In a forty-something year old home, I would like to freshen up a couple of rooms that still have wood paneling (and get rid of that "this room used to look fashionable in the 1970s" look). I would like to replace the wood panels with drywalls.

They are painted, as you see below. I'm guessing that someone at some point decided they didn't like the look of the wood panels either, but just painted over them rather than replace them.


To remove the wood panels, I'll hunt down the location of the nails, take them out, and then hopefully the panels will be easy to pull out. I am wondering:

  1. What are the chances that there is already some kind of drywall behind the panels? This would make the task considerably simpler!
  2. If the panels are just a couple of millimeters thick, might it be an option to just leave them where they are and fix the drywall in front of them? It would be trickier to mark the locations of the studs behind, but all-in-all it'd be a lot simpler job... and, last, but not least:
  3. Can the "look" of the wood panels be transformed to a drywall-pretend-to-be without actually taking the panels out? Could I for instance sand the panels, fill out the ridges (with what?), and apply primer/paint? Sanding furniture to change the paint color is a lousy and intense task. Would I be looking at a similarly troubling task to make replacing the panels with drywall look like an easy task by comparison?


I thought of adding a couple of pointers to those tackling a similar project.

  • In stores, you are more likely to find drywall mud called joint compound.

  • Solution 2 above (adding a drywall in front of the wood panels) is illustrated in this video.

  • Solution 3 (skim-coating) is illustrated in this video. I suspect that the only difference with skim coating a wood panel is that one must apply more compound to make sure that the grooves disappear.

Yes, it's been already six months since I asked the question. Well, winter came and now I'm not sure it's reasonable to tackle such a project while the windows remain closed (or wait till Spring).

  • I pulled a lot of paneling out of my house, and I found that you don't need to pull the nails first - just get your crowbar behind the paneling and pull.
    – kgutwin
    Jun 29, 2015 at 16:45
  • 2
    To see if there is drywall underneath, take an outlet cover off and look around the edges of the hole - you should be able to see the drywall if it is there. We just redid our paneled room, and there was drywall (no paint or plaster, but...).
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 29, 2015 at 16:46

2 Answers 2


Option 3 is the sanest IMHO. You can get a bucket of drywall mud for $15 and do a "skim coat" over the panels to create a flat surface. No need to sand first; this stuff will stick to anything! Once the mud is dry, you can sand it to get a smooth look, or texture it. Texturing can be done with cans of spray-on texture you get at big box stores, or using a texture sprayer gun. A pro will be able to do the texture part much better than a novice, so if you want a textured wall, I recommend hiring that part out for $100 or so. With the right equipment and an operator of moderate skill, it's a 30 minute job. If you've already got an air compressor, you can have a go yourself with a sprayer attachment that has a hopper.

But whatever you do, match the texture or lack thereof to any drywall that abuts the paneled wall. Nothing screams "I used to be wood paneling!!!!!" like strange, awkward texture on a few walls that, upon further investigation, have more give to them when pushed on.

This is the approach I took on my wood paneled walls and today you'd never know the difference.

  • Thanks for the keywords "skim coating". After googling that term, and for the benefit of those reading this later, it seems there are two options. 1- If the wood panels are not yet painted, they should be washed (from grease) then sealed before skim coating with joint compound. 2- If the wood panels are already painted (my case), there is less risk that the humidity from the joint compound will loosen the panels' glue and detach them. One can directly skim coat.
    – Calaf
    Jun 29, 2015 at 14:56
  • 2
    I would not suggest this for most people. If you are in a temperate climate the humidity fluctuations are sure to make the skim coat crack at the divets/seams. Also I think skimcoating that large of an area right is more work than putting up drywall. This might work for some but IMO I think doing this seems like a nightmare. Especially if you resell and you get someone like me investigating - I am pushing this wall to see what it is made of - it will flex and probably crack.
    – DMoore
    Jan 11, 2016 at 19:37
  • Point 1 Usually paneling is put up over cracked plaster as a expedient fix. Lookup skimcoating plaster as a fix for bad plaster. It works well on walls. Anchoring is needed for ceilings if the plaster is broken off the lath.
  • Point 2 Overlaying drywall is a definite fix. 3/8 thick panels is frequently used for this. Some problems can be: the need for electrical box (for outlets and switches) extensions. Trim would also need to be removed and reinstalled.
  • Point 3 I've filled in the paneling with patching spackle to fix damage. Skimcoating with joint compound and sanding smooth would work, if the underlying layer is well adhered and wouldn't release with the 'wet' layer of compound.

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