When painting over paneling, consider the characteristics of the paneling which is to be painted over, and choose painting products that work well with wall surfaces with those characteristics. Paneling is made from wood with a wood veneer colored with a wood stain, or it may be wood with a vinyl veneer. The most popular colors of the paneling tend to be much darker than most popular paint colors. The texture is most likely grooved and wood grained.
Preparing the Wall Surface
Move the furniture away from the walls and put a drop cloth over them and the floor to protect them from the paint. Clean the walls with trisodium phosphate or an environmentally friendly TSP substitute wall cleaner or detergent. Clean off any waxes or polishes with an ammonia cleaner. Allow to dry. Mask the trim and the baseboards with masking tape or painter’s tape and remove fixtures like switch plates and outlet plates. If the grooves in the paneling are not desired, fill them in with wood filler. Set the nails in the paneling and fill in the holes with wood filler. Use wood filler to fill any holes. After the wood filler has dried completely, sand it down level with sandpaper, along with any wood grain texture in the surface of the paneling. If necessary, a skim coat of plaster can be put over the wood grain to make the surface smooth. Make the surface as clean, flat, and smooth as possible, but give it a rough surface to which the primer can adhere well. Wipe the sawdust from sanding off of the wall with a clean cloth.
Primer for Wood or Vinyl Laminate
Choose a primer and a paint that is clearly marked “laminate surface” on the label. If the surface of the paneling is vinyl veneer, use a latex primer and tint it a few shades lighter than the topcoat paint. The solvents in the oil-based primers and paints can ruin the vinyl covering. Use only latex paint to put over the latex primer. For the wood veneer paneling, use an oil-based, or alkyd, primer that will prevent the bleeding through of the dark stain of the paneling. It should be a block-out primer or a primer-sealant to prevent bleed-through of the stain. Test the primer on a small area of the wall first to make sure the results are satisfactory. If there is no bleed-through of the old stain and the primer adheres well to the wall, then prime the entire wall. After it is allowed to dry, sand the wall for any imperfections and wipe off the sanding dust. Paint the wall with the suitable primer for the surface. Put another coat of primer, let dry and sand again. Now the surface is ready to paint with a water-based latex paint.
Paint the Primed Wall
Paint the wall with latex, water-based paint. This can go over either type of primer, both water based and oil based. More than one coat may be needed to cover the dark color of the paneling adequately. Paint inside grooves first, if these have not been filled in on purpose for decorative reasons. Cut in the walls by painting the edges of the walls near the ceiling line, baseboards, and trim with a paintbrush to about three inches so that the rest of the wall can be painted with a paint roller without having to worry about painting all the way to the edges. After the paint is dry, remove the masking tape and replace the switchplates and other fixtures.