Traditional wood paneling is made from solid pieces of lumber. This solid paneling is the most expensive and heaviest variety on the market today. Most new wood panels are veneered. They are made from a composite base topped with a thin layer of real wood. Buyers will also find vinyl or laminate versions, which are similar to veneer paneling but are embossed or printed with wood grain instead of using real wood. The most affordable type of paneling is surface-printed and has wood grain and coloring stamped directly to the surface of hardboard or lumber.
Wood paneling can be used to cover an entire wall or as a decorative accent along portions of the wall surface. Many types of wood paneling are installed along the lower half of a wall only, known as wainscoting. This type of installation is used to add an elegant look to a room or to break up plain wall surfaces. Paneling can also be used on ceilings and is particularly popular on gable or cathedral ceilings. Buyers may choose wall paneling because of its attractive appearance or because they want a quick and easy way to cover up ugly or damaged walls.
When buying wall paneling, it is important to consider whether you prefer a painted or stained look. Almost any type of wall paneling can be painted, but it can be a waste of money to buy solid or veneered paneling that will be covered up by paint. Choose more affordable hardboard or surface printed panels for this purpose. If you plan to stain your panels, consider the different types of wood grain that are available. Species like oak and mahogany have very pronounced grain while pine or maple can be almost clear. Staining tends to highlight wood grain, so be sure to choose a grain you find attractive.
Wood paneling is available in large sheets or single planks. Sheets of wood will have grooves painted or embossed along their surface to create the look of individual planks. Compare painted or embossed grooves when making your selection, as some buyers will find painted grooves unattractive. Single planks of wood are almost always more expensive but can be used to create a more authentic, rustic look. When buying veneered paneling, look for thicker veneer layers to ensure you can sand and refinish the wood as needed. For ease of maintenance, choose vinyl or laminate products, which can be wiped clean with a damp cloth.
Installation can vary depending on the type of material chosen. Both sheets and planks should be installed over a clean, dry surface. When installing wood paneling on masonry walls, add furring strips or plywood to prevent moisture from reaching the paneling. Decide whether you will lay the panels vertically or horizontally and plan out wainscoting installation on paper before you begin. You can nail sheets of paneling to your walls using finish nails, while planks are typically glued to the wall or ceiling.