’s and some of it was the higher quality paneling (although still ugly) that used a thick veneer of real wood. In the application of paint, the high-quality paneling would be almost identical to real wood paneling or knotty pine.

      It has held up great with the kids and has not chipped… although it does not repel my 3 year old from coloring on it with pens and markers. The oil-based primer cures to a hard material and really adheres to the wood. You should not have a problem with this method.

      I did not use a top coat over the latex paint.

  10. Becky says

    If you are sick of floor to ceiling paneling and do not want the “texture” it adds, a cheap way to do something else is to use joint compound (drywall mud) and skim the seams of the paneling out before priming and painting. Instead of spending TONS of time sanding, take a car washing sponge and “wet sand” the joint compound. Then you do not have drywall dust everywhere AND you get a perfectly smooth surface.

  11. Katie says

    Would you be willing to send me a close up pic of the trip on top of the paneling? We are trying to find something like that and I really like how that looks. (The shelf part of it and the 2 pieces below) Or if you can tell me what cuts of trim they are, that would be awesome too! Thank you….it turned out so good.

  12. Colleen says

    We have a place with vaulted ceilings & whole house is paneling. On the taller walls there are plastic strips where the paneling seams meet. There are also plastic strips in the corners of rooms. Can those be painted also?

  13. Christy says

    What finish of paint did you use? I’m planning on painting our living room/kitchen and I’m struggling with which finish to use!

  14. April says

    Our paneling is already painted with an oil-based paint and we want to paint it a new color. Do you think the same technique will work (e.g. Kill oil-based primer followed by a latex paint)?

  15. Kristi says

    We already have paneling that has been painted by previous owners, but the walls are not smooth at all, and the paint job isn’t great. Can I sand it down to smooth it, then start back with the primer? Or do I even need primer at this point? Just wasn’t sure what to do first!

  16. Donna says

    regarding your painted paneling: did you use semi gloss? also, it appears your trim is the same color. is that correct?

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