How to Skim Coat Wood Paneling

wood panels
  • 5-7 hours
  • Beginner
  • 70-150
What You'll Need
Joint compound
Sandpaper (120 grit)
Wet cloth
Paint pan
Paint roller
Small joint knife

Wood paneling can become unsightly as time passes, but a face lift can be performed with a simple skim coating. You do not have to take out the existing paneling. You skim coat right over the existing surface. Skim coating is the process of putting on a very thin coating of mud or joint compound on the surface of the paneling to smooth out its rough complexion.

You can choose specific areas that need to be skim coated; you do not have to coat an entire room, which is much more expensive and time consuming. Although only a very thin coating is needed, the task can require multiple applications. It will depend on the surface texture before the application, the effect you want to achieve, and the joint compound that is used. Follow these steps to skim coat your wood paneling.

Step 1 - Preparing the Surface

Before doing the project, make sure that the paneling you will be working on is anchored firmly on the wall. You should also properly clean and dry it.

Step 2 - Preparing the Materials

A number of joint compounds can be used for skim coating. For paneling, use an all-purpose joint compound that has been thinned enough to suit your purpose. You can do so by mixing ½-cup of clean water with 1-cup of the compound powder. You can mix it in a paint pan. You will find the combination to be thick and stiff when you first mix it. Add more water slowly until the mixture has a slightly thicker consistency than paint.

Step 3 - Applying the First Coating

The first coating can be applied to the surface with a paint roller. Make sure that only a single coating is applied. Never go back over areas that you have already coated, unless you are applying another layer after this one has dried.

Step 4 - Smoothing the Surface

After you have finished applying the first coating, use the 24-inch trowel to smooth it. If needed, a trowel of a smaller size can be used. If there ridges form in the process, you can sand down ridges with 120-grit sandpaper once the skim coat has dried sufficiently.

Step 5 - Applying Additional Coatings

If needed, apply additional coatings of the joint compound. Make sure that you sand the surface between coatings so that bubbles and other similar faults are removed. To make it easier for you to find the imperfections, hold a lighted flashlight on the area you have covered. Continue with the steps until you have made the coverage you desire. The number of coating to apply will depend on the paneling texture. If you have a paneling that has more profound groves, you will have to apply more coatings.

Step 6 - Applying the Final Coating

Allow the surface to set and dry sufficiently, which usually takes several hours. Once it is dry, sand the whole wall. Do so by going from the ceiling to the floor in narrow portions.

Step 7 - Cleaning Up

Remove dust from the area by brushing or vacuuming. Wipe the surface lightly damp sponge or cloth. Clean the tools as soon as possible after you are done to prevent the compound from drying on them. If needed, you can chip hardened compound with a razor.