Refreshing Wood Paneling Ideas

Written by sara john
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Refreshing Wood Paneling Ideas
Refurbishing old wood panelling is a quick way to modernise a room. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Wood panelling was a common sight in homes manufactured during the 1970s and '80s. This material was frequently used in basements and family rooms in their natural light or medium tones. Modern homeowners with wood panels struggle at finding ways to incorporate this outdated look into their homes since removing and replacing may prove too expensive. Instead, a number of refinishing techniques may be applied to update and refresh the look of wood panelling.


A simple stain is one way to create a whole new look with very little money. Preparation is an important part of the process and includes a thorough cleaning to remove years of built-up gunk. Once that is complete, remove wax from the panelling with a household wax remover available from most home improvement stores. If the panelling has never been waxed, this is unnecessary. If the panelling is made from soft wood, namely pine or cedar, a clear conditioning coat should be applied before the stain, which will aid in sealing the porous wood, preventing much of the absorption once the stain goes on. Stains are available in a number of colours, primarily those reminiscent of natural wood, and are an easy way to update wood panelling.


Modern home design, particularly in basements and family rooms, embrace warm, light tones. These colours open rooms up, make them lighter and make them feel larger -- an important aspect of decorating dark spaces. Paint, like a stain, is an inexpensive fix for unsightly wood panelling and is available in just about any colour imaginable. Its application is simple enough for novices and requires just a few special tools. As with staining, a good cleaning is required beforehand, though a conditioning layer is probably unnecessary. Painting without filling the gaps will give panelling a traditional country feel while filling the cracks will make it more modern.


Filling the gaps on wood panelling will give it the more modern look of drywall. It is a simple process that requires little more than a putty knife and spackle. The spackle is applied to cracks and gaps using a putty knife and is then wiped down with a wet rag to make it smooth. Additional spackle should be added to any knots or holes to create a completely smooth surface. Once the first layer has dried, apply a layer of paint primer and add a second coat of spackle as needed. The primer will reveal any uneven spots, holes or other problem areas.


Pickling is a way to lighten wood and is similar to whitewashing. A pickling medium -- a combination of enamel paint and paint thinner -- is applied with a brush and wiped off with a lint-free rag. The medium sticks to pores and imperfections in the wood, giving it a white, translucent look. The white colour will become more pronounced the longer it is left on the wood. Large brushes are fine for the main part of the panelling while small brushes are ideal for gaps and cracks. Test a piece of wood prior to putting it on the panelling, which will aid in choosing the correct timing to achieve the desired effect.

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