DIY Home Repair Hack: Easily Paint Over Wood Paneling

Published on September 17, 2020 by Lauren

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  • I’ve lived in my house for ten years now and was always nervous to paint the paneling in my dining room.  After a lot of research, I realized how to easily paint over wood paneling, and I want to share my tips with you!


    paint over wood paneling

    You Can Easily Paint Over Wood Paneling

    When we bought our house in 2010, there was A LOT of wood paneling… the foyer, the kitchen, the dining room, and another room downstairs.  Needless to say, I’ve had to paint over wood paneling quite a bit in my house and have tried several methods.  The method that I’ve found works best is actually the easiest as well!

    And the picture above is the FINAL paneled wall in our house finally covered with paint!  This wall is part of a DIY series where  redecorating our dining room.

    paint over wood paneling

    Here’s how it looked before painting.  As far as wood paneling goes, it could be a lot worse, but it’s definitely not my style.

    Contrary to many popular methods that you might have found on the internet, you do NOT need to sand or de-gloss the paneling (unless it’s like a super mirror finish – but most are not).  Also, this can be done in only 2 coats total, including the primer!

    What You Need:

    The key to making this work is in the types of products that you use.  Here’s what you will need:

    • High-quality OIL-BASED primer.  I use KILZ Interior Oil Primer and have had great results.  This barrier stops anything from bleeding through and also helps the paint go on evenly.  Tip – you can tint the primer to match the final color.
    • High-quality latex paint.  I used to buy bargain paint, and sometimes if I was in a really crazy mood, I bought the “middle-of-the-road” paint.  Then one day I came home from Lowes with a gallon of the Valspar Signature Series paint, I was not happy with the cost.  But then I tried it.  Literally ONE nice & even coat is all it took.  That stuff is great.  I don’t know about you, but I’d gladly pay an extra $10 or $15 to NOT have to paint a room twice!  (note that certain colors cover differently, so you might need more than one coat regardless of what paint you choose)

    I’ve used this method to easily paint over the wood paneling in three of my rooms with fantastic results.  If you take a look at the walls in our back toy room, this is how I painted those as well.

    Here Are The Steps On How To Easily Paint Wood Paneling:

    1. Paint on two coats of a high-quality oil-based primer, letting each coat dry once applied.
    2. Once the second coat of primer is dry, coat walls with one coat of High-Quality Latex Paint and let dry. Apply another coat if needed.


    There have been a few more home improvements we’ve done since we moved into our house – here are some of my favorites:


    paint over wood paneling

    How to finish your furniture with milk paint


    paint over wood paneling

    My DIY Bed Canopy Tutorial

    paint over wood paneling

    Not only did we discover how to save money by learning how to easily paint over wood pending but we also learned to save money by painting our old house.

    paint over wood paneling

    We renovated our attic to turn into an office space, but we now have our own office out of the home. Our attic is now a playroom for the kids and a spare bedroom for guests.

    Home Repairs don’t have to be costly, so do some research and find some great deals on how to upgrade your house without spending much out of your own pocket.




  • When you used the oil-based primer, did you notice any lingering noxious smells? We used a different brand of oil-based primer on some cabinets and in a bathroom before we painted and there is still a lingering smell. It’s awful, even after several months, and to the point that we are considering just replacing the cabinets. Did you experience this at all with the Kilz brand? How long did you wait in between painting the primer and paint? Your post offers hope for this dark wood-paneled dining room that we have, but I’m so scared to open another can of oil-based primer. Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

    • I have used the suggested method over many homes and years. It is the best for any condition of wood. Before throwing out the cabinet if the bare bones (style) is good you may try to sand it back to before you started,don’t forget to use a mask and hand vac frequently as you sand. Then use kilz oil .I found the cheap foam brushes work great.let dry 24hours between each coat .2for kilz then 2for paint.after your done then one coat of minwax poliacrilic .use same sheen as will never have to paint again and will always clean easily with mild soap and water. Hope this helps you

      • We used water based primer and it worked great. No problem with paint not covering or peeling and it has been a couple of years.

    • Once you paint over it with the latex paint, it stops smelling so bad. I was worried about this, too. We actually only did one coat of the oil based kilz, and then mid grade Lowe’s brand, with complete coverage.

  • Hello! I´m writting from Madrid, Spain. I got a very old fashion paneling but it`s not wood, I think is plastic.
    How can I paint it.

