As a wall covering, wood paneling has its pros and cons. On the negative side is the fact that sometimes it is old and dated-looking. In fact, if you are renovating a home built in the seventies there is a good chance you are dealing with dark old paneling and that is why you are reading this!
But the pro side of the whole issue is that wood paneling is really easy to take care of. It’s tough and relatively simple to install as well, which explains why there is so much of it in use.
New wood paneling mainly needs a dusting from time to time. Start at the top and work down using a feather duster or the dusting attachment of a vacuum cleaner. This is especially true of unfinished wood walls, such as those covered with recycled barn boards or car siding.
When the Walls Get Dirty…
Assuming you have a finish on your wood paneling, wood paneled walls can be washed with water and mild cleanser. Don’t scrub too hard with scratchy abrasive pads or cleaners, though, or you can scratch paneling.
There are some good cleaning compounds you can get that are designed specifically for wood paneling. Use these for removing fingerprints and smudges around doorknobs and light switches.
One thing that makes cleaners for wood different from other cleaning products is that they are designed to add oils and moisture to the wood. Paneled walls and other wood in the home have a tendency to dry out when the air inside is very dry, such as during the winter when the wood stove is cranking out the heat.
After you have added the moisture, a wax protectant can be applied to make those wood paneled walls gleam with new life. Wax preserving compounds, preferably made with bees wax, can be applied about every six months. Put it on with a sponge and let it soak in for several hours. Wipe it away with a clean soft towel.
Can You Paint Old Wood Paneling?
If you are updating an older home and want to make it look more stylish and modern, you can paint paneling with an up-to-date color. There are a few techniques that help, however, because paneling tends to be dark and slick. The dark tones are hard to cover with a light colored paint and the slick surface sometimes resists taking paint.
The first step in painting paneled walls with a lighter color paint is to wash any oil or grime off the surface of the paneling. Then give it a light sanding. If you are too impatient for that, a coat of primer should stick to the paneling and help cover the dark color. When the primer is in place, paint your walls.
A flat paint will not show imperfections in the paneling as much as a semi-gloss will, but the flat paint surface will be harder to wipe smudges from. The best plan is to use semi-gloss in rooms that tend to get dirty, like the kitchen.
Use flat paint in rooms like adult bedrooms and the living room. If the walls are in pretty good shape, a semi-gloss paint gives a room the feel of painted boards. This makes a suitable backdrop for a country cottage decor.