How To Distress Wood Paneling

Sep 13, 2021 | Home Design Decor, Interior Decorating

Wood paneling is a popular design choice for homes and businesses, but it can be difficult to keep looking new.

A lot of people don’t know that you can distress wood paneling yourself with just a few common household items. It’s easy and cheap, so if your panels are looking worn or dated this is the perfect solution.

Here’s how to distress wood paneling in five steps:

1) Sand the surface.

2) Clean the surface and remove all dust.

3) Apply a stain.

4) Paint with white or gray paint, diluted with water. 

5) Sand again.

1. Prepare The Surface

We’ll start by sanding the surface. This will roughen up any paint you apply, which is perfect because our goal in this step isn’t just a little bit of coverage; we want to be able to cover as much area with high-quality paints that stick like glue.

Carpets are also something worth protecting so use tarps or drop cloths where needed and carefully peel off the old tape from previous projects before beginning yours today too.

Adding marks or flaws to the surface is an excellent way of taking on that aged look. You could leave dents and scratches from hitting a hammer, pry bar, pound nails against it in order to create dimples for stability—some even whip pieces chains carefully along with them. There’s nothing wrong if you decide not to add any decorations at all too; however, adding some character can help solidify your illusion as well so do what feels right for yourself.

2. Clean The Surface and Remove All Dust

It’s important to make sure the surface is clean before adding any paint, varnish or other finishes.

Dust can cause imperfections on your surface, so it’s crucial that you take the time to remove all dust from the piece. Use a clean cloth to wipe away any dust particles left on the surface of the wood paneling.

3. Apply Stain To The Wood Paneling

Now that your surfaces are clean and dry, you’re ready to apply stain—or paint if desired. If you’d like to create an old-timey look, use a dark brown stain rather than painting with white or gray paint diluted with water. This will give your walls an authentic distressing worn effect however whether this is what you are looking to do or not is still up to you. We are going for the aged look that will help our paint job last longer, which means it won’t take much time at all.

For this kind of painted wood paneling effect, use a brush and paint thinner (or water) mixture in order to make your gray paint go onto the surface smoothly without any issues or dried-up finishes clogging up the works. If you’d like, you can skip the sanding step all together too. There are many ways to achieve this style so have fun with it.

4. Sand The Wood Paneling Once Finished Painting Over It

Once your paint has completely dried over the surface of the wood paneling, take sandpaper and scour it so that it becomes rough again.

This will help your next layer of paint stick to the surface more easily—and not flake off.

5. Repeat If Needed

If you applied too little paint or watered down your mixture too much, you’ll only need to do this one more time for good measure. However, if needed, applying a second coat is no problem thanks to your preparation work beforehand.

Can You Paint Wood Paneling?

Just like with drywall, wood paneling can absolutely be painted. However, it must be clean and free of dust care of the “Sand The Wood Paneling” step.

If you’re painting over paint that is peeling, worn, or faded it is also important to remove any loose paint before adding your new layer(s) on top by either sanding or using a chemical stripper. If tearing away chunks of old paint makes you nervous, use chemical strippers instead.

What Is The Best Color To Paint Wood Paneling?

When it comes to making a choice on what color or shade to paint your wood paneling, it is important that you choose a color that is in tune with the surrounding areas.

Use colors that are in harmony with one another and don’t be afraid to try out new shades when doing so. You can even go for the “distressed” look if this appeals more too.

There’s no need for a primer since wood paneling was dipped in a protective substance in order to make it weatherproof back in the day. Make sure you choose a quality paint brand for best results when painting wood paneling inside your home today though, as an aged painted effect will only happen if the material is primed first.

Do not skimp on the paint either as you’ll need quite a bit of it too in order to cover up all of your wood paneling.

What Paint Will Stick To Veneer?

If you are working with antique tung oil finishes, it’s best to avoid brushing on wood stains as this may cause some bubbling in the finish due to the different kinds of finishes used—which leaves us at about three steps max. An alternative method (if one prefers not to distress) would be good old fashion distressing too; focus on adding dents here and there for that old-world look.

You can also brush on some matte polyurethane over the distressed wall for added protection though striping off wallpaper first is always a good idea regardless of your choice in finish.

Can Wood Paneling Be Lightened?

Yes, however, just like stripping wood paneling and refinishing it to give it a fresh look, lightening the color can be done—but not in one step.

Wood panels that have been painted over many times without much sanding in between will take multiple applications of stain (or paint) where getting rid of any initial layer(s) still left on the surface is key. This means applying your chosen solution (stain or paint), allowing it to dry, then sanding lightly amongst each step until satisfied with the results.


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