Do It Yourself: Install New Wall Panels

Installed over existing walls, wall panels are an easy way to upgrade and update your home décor. Following the instructions in the guide below, you can complete this project in a weekend using a few basic tools and materials.

Wall panels are pre-finished interior panels that come in a variety of finishes and textures. Installed over existing walls, wall panels are an easy way to upgrade your home décor. For interior use only, they are not recommended for areas of high humidity or extensive moisture such as bathrooms or damp basements. Following the instructions below, you can complete this project in a weekend using a few basic tools and materials.

Tools and Materials


Tape measure

Medium to fine tooth hand saw or portable circular saw


Rubber mallet

Pry bar



Safety glasses

Dust mask

Stud finder

Utility knife


Wall panels (4' x 8')

Adhesive (suitable for sub-floors)

1" Panel nails

File or Sandpaper


To figure out the number of panels you will need for the room, measure the perimeter of the room and divide by four. Always round up. Panels should be stored laying flat in a stack so that no warping occurs. When storing and installing avoid extremes in temperature and humidity. Wall panels are made of materials that expand and contract so you will need to acclimate them to the room where they will be installed. Allow 24 to 48 hours before installation.

When you are ready to begin, use the pry bar to carefully remove moldings around doors and windows. Unscrew switch plates, electrical outlet covers, and heat registers. It is not necessary to remove baseboards and moldings, however if you choose to leave them on, you will need to use finish moldings to cover the gaps (see below) between the panels and the moldings.

Measurements and Cutting

Start in a corner and work from left to right. It's a good idea to do a mock up to see how the panels will fit together. Panels will be positioned vertically, leaving a 1⁄4" gap at the top and bottom of the wall and a 1⁄8" gap at corners, around window and door openings, smaller cutouts, and between panels to allow for expansion and contraction.

It is important that the first panel be positioned accurately. To do this, measure 48" out from the corner. Using the stud finder locate the stud approximately 48" out from the corner. If the stud is not there, find the one closest to but not more than 48" from the corner and trim the panel width to correspond to that measurement. The edge of the panel should align with the center of the stud. Using a level, snap a plumb line at that point. This will be your reference line and subsequent panels should then be aligned properly. It is also helpful to locate and mark the studs in the entire room before installation.

One panel at a time, mark the locations of door and window openings, switch plates, outlets, and heat registers on the front of the panel. Always double-check your accuracy before cutting and don't forget to subtract either 1/4" or 1/8" to allow for the expansion gaps.

A utility knife can usually be used for small cut outs such as electrical outlets and switch plates. For larger cutting jobs cut the panels face up with a hand saw. If you use a portable power saw mark and cut the panels face down. Any rough edges resulting from cutting can be smoothed with a file or sandpaper.


Apply 3/8" beads of adhesive to the back of the panel at approximately 16" on center and along the perimeter approximately 3/4 inch from the edge. Remember, the edges of the panel will be aligned with the centers of the studs behind the finished wall.

Place panel against the wall using hand pressure and nail at the top, middle and bottom to hold in place temporarily. With a rubber mallet, gently tap on the panel to make sure the glue has adhered to the wall behind it. Then using 1" panel nails, hammer a nail every 12" along the perimeter of the panel and every 16" across and down the face of panel to correspond with the centerline of the studs.

Continue until you reach the next corner. You may not be able to fit in a full panel so you will need to cut one to size. Measure the distance along the top and bottom from the last full panel to the corner and subtract 1/4" to account for expansion (1/8" on each side). Continue installing the remaining the wall panels. When all of the panels are in place, reattach the moldings, switch plates, outlet covers, and heating registers.

The final step is to stand back and congratulate your self on a job well done. Voila - you've created a whole new look!

© High Speed Ventures 2011