Back Button

How to Paint Over Rough Paneling

James Cooper

If you have a home that was built in the 1950s or '60s, you likely have some rough pine paneling in one of your rooms. This paneling can be dark and make a room seem smaller than it is. A good solution is to update your old, rough paneling with a bright, light coat of paint.

Rough paneling can be painted much the same way smooth paneling can.

Painting paneling is not difficult, but there are some important steps to take to do it properly. Rough paneling can be painted just like smooth wall paneling, but will have a more rustic look. The procedure is the same for both smooth and rough paneling.

  1. Ventilate your work area by opening doors and windows if weather permits. Remove all fixtures, pictures, nails and wall hangings from your walls. Remove electrical outlet and switch covers. Cover your floors and furnishings with a protective covering.

  2. Clean the paneling so the paint will adhere to the surface properly. Use a water-based cleaner such as vinegar and water. Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water and pour into a sprayer. Spray the solution on the paneling and scrub it clean with a scouring pad. Repeat the cleaning process and be sure to clean all parts of the paneling.

  3. Prime the paneling with a shellac primer, brushing it on with a paintbrush. First test a spot that is 4 feet square to make sure the primer adheres to the paneling. Let the shellac dry for 24 hours. If you find that the primer doesn’t adhere to a spot, you will need to clean the paneling more thoroughly.

  4. Continue to prime all the walls with the shellac primer once your test has succeeded. The shellac will seal the paneling and prepare it for painting. Let the shellac completely dry before proceeding.

  5. Use a paint roller to roll on a latex interior paint of your choice. A flat paint won’t emphasize the roughness of the paneling as much as one with a sheen.

  6. Brush on paint in areas that require more detail work.


When cleaning your rough paneling, use a rag instead of a scouring pad if your house was built before 1978. There may be a lead-based finish on the surface and you don’t want to disturb it.