    • Prior to painting I filled the “cracks”/”lines” of the paneling with spackle and wet sanded them. Let it dry…there will be shrinkage so may have to apply in some places. Anyway it gives a smooth surface and unless you knew it was paneling you can’t tell it.

      • I have filled in the lines before, but I found that tedious. So the last time I painted paneling I did not. I think I liked the lines showing better.

  • I was always told you cannot mix oil based paint with latex paint because the paint will adventually peel. Have you had any problems? Was I given incorrect information?

  • Does the paint come off if you scratch it. I have painted over paneling but did not use kills. If something bumps against it the paint scratches off back to the paneling

  • Hello! I can’t wait to try this!! Did you use a brush or a roller? I was going to role the paint on but then thought I might need to use a brush for the spaces between each board?

    • Hi Julie – I used a brush for the trim and edges, but a roller worked fine for most of it and filled in the gaps just fine 🙂 Just don’t get a roller designed for smooth walls.

      • THIS is the most important thing I needed to know. . thank you so much for taking the time to post the info and your pictures. The paint I have is Valspar so looks like I just need to get a roller and determination to ‘get it going’. Thank you again for sharing your experience.

  • I am very familiar with Valspar latex paint and I absolutely love it. What finish did you use for the latex paint?

  • I also have concerns about mixing oil and latex paints but we are going to follow your advice and give it a try. Did you clean paneling with anything special before painting

      • That is untrue, if you paint latex paint over oil PAINT it will peEl off like a popped ballon. You can use both oil and latex paint over oil based Kilz however. And if you paint oil based Paint on top of water based paint it will eventually Crack with temp changes. You can use oil based Kilz on top on both type paints and then you can top coat with either based paint over the Kilz oil.

  • Did you paint the exterior of your home yourself? If so any tips would make a great blog post!

  • When did you paint your walls? Have you had any problems with the walls bleeding through? and how long do you expect the paint to last?

    • I painted these walls about 3 years ago – absolutely no bleeding through. I don’t see why it shouldn’t last many many more years. The oil-based primer is the key 🙂

    • Hi Claudia, I would not recommend that. Paint and primer in one products are all latex based. You really need the oil based primer as the base coat.

      • Isn’t that what I said? I used Kiltz oil base primer first, then painted a latex paint over that. I used a semi gloss, Glidden {sp on that} paint.

    • Some time back, my late husband & I had purchased a home that we really loved – everything was just what we wanted, except for the fact that it had dark paneling throughout most of the house. I’m quite sensitive to strong chemical odors, so we decided to try Bullseye-123. Because the paneling was so dark, I definitely had to use 2 coats of the 123, and then painted with a decent quality latex. It worked fine for us!

      Life circumstances forced us to move later, much to our dismay – but we were in the house for about 4 years, and never had any issues at all with any of the walls. No bleeding, no peeling, etc. The walls took the normal amount of everyday “abuse” – getting bumped, rubbed, and so forth every once in a while – we didn’t treat the walls like dainty eggshells *grin* Perhaps we just got lucky with the paint? Or there was something “different” about our paneling? (It seemed like normal ordinary paneling to me) I don’t know? I’m not knowledgeable or experienced enough with home repairs or renovations to make any actual recommendation to anyone! All I can tell you is that the 123 worked for *us* and our paint was still in fantastic shape after 4 years when we had to sell the house. Good luck to you, whichever way you go!!

      • Thank you so much I’m looking at a place now that I like but also there’s alot of panneling so this has help in my decision alot. Thank you

  • You said this can be done in 2 coats including primer but you later say to put on 2 coats of primer then 1 to 2 coats of paint.

  • I am not sure it is a good idea to use oil based paint these days knowing what we know about toxins in the air. I would definitely use this method outside though.

    • Can I use chalk paint on paneling after doing the first step of the primer? I have a 1986 single mobile home. Lots of dark brown paneling.

  • Hi, I wish I would’ve read your post before I painted over our wood paneling! I was in a hurry and used some leftover latex paint in a small bedroom without PRIMING first. What a mistake! Paint scratches off so easily. What kind of primer do you think I should use over the latex paint so I can redo the room?

