How to Cover or Remove Paneling

Paneling, along with popcorn ceilings and shag carpeting, is one of those 1970s left-over nightmares that many homeowners hate waking up to see every morning.

Painting the Paneling

Paneling shows years of wear badly and may need to be removed or covered.Paneling shows years of wear badly and may need to be removed or covered.
Dark paneling can turn any room into a cave, and nicked or stained paneling is an eyesore. When addressing paneling, you have two options. You can remove the paneling, which helps increase property value but can be difficult if it was glued to the underlying wallboard. The other option, covering the paneling, is cheaper and works for homeowners just wanting a fresh look for their room. The easiest way to cover paneling is to paint it.

Step 1

Scrub the paneling with warm water, a mild degreaser or dish soap and an abrasive pad. You have to scrub off all the grease, dirt and grime from many years of living.

Step 2

Rinse the paneling with clean water and an old towel. Wipe the paneling with a dry towel to remove excess moisture from the surface. Let the paneling dry completely before painting.

Step 3

Remove outlet and switch covers. Tape off window and door trim, ceilings and any other surfaces you don’t want to paint with painter's tape.

Step 4

Fill dents and holes with vinyl spackle using a putty knife. Sand the entire paneling surface with 100-grit sandpaper to even out the spackle and remove the sheen. This will create a porous surface for the primer and paint to stick.

Step 5

Prime the paneling with stain-blocking 100 percent latex primer tinted to match the color of your paint, using a smooth or short-nap roller.

Step 6

Fill the grooves in the paneling with the spackle. Let the spackle cure for a few hours. As it dries, the spackle will shrink away from the edges of the grooves, so you will need to apply another layer to the grooves.

Step 7

Sand the paneling grooves with 220-grit sandpaper to make the grooves even with the paneling. Wipe the dust off with a tack cloth.

Step 8

Apply another coat of primer to the paneling. Follow up by applying a coat or two of latex paint with a short-nap roller.

Removing the Paneling

Step 1

Remove outlet and switch covers with a flathead screwdriver. Take down any molding, trim and baseboards.

Step 2

Examine the paneling grooves and look for the wide staples that hold the paneling in place. Wedge a flathead screwdriver or small pry bar under one and pull it up. Remove all the staples.

Step 3

Place a chisel against the paneling and tap it with a hammer to break through the paneling. Create a seam from top to bottom on the paneling. You may get better access to the paneling edge by choosing a starting point at an exterior corner or under a window without a sill.

Step 4

Wedge the pry bar under the paneling and pull it away from the wall. If it is secured with nails, use a hammer to pull out the nails, which will minimize any damage to the underlying wallboard. If the paneling was glued, use a putty or utility knife to scrape through the glue strips to release the paneling.

Things You Will Need

  • Mild degreaser or dish soap
  • Abrasive pad
  • Old towel
  • Screwdriver
  • Painter's tape
  • Putty knife
  • Vinyl spackle
  • 100-grit sandpaper
  • Palm sander
  • Short-nap roller
  • 100 percent latex tinted stain blocking primer
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Latex paint
  • Pry bar
  • Pliers
  • Chisel
  • Hammer
  • Utility knife


  • If there is a lot of damage to the underlying wallboard, you may have to install 1/4-inch drywall, a process called skinning. Hang and finish the drywall in the same fashion as you would normal drywall. Remember that you will have to adjust the locations and measurements of door trim, electrical boxes and windowsills to account for the wall’s new depth.