How to Paint a Room With Wood Paneling

Updated on April 12, 2019
clmama profile image

I have a passion for home improvement and love giving advice to others for their projects.

Why You Should Consider Painting Your Wood Paneling

To paint or not to paint? That is the question. Long before putting the brush to the wood, an important question needs to be answered. Should we paint the wood paneling in this room or should we not? This process can be reminiscent of the 'love me, love me not' game we played as kids, since arriving at the answer can seem just as trivial. Not only are you in a quandary with your own decision, but with that of your family as well. In fact, we are told that the prior owner of our house never attempted the project because they could not agree as a couple whether to do so or not. One preferred the natural look of the wood and a cozier atmosphere while the other preferred a more modern and clean finish.

For us, it was primarily a question of esthetics. The original house was built in the 1930s in a traditional architectural style. The family room was added later to create more living space but with its wood finishes, it felt more like an afterthought than a part of the overall house. It evoked a sense of cabin-like living that neither fit with the design nor the suburban backdrop of our home.

Second, it was a question of lighting. Although we have an abundance of windows in our family room, a (beautiful) giant oak tree in the backyard provides a lot of shade. In addition, the position of our house on the lot is such that the family room does not receive sunlight until late afternoon. Together, this means that the brightest part of the day in the family room is roughly a stretch of half an hour just before sunset. At any other time of the day, we constantly felt the need to turn on the lights.

How Do You Decide What to Paint?

If the answer is paint, the next question should be 'What do we paint?'. The question around the wood paneling on the wall was finally settled, but that did not necessarily decide on the exposed roof boards and rafters, as well as the trim around the windows and doorways. Before we got started, our family room felt more like a wood box. We were quite literally surrounded by wood floors, wood walls and an exposed wood ceiling. How much of the current look called for a change?

We collected opinions from a lot of eager friends and family. Some felt we should paint everything the same color, including the pitched roof boards and exposed wood rafters. Others felt it would be best if we painted the ceiling rafters but not the roof boards in between. The feedback on the paint job for the trim was equally divided. To put an end to the dilemma, we turned online, looked at furniture catalogs and home design magazines to gather visual examples for our collection of ideas.

The most useful source came to us from a friend via Pinterest. Side by side examples which we could easily compare to one another was tremendously helpful. And with that tool in hand, it was finally time to take a vote.

Our Little Helper

Caution:  Men At Work
Caution: Men At Work | Source

Preparing the Wood Paneling for the Paint Job

Our final decision was heavily influenced by one key point. Including any part of the ceiling in our project created a lot of extra, and more difficult, painting. Everything else would be very manageable. Considering all of what we had learned, we were ready to move forward: paint the walls and all trim, leave the ceiling as is.

In a perfect world, the paint job would be completed in one day. Much like a professional paint crew could have handled it. But our reality was that this time, it was a do-it-yourself job. And as a family with three young boys, uninterrupted time to complete a task is a foreign concept. This highlights the fact that in planning out the project, we had to be mindful that it was impossible to transform the family room into a complete work space since this is also the space in the house where we spend 80% of our time.

My patience was tested early when the paint prep itself took a whole weekend to complete. Merely (1) moving the furniture towards the center of the room, (2) removing any wall hangings, (3) removing nails, (4) removing light switch and outlet covers, (5) patching all holes, (6) sanding the wood to prep for paint, (7) wiping down the wood with a damp cloth to remove dust from sanding and, (7) taping the edges to start painting was all that we were able to accomplish in a 48 hour period.

The following weekend was dedicated to getting a coat of primer on the wall. Sounded straight-forward to start, but because we were working with 9 inch wood paneling it added a few extra steps. The paint store recommended we use Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer For All Surfaces. We (1) placed a drop cloth along the baseboards to protect the floor, and with a 2.5 inch angled brush in hand, we (2) cut in around the edges with the ceiling, baseboard, windows and doors. Next, we (3) painted down and along every grove between the 9 inch wood panels. Finally, we (4) applied primer to the remaining surface with the use of a paint roller.


Making the Perfect Color Choice

Once the primer was on the wall, the fun really began. Keeping in mind that our ultimate goal was to brighten up the space, white would have seemed like a natural and easy choice. But if you have ever been in a paint store before, you know that there are endless shades of white to keep you from making up your mind quickly.

With the help of a friend and a paint consultant in the store, we (1) selected four color samples to bring home. Next, we (2) painted the samples on the wall, two coats to best approximate the final result. Also, we were mindful to (3) repeat this process in at least three different locations around the room. We were amazed to see the difference in appearance of the same color next to the frame of a window in comparison to the darker space next to the fireplace. Finally, we made sure to (3) make our final color choice only after considering the effect of lighting as well as daylight in the room.

A word about paint finish. Our preference is typically a paint with a matte finish. This is purely a matter of taste. Important to note here is the fact that the matte finish of our color choice (Benjamin Moore White Dove) came highly recommended also because it was easiest to maintain with kids. Dirt could be easily wiped off with a damp cloth. With three boys, it seemed like the final choice was basically made for us.


Putting on the Final Coats and Final Touches

We repeated the steps listed above for the application of primer to the application of our wall color. Although we were hoping to skip painting the groves between the wood panels with a brush, we found that the roller did not provide adequate coverage.

We were also very surprised to see how differently the wood paneling responded to the paint than the sheet rock we had been used to painting. The porous surface of the wood seemed to absorb so much of the paint that it covered less and appeared much more dull than we expected. Two coats of paint will be necessary, at a minimum. Especially when working with a light color. And, after applying the first coat, we decided to go back to the paint store and purchase a gallon of the same color but with an eggshell finish for the second coat. A worthwhile investment.

Four weekends later, we were finally done. Well almost. We are still pondering our next question: when do we start painting the walls of the rest of the house?

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • saif113sb profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice work ideas to room wood painting.

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      I think you made the right choice in painting your walls. The room looks more current and inline with the rest of the house now. Plus, it really lightens up the space. Painting over wood is a lot of work, but in some cases it's definitely worth it!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)