Repairing wood panelling

July 28, 2015

Panelling can be more durable than paint or wallpaper and much more low-maintenance. Here are three tips for taking care of your wood panelling. 

Repairing wood panelling

1. How to keep it looking good

  • Panelling that is in good shape rarely needs more than dusting to keep it clean.
  • Wipe both solid-wood and sheet panelling using a soft cloth dampened with furniture polish.
  • Avoid wax or silicone polishes, which may leave streaks on the walls.
  • To get rid of grime, soot and layers of dust, wipe panelling with a soft cloth dampened with lukewarm water and a squirt of mild dishwashing liquid. Dry immediately with a clean cloth so that the water doesn't damage the finish.
  • You can cover scratches in both vinyl and wood veneer facings by using either a furniture touch-up marker or wax stick that matches the color of the panelling. Both are available in hardware stores.
  • Loose nails are not only unsightly, they can snag clothing or even hurt someone. If a nail has come loose, don't just drive it back in. Instead, pull the nail, using pliers or a small flat pry bar with a wood block under it to avoid marring the panelling. Then drive in a new nail about a quarter inch above or below.

2 Refinishing

  • Larger scrapes in wood veneer panelling call for refinishing.
  • Sand the damaged area with a fine-grit sanding sponge dipped in mineral spirits.
  • Wipe clean with a rag dampened with mineral spirits.
  • Let dry, and apply a matching-colour wood stain.
  • Remove excess staining with a dry rag.
  • Let dry and apply spray lacquer.

3. Painting prep

  • Before you paint panelling, make sure your panelling is really wood — paint won't stick to vinyl or plastic surfaces.
  • Try sanding an out-of-the-way spot — plastic and vinyl will flake. Wood won't.
  • If it is real wood, wash the panelling with a solution of warm water and no-rinse detergent, such as trisodium phosphate (TSP) or TSP substitute. Fill the grooves (if you want), and any holes or dents, with spackling compound, and let dry.
  • Take the shine off the panel surface by sanding lightly with fine-grit sandpaper.
  • Wear a dust mask and goggles while sanding, and use a window fan to blow airborne dust outside.
  • Clean with a damp rag. Apply a primer designed for panelling. Let it dry, and then apply a finish coat.
  • Another way to hide dark ugly panelling that has a synthetic surface is by wallpapering over it.
  • Wash the panelling and fill the grooves and holes with spackling compound as described above. Then put up wallpaper liner, sold at paint and wallpaper stores, running the liner horizontally across the panelling. Let the liner dry before hanging the wallpaper.
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