Painting over wood paneling?

17 Replies

I'm looking at an out of state BRRRR. I'd call it a C+ area. 1250 square feet 3 bed, 1 bath. There's old school 70's style wood paneling throughout the house. If I bought this deal I would like to just paint it instead of installing drywall. Looks like a cosmetic rehab aside from that. Purchase price $47,000, ARV $85,000. It should rent for around $850 a month. It's not a home run but it could work if I keep the reno costs down. Anyone care to share their insights on wood paneling?

@Jonathan Hulen Depending on the paneling and condition it could look really nice and less likely to get holes etc  Try some paint on it, probably primer first in a closet or behind a door and see how you like it.

I just finished up a rehab where In painted 40 year old paneling. I cleaned it with TSP, caulked and filled the holes ,primed it with an oil based primer and painted 2 coats of good paint. Looked great.

@Jonathan Hulen you can definitely paint wood paneling, and it can look very nice when you are done. This question, though, is very area specific. If your market comps have these types of features then you are fine. If in your market everyone goes higher end, then you will run into trouble. I did a flip last year in Berwyn, IL, which is where I invest quite often. Painted paneling would never fly for a flip, but again, this is all area specific. 

@Jonathan Hulen I just finished this type of paint job in a 1500sq ft house. I used a latex bonding primer then two coats of finish paint. The bonding primer worked well. I Filled and sanded holes after primer so I could more easily see them. I started by rolling but had to use a brush to paint the groves - I gave that up after priming and sprayed the rest fairly quickly. Makes a huge difference and I’m glad I didn’t spend the money drywalling.

Sounds like a home run to me! For a C+, yep, paint that paneling and evaluate after. Low risk- if it looks terrible, suck it up and put 1/4 inch drywall over the top. 

Good luck!

There is another trick to make it look not like paneling . You can take drywall mud and skim coat to fill in the grooves . If you are good there is little sanding . Then paint .

@Jonathan Hulen I rough sanded a 1200 sq ft apartment covered in paneling, primed and 2 coats of paint. The paneling was wood, the trim was brown, the rug was brown, the baseboard heaters were brown. 18 Windows in the unit and yoy wouldnt know it, so dark! Painted the heaters and trim white, ripped up the carpet and sanded the hardwood underneath. It is literally night and day. The only areas where this can not look great is if the paneling type is cheap and has warped from humidity. Try to nail down any paneling that has pulled away from the wall. You may get cracking in the paint along seams, we have that in a couple rooms where a cheaper paneling was used. But for a rental, fine. In an identical unit above where we live, I ripped the paneling down and 3/8 drywalled. Obviously that looks much nicer and costs more, I'd only do that in an A or B rental.

@Jonathan Hulen if you just paint it then it will probably not look very good.

I had a similar house, went with texturing the paneling and skim coating the wood grooves, then painting. Drywalling everything would look better and be sturdier but as mentioned, but more expensive .

@Matthew Paul that’s a great idea! Thanks to everyone for their feedback. I ended up passing on this property for other reasons. I’ll try these ideas next time I run into paneling. 

Wipe surface with TSP (1/4 handfull in 1 gallon bucket 3/4 filled water) using cotton rags (real cotton, not the non-absorbent stretchy stuff.)

Dab latex (paintable) caulk or toothpaste into nail holes with finger (very tiny amount to just slightly fill the hole) wipe with dry finger, palm of hand or rag.

When dry if there's still a sheen when viewed at angle then lightly "scuff-up" surface with 400 or 600 grit sandpaper wrapped around a 1x3x6" sanding block in long vertical sweeping motions. You shouldn't see any dust, just want to ensure the coating will adhere.

Apply two coats of FLAT (mutes blemishes) solid latex stain by 3" brush first trimming out edges and casings then rolling vertically with 1/4" nap roller cover. As you move from one edge to the other, re-roll (roll back over the adjacent 2-3' of progress) to "stipple" the stain while it sets which enhances covering ability. Re-roll before it's tacky so you don't lift the coating.

Apply second coat if desired to deepen the color or hide texture inconsistencies. Do so within 4 hours or next day to keep coats to minimize number of coats required.

If working with appointments such as dark color carpets or trim but don't want to replace those, choose a more-extreme opposite color for your coating (coating the wall with grey to stop dark brown carpet.)