How to Paint Over Paneling

It has always been a common question among homeowners whether they should or should not paint over wall paneling.

If you plan on covering over your wall paneling, you should first and foremost inspect the surface. In some instances, you may be able to remove the paneling and paint the walls directly.

However, some paneling is installed and stuck on walls using nails and/or adhesive tape. In this case, you cannot remove the paneling as you will just damage the surface.

When you have decided to start painting, make sure that your paneling is made of solid wood. Keep in mind that some paneling is made of a vinyl print which only simulates the look of wood.

To check if your paneling is indeed made of wood, sand a small area on the wall. You will notice that vinyl coatings come off quickly and underneath would directly by the pressboard.

If your walls are made of vinyl or thin veneer finish, you will need to take extra care when covering them.

Materials Needed

One of the keys to a smooth flow of work is preparation. Before taking into the job itself, prepare the following materials:

High-quality oil-based primer

Oil-based primers are often recommended if you are covering surfaces that are likely to be in contact with people such as doors, windows, cabinets, and walls.

Before you can use oil-based primers, you are likely to be required to use mineral spirits for thinning and cleanup. 

Oil-based primers are also ideal for sealing over problematic woods, for example, is cedar. 

High-quality latex paint

Using high-quality latex material for your projects is advantageous. Of course, they will cost more than the entry-level latex paints in the market.

However, a good thing about high-quality latex material is that it can cover the surface thorough in just one coat. For the normal or cheap ones, you may still need to apply another coat of paint to cover the paneling completely. 

How to Paint Over Wood Paneling

multi color wooden wall with a heart

Give your room a retouch by giving it a fresh coat of paint by following these easy steps:

1. Prepare the area

Make sure you cover the area which you don’t intend to cover on. Wrap the furniture with newspapers, drop cloth or plastic covers.

Do this to the floor as well, as the material may drip down when painting wall paneling. To secure these surfaces, even more, you can you spray tapes. 

2. Inspect the area for any defect

Before proceeding to the original covering, check if the area is free from any kind of defect. If not, repair them first if possible.

Panels will continue to deteriorate even under a good covering. If there is significant mildew or warping, then it might be worth tearing down the entire board instead.

In some cases, it may be worth repairing the panels. For example, when you notice that the wall is tearing down, you can nail it down in the groove.

3. Clean the paneling

Before you start painting, make sure the surface is clean. You may use an all-purpose cleaner or degreaser and a sponge. A damp rag may also get rid of most of the dust, dirt, and cobwebs.

However, dirty walls may need a commercial degreaser to prepare them for work.

Rinse the surface entirely afterward. Note that degreasers can be dangerous to your skin and lungs, so take note of and follow the label instructions carefully.

Allow paneling to dry before painting it entirely. Remember never to wash over a dirty surface. Otherwise, the paint will not stick to the surface properly.

The finished work will also look sloppy because the material will mix with a mass of dirt, hence making it impossible to get a flat and clean look.

4. Sand the surface (optional)

Not a requirement but an additional way to clean the target surface is to sand the area. Start with 220 grit sandpaper. You may also use a pole sander to make the work easier. Clean up the dust after sanding. 

Remember that sanding is optional. It really depends on the paneling and the type of materials you will be using. If you are planning to use a primer finish on wood walls, sanding may no longer be necessary. 

5. Fill the grooves (optional)

The spaces or lines on the walls are called grooves. These usually are 1/8"thick or less. If you wish to minimize its appearance, you may fill in the spaces by applying lightweight spackle with a putty knife.

Allow the spackle to dry up, then smooth it with a sanding block afterward. 

Before doing the work, be sure to fill any holes or cracks with wood putty. Allow it to dry afterward and once the breaks are completely dry, lightly sand all of the paneling. Remember also not to sand the trim and moldings. 

6. Apply primer

Whether the surface is new drywall, old wood, bare metal, or previously painted, it is recommended to put on a coat of primer first before applying the actual materials.

An introduction is inherently sticky and is designed to stick well to the surface and to provide a consistent base for topcoats of paint.

If you directly cover on the surface, meaning without priming, you will likely need more coats to cover the surface adequately. Also, without priming, the materials may not stick that well to the surface. 

When applying primer to the grooves of the paneling, use a brush to reach the deep parts of the slots and thoroughly cover them.

wooden wall painted in white

Check the paneling after the primer application. If it is still visible, apply a second coat after the first coat completely dries. Wait for the second coat to dry up before using the actual materials completely. 

You may wait for 24 hours before applying the paint after the primer to make sure the surface is clean and dry.

7. Apply the paint

Once the primer has completely dried up, you are now ready to apply the paint. Do this the same way as you have used the primer. 

Cover Afterwards, you may now use a roller to cover the smooth or even surface. Start from one side to the other hand, following a consistent stroke or direction to have a clean finish.

When covering a vertical surface, begin at the top and work your way down. Make sure to include all the gaps between the panels. 

To make sure finishing is clean, watch for and remove any excess paint which usually gathers between the panel grooves. Use your brush to do this more thoroughly. Be mindful of any drips which might stain your floors. Let the material dry and repeat as necessary.

You may also use a satin finish for durability. This material can also be washed more easily.  

Check out this video on how to do it:

On the other hand, when you are applying primer to flat surfaces, you may need to make use or a roller instead of a brush. This is to cover a larger space area more quickly.

Painting a Vinyl Paneling

It has always been a question whether or not you can cover a vinyl paneling.

Vinyl siding is a wildly popular exterior cover. It has always been a massive favorite of homeowners because apart from it is inexpensive, it is also durable and often comes with a lifetime warranty.

Because of this, you can trust a vinyl paneling to last for years.

However, if you want to change the colors of your paneling, does this mean you have to change the entire thing? No, because in fact you can paint the vinyl paneling, and you can do it right by following these steps:

Choose the right paint

Why is it tricky to cover a paneling with vinyl? Before, painting surfaces with vinyl were not possible because the paint does not fully adhere to the surface.

Even if some of the paint did, it would eventually crack and flake as the surface expands and contracts due to ever-changing weather conditions.

Nowadays there are already available paints of this type which can be used on various surfaces.

Priming – is this necessary?

Unlike wood surfaces, use of a primer is no longer necessary for vinyl siding. However, you may choose to prime when the surface is pitted, or the original color has already faded so much.

In that case, be sure to find and use a primer that is specifically made for vinyl.

Be mindful when to paint a vinyl paneling.

A good time to paint is on moderate temperatures, meaning on low humidity and little or no chance of rain.

Remember that even if you are using a vinyl-safe material, moisture and extreme weather conditions can still affect how the paint adheres on the surface. With this, try to avoid unusually hot days.


Same with painting over wood paneling, preparation is a key to good vinyl paint finishes.You can clean the surface the usual way. Do this only with water and little liquid soap.

Once the target surface is already clean and dry, it’s time to make minor repairs when necessary.

Next steps are to lightly sand peeling edges, replace missing or bent nails, and replace any vinyl siding panels that have warped or buckled over time.


Once the surface is ready, cover by following the same way you would have painted a wood surface.

Wrap Up

Regardless of the type of surface, you will be painting, remember that preparation is almost always the key to a proper finish. This will even be better if you are knowledgeable of the appropriate painting materials and tools.