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Wood-Paneled Walls: Stay or Go?

Walls covered with wood paneling can be a plus or a minus to your home, depending upon the shape they’re in and the room(s) they’re in. The kind of wood is also a factor, as is whether the paneling is of solid wood or wood veneer.

The main question is: how do you feel when you look at the wood paneling? You’ll know instantly whether you like it or not.

If you like it, you’re all set. You might want to enhance its character and beauty by cleaning it with wood cleaner, polishing it with lemon or orange oil to add luster, or even rubbing it with a light stain to enrich the color.

If you don’t like it, there are various ways you can change the look, without resorting to removing it, which can be messy and will almost certainly result in needing to resurface the walls before painting or covering with other materials.

Homeowner #1

In one instance, a homeowner from Los Angeles moved to northern California. Her new home was in a beautiful area surrounded by redwoods, and the home she purchased had been built mid-century. The living and dining rooms were paneled with knotty pine, and she didn’t like the look at all. With all the shade from the trees outside, she found the deep brown pine paneling inside to be oppressive and dingy.

She invited guests in for a housewarming weekend, and the male guests loved the deep wood tones of the paneling and urged her to keep it. The women among the guests said, “It’s a guy thing! Guys always love wood and want to keep it ‘natural.’” Some lively discussion ensued, and the findings were that a preference for natural wood, as opposed to painted wood, does seem to have gender-bias, with men more strongly in favor of it than women.

The upshot, in this homeowner’s case, was that she painted the wood paneling a glistening eggshell white and was thrilled with the results. The once-dark rooms were now bright and light, and the feeling was much more in keeping with her southern California style of decorating.

Homeowner #2

Another example went quite differently. A couple bought a home near Santa Barbara which featured bleached pine paneling in the large family room. Both the husband and wife liked the idea of the paneling, but didn’t like the light, yellowish tone of it. They went for a dual effect, and stained the paneled walls around the stone fireplace a deep, chocolate brown, then wiped the other paneled walls with a soft, sage green paint, thinned down so it soaked into the wood and gave the grain a beautiful, antiqued look.

Homeowner #3

Yet another homeowner decided the veneer paneling in the study of his home was too old, dated, and low-quality to stay. After living with it for a while, he ultimately opted for removal, which did create the mess and need for wall resurfacing mentioned at the beginning of this article. But for him, it was worth it. He enjoyed digging in and doing the work, feeling that he was investing his care and energy into a room he used frequently. Once the walls were bare, he cleaned and resurfaced them with a textured finish, so the resulting irregularities were part of the charm of the new walls. He painted the textured walls in mottled tones of blue and gray, and is very satisfied with the result.

Whether you choose to keep your wood paneling or not is a decision made easier by knowing there are various ways to give existing paneling a new look – or making peace with the process of removal and resurfacing should you choose to go that route. A qualified contractor can help ease your mind and make the process as seamless as possible!

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