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How to Paint Wood Paneling Successfully

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I bet I have something in the garage of my new-to-me older home that most homeowners can’t claim they have in theirs. Can you guess what it is?

As I was trying to create a more welcoming entry to the house from the garage. I didn’t realize the room had it until I started to take photos in the corner of the garage last week for this post on how to paint wood paneling.

There is brown wood paneling on all the walls in the garage. The wood paneling is not what surprised me though.

Tutorial showing how to easily paint wood paneling. InMyOwnStyle.com

Did you see it?

What surprised me was that my garage… has crown molding! How cool is that? It is stained brown, but it is crown molding…  in the garage. :-)

When Ed and I were removing a desk that was in an upstairs closet we found out that 3 men built our house. We found their names written on the wall and the date, 1974.  The fact that they took the time to add crown molding to the garage tells me that they really put a lot of thought into every detail when they built the house.

Brown was a decor trend back in the 70’s and this house must have been “trennn….dy” back in the day, not so much now though.

How to paint over dark wood paneling. DIY decorating inspiration.

Corner of my garage before painting the brown paneling

I am trying to turn that around by painting all the brown paneling and wood in the house, with white paint.  So far I have painted my studioffice and now this corner of the garage.  Just so you don’t think I am crazy, I am not painting the entire garage, only this corner where we enter the house.

Learning how to paint wood paneling, 1970’s fake or real takes a little more effort than just painting a wall since you need to prime with a stain blocking primer first. It needs to be used  since the stain in the wood tends to discolor paint, that is why you need to use a “stain blocking primer”. It is worth the extra effort, as the wood paneling will resemble much nicer tongue and groove “cottage style” paneling once it is painted white.

The best water based stain blocking primer to use to paint wood paneling from the 1970's. InMyOwnStyle.com

How to Paint Wood Paneling from the 1970’s

supplies needed:

  • Kilx Max Primer
  • Valspar Interior semi-gloss: Bistro White 7006-4 
  • 2″ angled Purdy paint brush
  • Smooth nap paint roller and roller cage and tray
  • Drop cloths, ladder, painter’s tape
  • Detergent or TSP and water
  • Spackle, putty knife,
  • Sanding block with 100 – 160 grit sandpaper
  • Optional: Caulk – I like DAP Alex Plus Easy Caulk
  1. Go over walls with 100 – 160 grit sandpaper on a sanding block. A quick going over is all that is needed. I use the motion like I was cleaning the walls with a sponge when I sand. You don’t have to do much.
  2. Fill holes with Spackle, let dry, then sand smooth.
  3. Clean walls of all dust and dirt with detergent and water or a TSP mixture. Rinse and let dry.
  4. Tape off areas you don’t want to paint with Painter’s tape.
  5. Stir primer well.
Before and after DIY garage makeover showing how to paint wood paneling. InMyOwnStyle.com

5. Using a 2″ angled brush, start brushing primer into the vertical grooves in the paneling and around the floor and ceiling line.

Can fake wood paneling be painted successfully....YES. Learn what paint products to use for success. InMyOwnStyle.com

6. Roll on one light coat of primer on the rest of the wall, let dry.

7. Repeat steps to add a second coat. Let this dry overnight. In the morning check to make sure the primer stayed white. If any area of the primed wall looks brown or orange, roll on another light coat of primer. (If you have a lot of stain coming through the paint you may need to use the shellac based Original Kilz. It is oil- based but does dry in 30 minutes). It will block any stubborn staining.

8. Once primer shows no signs of stain seeping through you can successfully paint the wall.

9. Optional:  I find when I paint around door jams the white paint shows where the joints don’t meet.  I fill these gaps with caulk and then smooth the caulk with an ice cube or a wet finger.  Once dry, I can paint right over it. Now the wood will look seamless.

10. Roll on 2 light coats of paint, letting the first one dry before applying the second.

Find out what the best primer is o use when painting over dark 1970's wood paneling. InMyOwnStyle.com

Doesn’t it look so much better?  I may paint the door, but I want to wait until we decide what color to repaint the exterior trim on the house. I would like the door to coordinate with what ever color we choose.

Since taking this photo, Ed changed out the antique white light switch and plate on the wall so everything in the entry corner looks fresh and new without a major makeover.  I can’t imagine life without paint. It is the best and most economical way to change just about anything.

I am still not quite done with this corner, stay tuned to see what I added.

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Learn the one thing that you need to successfully paint over wood paneling. | In My Own Style

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  1. Gives a much cleaner, crisper modern look to the entrance. Looks beautiful! Have you ever thought about using a paint sprayer? I imagine it takes time to build skill but I see them on HGTV remodeling and they seem like a dream. I’d love to be loose with one of them!

    1. Hi Elaine – I have used a sprayer in the past, but in tight areas like this, I would rather just roll the paint on and avoid having to mask everything or get overspray in the air that can get on everything. Sprayers are the best for big open rooms with nothing in them like they show when painting an empty room on HGTV remodeling shows. I am getting a spray gun and booth next week so I can paint lots of louvered doors. I will be posting all about using it soon.

  2. What an amazing difference you’ve made thus far! After reading your office organization post earlier this week, I was inspired to reorganize my office. Thanks for the unique ideas and inspiration you provide with your blog!

    1. Thanks Carla – It makes me so happy to hear that what I write and post about has inspired you. Thanks for taking the time to tell me. I hope you enjoy your newly reorganized office and make it the room of your dreams.

  3. In the photo, it looks like you filled the grooves, but you don’t talk about it… Did you fill them, and if so, what did you use? Looks SO much better!!

    1. Hi Sara – I did not fill the grooves, only brushed paint into them. I wanted the grooves to show so the paneling looks like higher quality tongue and groove paneling or wainscoting. :-)

  4. Wow! I cannot believe what all you and your husband have already gotten accomplished in such a short period of time of moving in a month ago. You don’t let any grass grow under your feet! I am So Very impressed!! Everything you do is gorgeous and done to perfection! I am thoroughly enjoying your journey in your new to you lake home! Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks for the note Catherine – Since DIY’ing is my full-time job I can get a lot done in a day. I don’t have any distractions so I can stay pretty focused. It is how I support myself so I have to keep at it. It never feels like work though, I love the whole process. If I had a job outside of what I do, I would not be as productive. Ed works from home also and when he is on calls, he uses a mobile headset, he gets easy things done like changing out an outlet cover. :-)

  5. That is too funny about the crown molding! My garage actually has crown molding as well. Really really nice crown molding. And is painted a lovely beige. I finally found out that once upon a time the garage had been enclosed and served as a den. My house too was built in the ’70’s. Thankfully someone had already taken the time and spent the effort to paint all of our icky brown wood paneling. It’s really not bad once painted. But having lived somewhere before where it was unpainted and EVERYWHERE I can certainly understand why you’d want to get it covered up double time ASAP! Your house is shaping up nicely!

    1. Hi Brenda – You are lucky that someone banished the 70’s brown from your house. :-) Like you said, it doesn’t look bad when painted. I think it can resemble wainscoting or tongue and groove paneling when it is painted. I wondered if a previous owner had used the garage as a room once, but was told by our neighbor that it has always been a garage. :-) Enjoy your weekend.