How to Paint Dark Wood Paneling

Lighten up and modernise your family room or finished basement by painting the panelling. Dark wood panelling was a very popular design element in the 1960s and 1970s but is an outdated approach to contemporary decorating, which emphasises open and airy environment. Painting dark wood panelling with a light-coloured paint is not difficult, but it requires time and patience. When you're done, you will be amazed at the difference this project has made to your decor

Apply paint tape to areas that will not be painted.

Open windows and provide sufficient ventilation for the application of the primer.

Apply primer with a paintbrush along the taped areas and any other edges, such as in a corner. Then use a roller and extension handle to prime the rest of the wall or walls.

Fill holes with wood putty. Smooth with a damp finger, using a wet rag to dampen the finger. Let the putty dry thoroughly.

Fill cracks or seams in the panelling with caulk, using a caulk gun, smoothing it with a damp finger. Let the caulk dry thoroughly.

Sand all filled holes, cracks and seams with the sanding sponge.

Apply the paint with the roller and extension pole and paintbrush. Let the paint dry, then apply a second coat of paint.

Things You'll Need

  • Paint tape
  • Stain-killing alcohol-based primer
  • Wood putty
  • Caulk
  • Caulk gun
  • Rags
  • Sanding sponge, medium grit
  • Paintbrushes
  • 3/4-inch-nap paint roller heads
  • Extension pole
  • Paint
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About the Author

Linda Shepard has been staff writer for "C & G Newspapers" for over 10 years, covering local government and crime and serving as the newspaper's food writer. She has written for "Michigan Meetings Magazine" and is also the owner of, an online business of self-guided walking tours.