There is a paneling style for almost every decor. Choices include rustic boards, frame-and-panel designs with or without moulding, and elaborate raised panels. You can cover an entire wall or choose waist- or shoulder-high wainscotting. Paneling can be made from fine hardwoods or inexpensive pine. Finishes run the gamut, as well. Panels can be given a clear finish or they can be painted, stained, or coated with any number of decorative finishes.
Paneling is sold in two main forms: sheets and boards. Sheets are typically 4 by 8 feet. Boards range from 3/8 to 7/8 inch in thickness, but the most common are 1/2 and 3/4 inch. Boards come in widths of between 3 and 10 inches and may have square, tongue-and-groove, or shiplap edges.
Permits and Codes
Paneling usually comes under the general catchall of “interior remodeling.” In some areas, this may require a permit from the office of the local building inspector. It is recommended that one looks into that possibility before beginning work.
Allowing wall panel material to acclimatize and preparing the room
Before installing paneling, place the materials in the room where they will be installed for two to five days to allow the wood to adjust to the humidity level. Paneling is a wood product and is subject to expansion and contraction. Leave a 1/16″ gap between panels to allow for seasonal wood movement.
1. Measure the total linear footage of the room and divide by the width of the panels, in feet. If the answer is fractional, round up to the next whole number. The whole number is the number of panels you need.
2. Remove any base moulding, chair rail moulding and crown moulding in the room. If you intend to reuse the moulding, be careful not to damage it during removal. If you are going to install new moulding, use our moulding installation article to decide how much you need. Take off the electrical receptacle and light switch covers, after you turn off the electricity to them. (Use a neon test light to be sure it\’s off.) If the ceiling is to be paneled, too, remove all light fixtures by first turning off the electricity and disconnecting them from their wiring. For safety, reinstall the wire-nuts or put tape around the exposed wires inside the junction box
3. Locate the wall studs and mark them lightly at the ceiling and floor. The marks will be useful when you nail the panels in place.
Tools and materials
- Circular saw
- Jig saw
- Tape measure
- Stud finder (optional)
- Pry bar
- Dust mask
- Hearing Protection
- Ramset / Nail gun (if paneling over masonry)
- Chalking gun (if paneling with adhesive)
- Construction adhesive
- Paneling nails
Preparing the walls
Paneling may be installed on three different types of walls. Panels less than 1/4″ thick need a solid backing–such as a level and flat plasterboard wall behind them for support. Panels 1/4″ and thicker can be installed directly over even framing members–studs or furring strips (check building codes for your area). All paneling may be put up with nails or with a combination of panel adhesive and nails.
Furring strips are usually 1 x 2 inch or 2 x 2 inch strips of wood attached to masonry or uneven walls to provide cavities in which to install insulation and a suitable surface upon which to apply paneling or wallboard.
Installing Furring Strips