Panelling was a popular decor option in many homes a few decades ago. Today, many homes are still bearing the mark of the panelling years, and that same panelling isn't necessarily looking quite so good any longer. Homeowners have a couple of options when deciding how to eliminate the panelled look. They can tear down the panelling, fix the walls underneath and paint the result, or simply paint over the wall panels themselves. The second option is less costly as well as a much quicker option.
Wash the wall panels with ammonia or an all-purpose cleaning solution, to remove dirt and grease that can significantly build up over the years. Dry thoroughly with a towel or rag, and allow a couple of hours of air drying time as well.
Fill any cracks or dings in the panelling using wood putty or filler. Allow the filler to dry completely. Decide whether you want to preserve the grooves between each wall panel or fill them in. If filling, they will require a little more filler than normal cracks or holes. Use a putty knife rather than just your finger when applying the wood filler to the grooves between each wall panel. Tape the edge of the ceiling and any adjacent walls, woodwork or baseboards that are not to be painted the colour of the wall panels. Use painters tape, as it comes off much easier than masking tape.
Sand all areas where wood filler was used, once the filler has dried completely, using sandpaper or a power sander on a low setting. Use a clean paintbrush to clean the dust from sanding off the wall panels. Apply a coat of primer to the wall panels. Allow it to dry completely, and decide whether a second coat of primer is needed. If opting for a second coat, allow to dry at least 12 hours before applying the first coat of paint in the colour of your choice.
Apply the first coat of paint colour and allow to dry for an hour or more. Determine whether a second coat of paint is required. Depending on the shade of the wall panels, up to three coats may be required. Darker panelling will require more coats of paint to cover completely.
Remove painters tape carefully once the paint is completely dry. Carefully touch up any areas that may have become chipped or smudged during the painting process. Enjoy the new look of your room now that your wall panels have been successfully painted over, at a fraction of both the cost and time that would have been spent to replace them.