How to Sand and Refresh Your Wood Paneling

wood paneling wall
  • 2-30 hours
  • Beginner
  • 50-500
What You'll Need
Power sander
Fine grit sand paper
Shop vacuum
Dust mask
Wood putty
Paint, stain, or drywall
Drop cloths

Wood paneling may need to be updated from time to time. If you don't want to go through the expensive and time-consuming process of removing wood paneling during an update, you can sand it and paint it. If the paneling has just become old and worn, sanding will allow you to refresh it without any major expenses. Paneling will require a bit of special attention to sand correctly. Follow these steps to easily update your wood paneling.

Step 1 - Prepare the Area

It's best to remove any furniture and area rugs from the area. Sanding will creates a mess. It's easiest to deal with the mess in an empty room. If you aren't able to remove everything from the room, lay drop cloths to protect the carpet and furniture that cannot be removed. Open a window, put on a dust mask, and get ready to sand.

Step 2 - Sand

using a power sander on a wall

The actual process of sanding the paneling can be time consuming. It will be a weekend project if the paneling is covering an entire room; however, a single wall or chair rail can be completed in just a few hours. Use a power sander to roughen the surface of the paneling. Move in the same direction as the grain of the wood. If sanding with the grain is impossible because of the type of paneling, you can just sand in an even pattern. Avoid circular motions; they will create swirls and uneven areas. Be sure to sand one panel at a time.

Step 3 - Vacuum

Use the vacuum with a brush attachment along the paneling you've just sanded. Doing so will remove any dust that can stick to the paneling. It will also allow you to find spots that you may have missed.

Step 4 - Fill in Holes

If you have any holes or dings in the paneling and have chosen to keep the paneling in place, you can use wood putty to fill the imperfections. Use a small amount of putty. Try to keep it as even with the paneling as possible. Once the putty has dried, you can use a sheet of sandpaper to smooth it so it matches the rest of the surface.

Step 5 - Finish

painting paneling white

If you are going to stain the paneling a new color, you can start the process now. If you are painting it, it's a good idea to prime the paneling first. Allow the primer to dry before painting. Many people will choose to hang drywall over the paneling to conceal it. Hanging drywall can be as simple as nailing it to the existing paneling. However, note that mudding and taping to prepare the surface is a skill that requires some practice.

Step 6- Clean Up

Once your paneling has been refreshed, you can roll up the drop cloths and throw them away. Vacuum the room and bring any furniture back into the room.

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