Diy Interior Decorating: Installing Decorative Wall Paneling

Change the entire look and feel of a living room, bedroom or even basement, by installing decorative wall paneling yourself.

Since most paneling comes in 4'X 8' sheets, start by measuring the length, in feet, of each wall. After adding those measurements, divide by 4 for the total number of sheets you will need. Allow a couple of extra sheets if the chosen paneling has a pattern that will need to be matched during hanging. Deduct a sheet or two if you have lots of windows, more than one doorway or other openings. You'll also need to purchase narrow molding to install at seams. Try to match the molding color as closely as possible to the color of the paneling.

Prepare the walls by removing all nails, staples, tacks and other protrusions. Remove light switch and outlet covers. Also remove all crown molding and loosen baseboards from against the wall. If your windows have encasements, these will have to be temporarily removed. If the room has a fireplace, loosen mantel and all surrounding woodwork from against the wall to allow paneling to slide behind it slightly. Set up a pair of carpenter's horses outside - you don't want sawdust all over your room. If you don't have the horses, a couple of end tables or a sturdy coffee table may be efficient. In addition, you will need a rotary saw for cutting the paneling and a jigsaw for cutting out electrical outlet openings. It's almost impossible for one person to install paneling alone, so ask a friend to assist you in this project.

Paneling is normally 8' long, so if your room is taller than that, you will need to decide if you will only panel part of the walls, or if you will install molding at the top of the 8 foot, then add additional paneling above. If the 8 foot lengths are sufficient, get started by cutting your first piece to fit the initial wall section. If you only need to cut off a small piece of the paneling, set it aside in case you might need it later for paneling over the top of a door, for instance. If the paneling will fit without being cut, hold paneling flush against the wall, tucking it behind the baseboards about 1". Using paneling nails, hammer a nail every 12" or so, in a straight downward line. If the paneling has grooves, insert the nails in the grooves. If not, match the nail color closely with the paneling color and hide nails in design if possible. You will have to add molding pieces to hide the seams where two sheets of paneling come together.

If the walls of the room are unsuitable for nails, try a "liquid nail" type of adhesive found at most hardware stores. This usually comes in a tube and can be smeared directly on the walls, or in a bucket and can be brushed on the paneling itself. It might be necessary to sand the walls down in some spots so that paneling will lay flush. For concrete walls, you will have to frame your room by installing 2X4's around the top and bottom of the walls, down the wall corners, and every four feet along each wall, using masonry nails. Then you can attach the paneling to the 2X4's.

For cutting around light switches and outlets, you'll draw a "box" onto the paneling sheet by measuring from the edge of the last paneling sheet over to the switch. Mark this measurement on your next sheet of paneling. Then, measure from the top of the paneling to the top of the outlet, drawing these dimensions on the intended sheet. Also, measure from bottom of wall to bottom of outlet. Finally, measure the width of the outlet opening. You should now have a rectangle drawn onto your next piece of paneling. Using a jigsaw, cut the hole for the light switch, then install this sheet. Use the same method for cutting out around windows and doors. The paneling does not need to stop right at the edge of the window or door, since the casing that surrounds the opening will cover the difference.

If walls are taller than 8 feet, some people opt to wainscot the walls, which simply means to panel the walls from the baseboards up approximately 35". Then, install molding around top edges and wallpaper or paint above the molding. If you prefer to panel the entire wall, install the 8' paneling sheets, then cut and attach the paneling above the initial 8'. After completing this, place molding at seam where the original 8' sheets stopped. Finish the job by re-attaching the crown molding, encasements and baseboards. Then, sit back and enjoy the scenery.

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