How to Paint Paneling Like It's Distressed

Ryan Lawrence

Many people love the look of wood paneling because they feel it gives their home a warm, rustic atmosphere. However, others feel that it looks too plain, and wish to alter its appearance by giving it an antique, distressed look.

You must abrade the surface of the paneling before you begin to paint.

Although altering the appearance of paneling may sound like a difficult process, it's actually relatively uncomplicated. However, before you begin to paint, you need to know the proper preparation and application techniques that can help you avoid potential mishaps.


You must abrade the surface of the paneling before you begin to paint. Do not skip this vital step or you will end up with disappointing results.


If you wait too long to wipe down the paneling, the paint may begin to dry too much which could prevent you from being able to remove enough to make the surface look distressed. Do not wait longer than 20 minutes to wipe down the paneling or you will end up with poor results.

  1. Protect flooring by covering it with fabric drop-cloths. Do not use plastic ones as they tend to allow paint to pool up which can lead to potential messes.

  2. Promote paint adhesion by abrading the surface with sandpaper. Sand along with the grain of the wood. Do not over-sand. Stop sanding once the paneling feels slightly rough to the touch.

  3. Wipe down the paneling with a tack cloth effectively removing all dust that might interfere with paint adhesion. Do not use an ordinary rag.

  4. Protect any areas on or adjacent to the paneling that you do not want painted by covering them with blue painter's tape.

  5. Pour one gallon of white paint into a 5-gallon bucket. Stir in one pint of mineral water using a wooden stir stick. Stir the mixture thoroughly for at least three minutes.

  6. Affix the roller cover to the frame. Apply the paint mixture to the paneling using the roller. Roll slowly. Do not roll too quickly as this can lead to splattering.

  7. Wait 20 minutes for the paint mixture to dry. Wipe as much paint from the surface as possible using cotton rags.