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How to Make Wood Paneling Look Like Drywall

Updating wood paneling can be expensive, but instead of removing it you could make wood paneling look like drywall. Read on to see this wood paneling makeover idea!

What can you do with that old Wood Panel Wall?

If you want your wood paneling to look like drywall, there’s a solution. This is a messy and time consuming project, but it is well worth the end result.

Read on to learn how to make wood paneling look like drywall!

wood paneling makeover ideas

Make Wood Paneling Look Like Drywall

To make wood paneling look like dry wall, you could do what I did to a paneling room at my mom’s old house.

This was a budget friendly wood paneling makeover idea to renovate this room, but just took some patience.

For this DIY wood paneling project, you will fill in the cracks of the paneling (where the boards separate).

wood panel
Spackling the paneling

It was definitely tedious to fill in each section of paneling, but the end results look great.

This is much cheaper than tearing down the paneling, or putting up drywall over it.

I could have painted over the paneling, but I did not want the texture or lines from the paneling to show through.

Updating paneling is as simple as spackle, sand, and paint the new wall.

wood paneling
It will look like its from a horror movie lol

How to Spackle Wood Paneling

Start by filling in the cracks in between each board of the paneling with spackle.

Depending on the size of the room, you probably want a large bucket of spackle to complete this project.

I also, recommend purchase a few putty knives to help make it easier to apply the spackle.

Use the putty knife to make it as smooth as possible in the cracks between the paneling.

It is best to complete all of the spackling then let it dry completely.

Once I finished spackling the entire room, I sanded everything at the same time to prevent cleaning up dust multiple times.

wood panel wall
Here is another picture of the wall before sanding

Issues Updating Wood Panel Wall

We ran into a unique issue where part of the wall paneling was “bubbled.”

The wall paneling would bubble if I pressed on it and it would easily be depressed.

I cut away parts of the wood panel wall where this was happening.

Essentially peeling it off until I ran into an area where it was firm and adhered to wall again.

You will have to fill those parts in with spackle as well.

wood paneling makeover
Sanding the wood paneling wall

How to Sand Wall Paneling

After you finish filling in all grooves of the wall paneling with spackle, the next step to sand.

The sanding is quite dusty, so make sure to wear a mask, old clothing, and safety glasses.

Before doing any sanding, I recommend removing all furniture from the room and covering items.

I used an electric sander to smooth the spackle on the wood panel wall with fine sandpaper.

In the areas where the spackle was very thick, I used a medium grit sandpaper to help remove the excess spackle.

Then I went back over these areas with fine sandpaper to smooth the surface on the wall paneling.

The hand sander saved me a lot of time, but I had to change sand paper frequently.

You could hand sand the spackle on the wood panel wall, but it will take a lot longer to finish the project.

Tips to Sanding a Wood Panel Wall

If you plan on sanding the spackle by hand, and depending on the room size, it could take longer.

Keep in mind, the room that I did, was rather large so this took me quite a bit of time to complete.

I recommend jumping right to a high grit sand paper to make is as smooth as possible and flush to the rest of the wall boards.

wood paneling makeover

Sanding may peel off some wood paneling as you start to smooth the spackle.

So, you may have to go over a couple of spots on the wood paneling with the spackle again.

Also, you may run into an issue like I did where the paneling wasn’t completely joined at the corners, where two walls meet.

I just used paintable caulk to fill in the gaps in the wood panel wall.

Cleaning Up

Make sure you wipe down the wood panel walls with a damp rag or towel afterwards to get all of the dust off before painting.

I also, recommend vacuuming the entire room to prevent any dust from getting onto your freshly painted wall.

Before painting make sure that the walls are completely dry, so the paint adheres to the panel wall.

As you can see, we needed two coats of primer before actually painting the panel wall.

Tips to Paint a Wood Panel Wall

If you only do one coat, you might still be able to see the paneling behind it because it is dark.

We went with a lighter color for the final paint color, so that is why we if you decide to go with a darker color you might be able to get away with one coat of primer.

wood panel
Painting wood paneling – Easy Wood Paneling Update

If you need help selecting the best paint products for your DIY wood paneling project, check out our other post with must have paint products.

I can never get the tape in the right spot or it gets stuck to the ceiling, so I don’t typically use tape to cut in.

If you are don’t like using painters tape either then here are my tips and tricks to paint a room without using tape.

If you notice other defects while painting, you may have to go over it again with spackle, but the hard part is done.

Looking at the finished product, you legitimately wouldn’t even know that there was wood paneling here.

It can be time consuming to update a wood panel wall, but well worth it in the end.

wood panel wall

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Saturday 16th of July 2022

I didn’t fill in my grooves on the walls, but I did paint the paneling. Can’t stress enough the importance of sanding down the shiny surface of the wood paneling so that your primer adheres properly. Priming is absolutely a must. I did two coats of primer and then used a good quality paint. Almost 20 years later the walls are still in very good shape.

Not sure if you had to, but the one thing I absolutely had to do was fill in holes, sand, prime and paint the ceiling. I didn’t notice until after the paneling was fully primed that the ceiling was not white but a light taupe.

Your room turned out really well and I like it.

DIY Home Improvement Ideas That Save Money - Rock Solid Rustic

Wednesday 1st of September 2021

[…] Wood paneling is so dark and really doesn’t do much for a room. It can be a big expense to rip it out and replace, so instead you can turn wood paneling into drywall with this trick. […]

Allie Ross

Sunday 15th of August 2021

Wow, I've never seen or heard of this being done before, but it's such a good idea! Thanks for the insight, great post!

Brian & Lacey

Sunday 15th of August 2021

Thank you! Let us know if you have any questions with your project! :)


Sunday 2nd of May 2021

What was the room size, how long did it take from start to finish, and did you work on it continuous or spread out over several days? Thank you for your response.

Brian & Lacey

Thursday 20th of May 2021

Sorry for the delayed response on this. The room was large. I don't have the exact measurements, but the room fit a sofa, tv, queen bed, dresser, and desk. I finished spackling and sanding in 2 weekends then I painted. It was easy, just a tedious process. I hope this helps, good luck with your project!

Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformation Kit Tips and Tricks - rock solid rustic

Friday 7th of August 2020

[…] How to Make Wood Paneling Look Like Drywall […]

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