Monday, March 26, 2012

My love/hate relationship with wood paneling

Let's face it, when you're looking at purchasing a home and you see wood paneling - most people's first thought is how quickly they can rip it out. I am no different.

Most of the older wood paneling is dark and sometimes orangey. It doesn't really "do" anything for the room other than create a black hole kind of space. We used to have dark wood paneling in my childhood home in Charleston, WVa. It was also the late 80's when we moved there...

Well folks, what goes around comes around. And I suppose just like fashion, home decor trends start coming back too (it's no surprise, especially with the revival of styles like mid-century modern and art deco). With my major DIY-fail from last week still sitting on my head, I decided that I would bite the bullet and install some sort of paneling so I just didn't have to deal with it anymore.

Now, there are tons of different kinds of paneling out there. There is the popular bead board, but I thought a whole wall of that might be too much. There is also brick paneling - which I thought could look really cool, but then I would definitely have to paint it because it was red brick with dark charcoal mortar - way too dark for our living room. Of course there was the "standard" dark wood paneling and then I came across this:
image from

White-washed wood paneling? 

Hmm... the color palette would actually look really nice in our newly painted living room. Plus it ties in the white trim with the beige couch. Hmmm...

Garry went to look at it and said it was really nice and for the price and how much easier it would be to install instead of replacing the drywall, it was definitely worth it. So he grabbed four 4'x8' sheets (our wall is 12'3"), some adhesive and a box of finishing nails.

Unfortunately, this product warps really easily, even if you store it flat in a cool, dry place. Luckily you can take care of that problem with the finishing nails.

We had to take off all of the baseboard molding first. Since it was REALLY ancient (and we plan on replacing it anyway), we didn't worry about salvaging it. We were able to get it off relatively easily with a chisel and hammer. You can also use a crow bar and a hammer, but I really liked the weight and size of our small wood chisel (I have tiny hands).

After the molding came off, with a wince on my face we went ahead and installed the panels. All the while I'm telling myself: "I can always paint it... I can always paint it... I can always paint it..."

We had to cut out a little area for the outlet, we measured and used a jig saw for that. Not difficult at all.

Oh, you probably want the step-by-step. I suppose... although I'm not really expecting folks to want to install wood paneling. This was really a last resort for me, but if it's your thing, then go for it! Do what makes you happy.

Step one: Measure your wall
Pretty self-explanatory. Measure the length and height of your wall. Ours is 12'3"x8'. The panels were 4'x8' so that worked out pretty well for us.

Step two: Shop around
Yeah, I know this step is in EVERY tutorial I give, but I can't begin to tell you how important it is to shop around for the best deal. Depending on your needs, you may be able to find some great deals on craigslist or  wait for a sale to go down at your local home improvement store. We got our paneling from Lowes, since Home Depot didn't carry anything like what we were planning on getting in the prefabricated sheets. These suckers are kind of pain to get around too. Hopefully you have a friend with a truck. Otherwise you'll have to rent a truck. Boo!

Step three: Measure outlets, doorbell wires etc.
You'll want to do this on a panel-by-panel section, but measuring where each of these are is a great idea so you know whether or not you have to make a cut that traverses two panels.

Step four: Dry fit
Make sure the panel fits (sometimes the ceiling or floor isn't level and you might have to cut a weird angle) if not, then you need to take all sorts of wonky measurements. Make sure one of your friends helping you is good at math.

Step five: Apply adhesive
The adhesive we used was able to be applied with a caulk gun. You want to apply it in an "S" pattern along the wall to ensure proper adhesion. Don't just do one "S" do multiple undulations. You can belly dance while doing this, it's actually kind of fun.

Step six: Attach panel to wall over adhesive
Pretty self-explanatory. I found the easiest way to do it is from the floor up. Also make sure to get it as close to the seam as possible since once you stick it to the adhesive it won't want to move much. If you have to - get a block of wood and small hammer and place the woodblock on the edge, and tap the other side of the block with the hammer very lightly. This will help the panel move into place.

Once the panel is in place, press on it to adhere it to the wall.

Or you can do it this way:

Apparently Andy's bum makes for an excellent panel adhesion device.

Step seven: Nail in the seams and on the stud lines. 
This is where you can help deal with any warping that has occurred in the paneling. Start at the middle and work your way across the middle of the panel with your stud-finder. Nail in a finishing nail at every stud. 
We started in the middle and worked our way up then from the middle down. It really helped get rid of all of the warping. Don't hesitate to use more adhesive on the seams too if you need to. 

We slowly, but surely covered up the blue wall with this white-washed paneling. The more that went up, the more I liked it. I was admittedly very surprised that I didn't immediately want to run into the other room and grab my paint to paint over the panels. It actually worked well in the room and gave it that cozy vintage cottage vibe with a modern twist that we're going for. 

One down... 2 and a bit to go...

To deal with the doorbell wires in that wall, we drilled a hole using a bit wide enough for both wires to go through. We taped the edges up so we didn't electrocute ourselves and were able to pull them right though the hole.

See that corner of the wall where it looks white-ish, but not the same as the panel? Yeah, that's only a sliver of the epic DIY fail. I am honestly too embarrassed to show that faux-pas on the Internet.

I never in a million years thought I'd like wall paneling, but somehow, this really works. And I don't need to paint it either. Shock!

Obviously I took this before we did any clean-up or put anything back on the walls. I will be working on some of that tonight. We're also installing bright white crown molding and baseboard which will really pop against this accent wall.

I'm also dreaming of the dark chocolate colored electric fireplace with bookshelves I want to put there instead of the teak buffet. At some point we will be adding some plants and a few other doodads as well to the room.

Just in case you forgot...