How to Paint Over Dark Paneling

Dark paneling can look great in many rooms, and it is a great way to make a small room look even more cozy and charming. Dark paneling, however, is not the right choice for some areas, and it can make a large room seem dark and cluttered. Painting over that dark paneling and replacing it with a brighter look is a great way to bring new life to that tired old room, and fortunately this kind of project is well within the skills of most homeowners.

It is of course important to gather the right tools and supplies before banishing that old dark paneling and replacing it with a brighter look. Before getting started, be sure to gather the following tools and supplies:

  • A quality detergent
  • Ammonia
  • Caulk
  • A putty knife
  • A large sponge
  • A three inch latex brush
  • A paint roller with a 3/8” nap cover
  • Lightweight spackle for filling in holes in the paneling
  • And of course new latex paint in the color of your choice

The steps needed to give that dark room a fresh and bright new look are as follows:

1. Use a mixture of detergent and ammonia to thoroughly clean the old paneling. The panels should all be scrubbed well, using the detergent/ammonia solution and a large sponge. This scrubbing will help to remove any stains that may have accumulated over the years. After scrubbing, the panels should be rinsed thoroughly and allowed to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

2. The next step is to fill in any holes or seams. Before the primer is applied, look at the paneling and decide whether any of the holes or seams need to be filled with spackle.. This filling is quite time consuming, but if it is necessary be sure to use a lightweight spackle and caulk. Be sure to caulk along the top of the baseboards, along the edge of any crown molding where it meets the paneling, around windows and door casings, and along any corner moldings.

3. After any holes have been filled and the spackling has dried it is time to prime the paneling. Use a three inch latex brush and apply the primer to the edges of the paneling, along the ceiling and along the floor. After all edges have been covered with primer, use the paint roller to apply the primer to the remainder of the wall. After one or two vertical strips have been rolled, go back and go over the primer again with a three inch latex brush to apply another coat of primer. This step will help to ensure that no roller marks are left on the paneling. Be sure to apply the primer using vertical strokes in order to achieve a smooth finish. This process should be repeated until all the panels have been coated evenly with primer, and the primer should be allowed to dry overnight.

4. The final step, of course, is to apply paint in the color of your choice. After the primer has been allowed to dry, the panels can be painted, using a high quality latex paint. Be sure that the paint covers the paneling completely and that it adheres well to the surface. It may be necessary to apply two or more coats to completely cover a very dark paneling.

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