Popular throughout the 1960s and 1970s, wooden wall paneling or tongue and groove paneling is still widely used today to create a rustic, traditional, or even retro look in the home. By using paneling materials with tongue and groove joinery, like that found in hardwood flooring, you'll find the installation is fairly easy, requiring only simple tools. (This is Part 1 of a 3 part series. To move ahead to Part 2, click here.)
Step 1 — Measure For Your Materials
Measure the heights and widths of the walls you wish to cover, remembering that tongue and groove paneling can be used to cover even the entire height of the wall if you wish it to. Having measured the square-footage, you will want to purchase about 5 percent more materials than you plan to use, to allow for mistakes and damage. Wall paneling is a specially designed product that is sold in most hardware stores. Alternately, you may also use tongue and groove hardwood flooring materials if you prefer the look or texture of the flooring material over that of the paneling material.
Step 2 — Prepare Your Materials and Walls
Before you begin paneling, stack your boards in the room where they are to be used, and leave them there for at least 2 to 3 days (up to a week is even better). This is to acclimate the wood to the conditions in which it will be kept, particularly the temperature and the humidity, and allows the moisture in the planks to stabilize. This acclimation allows the wood to shrink or expand naturally before it is installed, preventing gaps from shrinking, warping or puckering once the boards are on the wall.
When paneling vertically, you will most likely need to first put up horizontal furring strips, using nails or adhesive, to give the boards something to hold onto. If you choose to install your paneling horizontally or diagonally, however, furring is not necessary, so long as the planks will cross the studs. Without furring strips, vertical planks will have nothing to be nailed to. If the walls you intend to panel are unfinished, the best thing to do is to first install a layer of drywall of plywood over the studs. It is always best to panel over the flat surface of drywall than directly over the studs. The drywall provides more rigidity and support for the planks themselves. But even then, vertical paneling will require installing furring strips. Once you have the proper surface, and a stud or strip to which your boards can be attached, you are ready to proceed.