So the previous owner must have received a tremendously great offer on wood wall paneling because it is all over except for the kitchen. It is even in the bathroom, albeit paint a weird orange sherbet color.

I want to tear it all down but a HD guy in the paint department put a scare inside me by saying I don't know what's behind it... might be opening a whole new can of worms.

So my options are 1) tear it all down and hope for the best- which did not work out for me when I pulled up a bedroom carpeting... 2) fill the ridges with joint compound/wood filler - apply a layer of Killz and paint over it. 3) Either rip it down or not put 1/4" drywall over it.

Also, I should mentioned that on both sides of rooms there are party walls(it is a row house)will no studding - just solid(I think) party walls.

Any advise or pitfalls I should avoid on any of the three methods.

  • Is this real wood, or the fake stuff from 60s 70s? What city are you in? Philadelphia?
    – Edwin
    Nov 11, 2016 at 19:55
  • It is in Philadelphia - how did you guess? it isn't the real wood - the crappy 60/70's paneling.
    – ecco88
    Nov 11, 2016 at 21:50
  • I'd want to know what's behind the paneling. In any event you'll have some drywall repair to do. I'd rather repair plaster than skim paneling.
    – isherwood
    Nov 11, 2016 at 22:15
  • I completely remodeled a home in Philadelphia.
    – Edwin
    Nov 12, 2016 at 4:18
  • 1
    Yes, but the can of worms won't have paneling on it!
    – Tim Nevins
    Aug 30, 2018 at 17:43

2 Answers 2


The attitude in Philadelphia seems to be to put layer over layer over layer. After a few layers, the home begins to look and feel "not right".

The exterior walls are likely plaster directly over brick, which is entirely repairable. The problem is that the wallpaper is time consuming to remove. The interior walls will be plaster over lath. If you're lucky, they will have removed the plaster before installing the paneling. You are probably not lucky. It doesn't matter much, because you're going to change the thickness of the walls anyway you go, and you will have to replace the door jams.

I had the same problem, and I chose to rip everything down. The condition of my 60's electrical was the deciding factor. If you have plaster, you'll have up to two tons of material per floor to remove. You'll have to rent a truck to bring the debris to a recycling facility and figure out the logistics of where to park, etc.

The hardest part was the upstairs bathroom. A 60s remodel (complete with pink tile) put reinforced concrete of 3/4" to 1-1/2" thickness on the walls and floor. Tough, messy and heavy.

Helpful hint: Fill any little holes the party walls (where the brick was cut to fit the floor joists) with steel wool. They can be like mice superhighways.

  • 1
    Yeah my wife isn't happy about the mess - but since we plan to live here for years it is the best thing to do. Found a door way to the next room which was cool - not sure we are going to use it - we have 2 children and cant afford to loose a bedroom for a master bathroom(would be nice though). Never even seen a mouse or any bugs after over 2 months - probably because I think our block has the highest cat per capita in the city. Also have a bad feeling about the bathroom but hoping to make better use of the space as opposed to changing the floor plan.
    – ecco88
    Jan 3, 2017 at 19:26
  • 1
    By the way, I think 1920 is the date they put on all homes built before 1920. I went to city hall and did research on my property and found that it was built in 1888. On Google book search, I found an announcement of it's construction in a builder's trade publication. I also did some research with Census data. Many of these row homes had 8+ people living in them!
    – Edwin
    Jan 4, 2017 at 5:01

Surface is surface. Paneling is surface. Surface is the cheapest and easiest of home repair.

Tearing it down can do no harm. You will almost certainly need to install a new surface material on any wall you strip, but drywall is cheap and fairly easy. If you are going to tile (e.g. in the bathroom), you need a better base than cheap woodish paneling.

Also, it gives you a chance to find any hidden problems. Better address them now than after you have decorated.

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