  • Hi, my name is Marjorie my husband and I are about to paint our paneling in our kitchen and he thinks that the paint and primer mixed in together will be just fine is that advised yes or no.
    My other question is this I want the paneling to be white what kind of primer would I need. and kind I use Satin finish for the final paint?

    Thank you I look forward to hearing from you.

    • I would definitely advise Kilz primer. A satin finish paint will be just fine.
      My daughter in law recently painted over paneling. They did lightly sand the paneling before priming.
      Be sure to vacuum thoroughly after sanding.
      Let each coat dry COMPLETELY.
      Good luck.

  • Hi the only KILZ Primer I can find at our home depot is KILZ Original white oil based interior Primer, Sealer, and Stain Blocker. Is that the same thing?

  • I am in the process of purchasing a home that has a ton of paneling. Do you think this method would work for any type of paneling, including the cheap stuff?

  • Hi

    Loving this thread. I am wanting to paint over my glossed wooden panels in my hall. They do have quite a mirror finish, I know you said no sanding unless they are like this. What would you recommend please. Thanks Mhairi

  • Hi, my house is FULL of fake wood paneling. Would this method still work even though our panels aren’t real wood?


    • I’ve been remodeled my house, slowly, and have dealt with every ugly wall type. From plain pressboard(yes, a whole room of it, uck!) to wallpaper that looks like paneling and vinyl paneling. I used Zinnser water based primer, 2 coats, and 2 coats of semi cheap latex, satin paint. I’ve used oil based primer and latex paint together without any issues. I can’t say much about the living room paint job in the long run (it had the paneling wallpaper and paneling boards) as it’s still a recently completed paint job. But I’ve used all types of primers and paints, even chalk paint on walls! Everything has lasted just fine. And you can use any sheen you want once it’s primed!

      • 30 years ago, there was dark paneling in our basement/family room. I hated it! It made the room look so small and dark. The room had NO LIFE to it. I wiped the walls before painting, to remove any dust and used spackling on nail holes. I painted the paneling, using one coat of Kiltz oil base primer, let it dry. Then painted white paint over that, using Gliden brand, semi gloss. It still looks great after 30 years, no bleeding through. It’s as good as the day it was done.
        Be careful if you take the paneling off. Back then, in the mid 70’s and before, they used a glue that had asbestos fibers in it, to adhere the paneling to the wallboard. If you remove the paneling, you also must remove the wall board too, as glue is stuck on it. Make sure to wear a mask, so you don’t breathe in tiny asbestos fibers that could be in the air. If you leave the paneling up and paint it {not to disturb the asbestos} you should be OK. We’ve have never had any problems, with the room we painted.

  • If I use oil based primer then do I have to use oil based paint? Also can I use semi gloss paint or does it have to be flat? Happy I found this site. Thanks-

  • We have a long room 13×36.7 —-family room at one end with dark paneling and a brick fireplace 95″ —kitchen at other end with dark nice cabinets

  • Hi, I heard from a friend that if you don’t sand the wood paneling first, then the paint will start peeling off in a year or so. Have you found any problems with your paint jobs on your wood paneling after a few years? Thank you!

  • Hi there!
    Did you sand down the shiny finish prior to painting? Or did you put the primer right on top of that?
    thanks 🙂

  • SO glad you said you didn’t sand. The sanding is what has caused me to put off my project for three years…. Did you wash the walls first? Dishsoap? TSP? Nothing? Thanks for your advice.

  • Just researching painting paneling and came across you Pinterest article. We have the exact paneling did you puttie the lines in the paneling?

  • Hi Lauren,
    I’m Jack from Alabama and I read your article on painting over wood paneling. I have wood paneling in my kitchen but it’s a little different from what yours show in your article. My paneling is painted over with paint not a stain. What I would like to know is am I able to use your paint over system to paint over painted paneling or do I have to strip it first? I stripped one area of the kitchen and it was really a pain and really messy to do. Any advice you can give will be helpful.

  • Could you tell me the paint you used I love the finish over the paneling.
    I would like that same finish. Was this Pure White by Sherwin Williams although you said Val spar? I have read that Pure White 7005 is best for light LRV-84

  • Thank you for these discussions! My whole house is paneling except 2 bedrooms. Now I know how to “get rid of the darkness”!!

  • Hi. I wondered if you could share the exact white paint color you used. I see a few asked but didn’t see an answer. I love it!!!!
    So glad I found this before the job was done.

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