If you have a room with outdated or dark wood paneling, paint is a relatively simple and inexpensive solution for brightening the room and bringing it up to date. Don't worry if it's a wood veneer – with proper preparation and priming, those panels will soon disappear.
Priming Wood vs. Plywood Veneer
The main difference between painting wood plank panels and plywood veneer panels is the type of primer needed. Most wood panels can be covered with a water-based primer. Veneer panels require a shellac- or oil-based primer. Knotty pine paneling should also be covered with oil-based or shellac-based primer to prevent the pine resin from bleeding through the paint.
Protect the flooring by laying down a dropcloth. Mix a solution of trisodium phosphate and water according to the manufacturer's instructions. Wash the wall panels thoroughly and allow them to dry.
Put on a dust mask and lightly sand the wall panels to scuff the surface. Wipe away dust with a damp rag as you go.
Apply the first coat of primer using the foam roller. Use the paintbrush to cut in corners and to touch up any drips. Allow the primer to dry before applying the second coat.
Apply the first coat of latex paint after the primer is thoroughly dry, using the same method as the primer. Apply two to three coats of paint, lightly sanding between each coat.
Filling in the Grooves
Solid wood paneling with individual tongue-in-groove or V-groove boards should not have the grooves filled in. As the wood shrinks and expands with the changing seasons, the filling will crack and fall out.
If you have plywood paneling with a veneer surface, test the paneling by pushing on it. If the paneling flexes, the filling is likely to pop out over time. Rigid paneling that does not give when pushed on can have the grooves filled in with drywall joint compound.
Applying the Compound
The joint compound should be applied after the first coat of primer dries. Use a putty knife to apply a thin layer of compound in the grooves. The compound needs to dry and shrink overnight before another layer is applied.
Continue to fill in the grooves with thin layers of joint compound until they are completely filled. Once the compound is dry, use 120-grit sandpaper to sand the surface smooth. An additional coat of primer helps conceal the joint compound and then the panels are ready for paint.