Home Remodeling: Installing Wood Paneling

With just a few tools and a little attention to detail, practically anyone can install wood paneling.

Wood paneling can do wonders for practically any room. Poorly installed wood paneling, however, is more of an eyesore than a design attribute. Fortunately, wood paneling is easy to install. With just a few tools and a little attention to detail, in fact, practically anyone can install wood paneling.

The specifics of paneling installation depend on the surface you are working with. Tools for most types of paneling installations will include a tape measurer, a chalkline, a level, a jig saw, a hand saw, a circular saw, and a hammer. A drill will prove helpful for drilling starter holes for cutouts. Nails and paneling adhesive will be needed to secure the paneling in place.

When using wood paneling in new construction the paneling will most likely be secured to bare studs. This type of installation is the easiest because there is no need to worry about extensive surface preparation. For existing rooms, however, woodwork and electrical faceplates must be removed and the wall must be stripped to the point that it will support the paneling when it is nailed and/or glued in place. Although wood paneling can be applied over wall treatments such as loose wallpaper, in many instances it is better to remove the paper to insure as smooth of a surface as possible for the new paneling.

Wood paneling is secured through a combination of nailing and gluing. For instances where it is difficult to find the studs so that the paneling can be nailed in place, it is recommended that furring strips be installed and the paneling nailed to them. Furring strips should be level and securely attached to the walls. This can be insured through the use of the level and chalkline. Furring strips should be placed a maximum of sixteen inches apart starting at the top edge of the wall and working downward to the bottom edge. While furring strips can be glued in place, it is preferable to nail them securely into the wall studs. Alternatively, wood paneling can be glued to the existing wall surface. If the latter method is chosen just make sure to follow the instructions for the glue and to pay particular attention to securely gluing the panel's edges.

The installation process is most easily started at one corner of the room. Because of variations in room dimensions, it will be necessary to measure the height of the wall at several locations along the area that the first panel will be positioned. Compare those measurements with the height of the paneling and, if necessary, trim the first panel along its bottom edge so that it can be temporarily stood in place with one edge as close as possible to the corner of the room where you intend to secure it. If the room corner is irregular it may not be possible to get the panel completely in place at this point. Use a level to make sure that the other edge of the panel is completely vertical and transpose any room corner variations onto the panel so that it can be trimmed as needed to allow it to fit. In addition to trimming this edge to allow for room corner irregularities, it might be necessary to trim it so that the panel will be of the appropriate width that outside edge will match up when it is nailed into place. If furring strips are used this latter consideration should not be a concern.

It is critical that the very first panel be exactly plumb as the position of the next panel and all subsequent panels will be determined by it. Work around the room one panel at a time, measuring and trimming as necessary and securely nailing and/or gluing each panel into place. Carefully trim the panels that abut the room corners and make sure to cut out appropriately sized and positioned holes for electrical outlets. When all the paneling is in place, install the woodwork and the electrical faceplates and the job is finished!

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