Time to Remove the Wood Paneling and Paint the Wall ?

by Rick Sprince 02/13/2020

 Photo by Prawny via Pixabay

Circa 1965, having beautiful wood paneling was the envy of the neighborhood. It was like bringing the outdoors in. But 50-60 years later, it usually just makes a room seem dark and dated unless you live in a log cabin. In most cases, you can remove the paneling and paint the drywall underneath. Here's what you'll do.

What you'll need

  • Primer
  • Brushes
  • Paint rollers 
  • Painter's tape
  • Plastic floor protection
  • Paint pan
  • Putty knife
  • Spackling paste for nail holes
  • Safety goggles
  • Screwdriver
  • Flashlight
  • Pry bar
  • Hand sander

Step one: make sure there's drywall under there

Some home builders simply hung the panels directly onto the studs. Others hung drywall first. Then they nailed the paneling over it. Before you begin this project, you need to know what you have. 

*Pro tip* Find out if you have drywall by removing the outlet and light switch covers. Then peer into the wall with your flashlight. You should be able to see the rough edges of drywall in there. If not, don't proceed unless you also want to hang the drywall. It's not that hard. But it's a two-person, multiple weekend job for the average DIYer. We want you to know what you're getting into. If this is more than you feel comfortable with, contact a professional.

Step two: remove the paneling

Put on your safety goggles. Insulation, nails or a piece of wood could go flying during this job.

Next, use a pry bar to remove any molding or trim, carefully if you plan to reuse it. Now, you'll see the edges of the panel. Pry it off panel by panel. It will be nailed into the studs, so you'll need to put some upper body strength into it. Break boards to get it off the wall. But try to keep the drywall underneath as undamaged as possible.

Step three: repair the drywall

You'll definitely have nail holes to fill after removing the paneling. You may also have small gouges. They are easy to fix. And you'll need to do that to have a smooth painting surface.

Apply spackle to the holes with your putty knife. Then allow them to dry before sanding the surface smooth. You may need a second coat. But know it doesn't have to be perfect. That's what primer is for.

Step four: prime the wall

Primer helps fill small imperfections and smooth the painting surface in preparation for painting the wall. Lay down your plastic and apply painter's tape where needed. Then roll your wall with primer. Use the paintbrush to get corners and crevices that a roller won't reach. 

*Pro tip* If you take a break, put the end of your roller and paintbrush in a large freezer bag and seal it as well with tape or a rubber band. If the primer or paint dries on the brush, you may have to replace it. That's an extra expense you can avoid.

Let the primer dry on the wall. Then use your flashlight to see if there are any thin spots. Apply more, as needed.

And you're all ready to choose your paint color. Goodbye, paneling. Hello, 21st Century. For more home projects to update and improve your home, follow our blog.




About the Author

Rick Sprince


As a Southport, NC neighbor since 2006 and a long time real estate broker, I am pleased to share some personal thoughts with you.  

As the son of a Naval Academy graduate, I lived in a number of states from California to Massachusetts before settling in the Washington, DC area. After graduating from Virginia Tech, I had a career in sales that ultimately focused on satellite sales with companies including Comsat, Lockheed Martin, Intelsat and British Telecom.  This afforded me the opportunity to travel to allover the US, Europe, South Africa and South America.  While traveling home from a family reunion in South Carolina, my wife and I stopped in Southport to check out the area.  We fell in love with it so much so that we purchased our home during that visit.   Brunswick County is one of the fastest growing counties in North Carolina and my love of golf, sailing and the ocean made it the perfect place to relocate.  

After purchasing our home, I initially obtained both my NC Appraiser's license and real estate license but ultimately decided to focus on real estate because I love working with people.   Finding one's ideal property can be a challenging process that includes geographic preferences, business and pleasure requirements as well as individual and family life priorities. My focus is on understanding your unique set of circumstances so that I can advise you and your friends on the properties that best meet your goals. Selling and buying are two different processes but successful outcomes for both require good communication and negotiation skills. Any real estate transaction can be very stressful which is why my clients appreciate that I am patient, genuine and committed to their success.  If you are thinking of selling your home, have friends or family who may be interested in this area, or if you are just curious about the current market, I would love to talk to you.  

I encourage you to read my customer reviews on Zillow to get an idea of how hard I will work for you, your family and your friends.  http://www.zillow.com/profile/ricksprince/#reviews