How to Paint Wood Paneling

June 18, 2018

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I’m a little nostalgic when I remember painting my wood paneling. This was really my first DIY adventure in our house–before I really fell in love with all things DIY and got more intentional about doing it as a stress reliever while I was home with my kids.

When we first bought our house, it would take about 19 seconds before you’d realize, “I’m surrounded by wood.”

And not pretty wood.  1960s uuuugly wood.  Wood cabinets, wood paneling between the cabinets, wood paneling in the dining room, wooden cabinets in the bathroom, an ugly wood paneling accent wall in the baby’s room, wood paneling in our office, knotty pine paneling in our bedroom, wood paneling in the basement (?!), and… guess what else in the window room…. WOOD PANELING.

And honestly, I love wood! I get excited in the lumber aisles of hardware stores.  I just don’t think it’s necessary to drown in it.

Is the word “wood” starting to look fuzzy to you?

So when my son was almost two months old, my mom planned a 4 day visit, and I was ITCHING to get at this paneling situation. I started in our dining room because I realistically couldn’t paint a much larger surface area in the limited amount of time I had.  It was also the largest source of paneling on the entry level of the house, so people who come in for just a few minutes wouldn’t run away screaming.


Glidden Gripper Primer
Latex paint
Painters tape
Small-ish paintbrush (to get in between the panels)
Paint roller


This is my dining room before:

There is so much light trying to come in the windows but the wood just makes it too dark in there!

Are you overthinking this?

Before starting this project, I did a ridiculous amount of research.  I read every pin on Pinterest, and called my dad and my brother for advice.

So if you are like me, relax.  It’s really not that hard.  I did it in a few periods over a few days while my mom watched my babies.

To Sand or Not to Sand

One of my main concerns was sanding. I didn’t have a sander (EDIT: I now have a sander. It’s pretty dang great.). So using sandpaper would take way too much time and also destroy my baby-holding muscles.  SO valuable.

But I really didn’t want this to be a crap job without it.

I went to Home Depot and asked an employee about it, and he directed me to Glidden Gripper primer and assured me it would be okay not to sand.

EDIT AGAIN: Now that I have a sander (which basically makes me a professional, duh), I have reconciled with the whole concept–AND my baby holding muscles are totally intact.

SO, if I’m completely honest, I think sanding would have made the rest of the project easier and more durable.  Over the two years we lived here after, we did get a few chips.  And I think you really could sand your room and not die.  I know it’s a crazy concept, but I think I’m right.  However, if you don’t sand, painting your paneling will still be worth it.

I chose “hazelnut cream” color, because I wanted to brighten up the room.

And also because I drink hazelnut creamer in my coffee every morning.  And I mean, I owe most of my accomplishments in life to coffee.

You get it now, let’s do this

First I cleaned all of the walls and windows I was painting, then I taped off the ceiling, floors, and the windows. 

This was back when we had these oooooold wooden windows that I also had to prime and paint, so the taping took me DAYS.  Months. Tooooo long!  Honestly, this entire project would have been super, super easy if it weren’t for these windows from the underworld.  Here’s a before picture with the tape:

This tutorial for painting wood paneling makes it seem so much less intimidating! It totally transforms an entire room.

Ohhhhh whoops, there’s cute baby cuddles covering it.  My bad. 😉

Step #1: Primer

So finally, I started with the primer!  Doing the windows made this take longer, but in general this is a pretty quick step.  

The primer was definitely more fume-y than I hoped. Definitely make sure you keep the room aired out, and work on this when your kids are in bed, if you’re a mom.

Step #2: Paint

The next day, I went on to the first coat of paint.  This was the quickest step because I didn’t have to paint the baseboards or window trim, and I didn’t have to tape anything in between.  Here’s the room at this point:

This tutorial for painting wood paneling makes it seem so much less intimidating! It totally transforms an entire room!

So much brighter already!

Don’t forget about any trim you have!

After the second coat completely dried, I taped all the window trim and baseboards.  This, along with the windows, was the most tedious part of this whole project.

And since I’ve done so many painting projects since this one, I would suggest not even using tape. 

After the Painting

It’s the after already?  Yes, because this project was really THAT simple.

Anyway… here’s the room after! 

The best tutorial for painting wood paneling

Let’s just compare… for fun 🙂

The best tutorial for painting wood paneling

In the end–I LOVE IT. It makes the room a million times brighter.  A MILLION!

Since posting this, I added the rope shelf and changed the centerpiece decor, which helped even more.  If you paint your paneling, please send me the before and after pictures! 🙂

This room was also a huge part of my complete kitchen transformation for under $400, which you can check out here

Want to learn more about how you can take the imperfect space you have and turn it into a home you love? Get in on the free email course! 

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Hi! I’m Kaylee–a mom of 2, business owner, DIY addict, and so much more. You’ll find some fun DIY tutorials, totally honest reviews, and lots of tips for making your home fit YOU. Welcome to Mama and More!


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