Because wood paneling requires little to no prep work before it is applied to the wall, it is a common wall covering, especially in 20th-Century homes. Wood paneling, however, is often dark and misaligned with more modern interior designs.

If you are looking to give your home a fresh, new look here’s a guide to help you paint wood paneling with grooves:

Step 1: Prepare your room to paint wood paneling by moving furniture and valuables to the center of the room, as well as covering the flooring with a paint-proof drop cloth.

Step 2: Lightly Sand the surface of the wood paneling to remove some of the varnish, as well as clear away any grit or dirt connected to the wall. Use a damp rag to clean the surface.

Step 3: Using drywall mud, spackle the grooves of the paneling from top to bottom and allow it to dry.

Step 4: Repeat step 2 and sand. If the grooves are not flush with the wall, repeat steps 3 & 4 until you have a flat surface.

Step 5: Prime and paint your paneling using sound interior painting techniques.

Step 1: Prepare Your Room to Paint Wood Paneling

The first step in any painting project is to make sure you properly prepare to protect the environment in your home where you will be painting:

  • Furniture – Make sure that all the heavy furniture is moved away from the walls (and, preferably, to the center of the room or another room).
  • Flooring – Cover your flooring or carpet with paint proof drop cloths and make sure any other valuables you have are moved to the center of the room or even out of the room.
  • Baseboards & Outlets – You will also want to make sure to cover your baseboards with tape and remove any wall outlet coverings.

Step 2: Sand the Wood Paneling and Clean

Using an electric palm sander (or sand by hand) to lightly sand the entire surface of the wood paneling to remove some of the varnish & stain color shine. Lightly sanding the surface will also help remove some of the grit and dirt clinging to the paneling.

Once you’ve sanded the paneling, run over the surface with a damp rag to remove sanding dust and grit still clinging to the paneling.

Lightly sanding the wood paneling creates a smooth surface which helps as you apply joint compound to the grooves in this next step. However, it’s not always obligatory to sand the entire wall prior to painting wood panels depending on the type of paneling, the finish of the wood, and the quality of primer you plan to use.

Step 3: Spackle the Grooves in the Wood Paneling

Next, use a little drywall mud (also known as a joint compound) to fill in the grooves of the wood paneling. This is the same joint compound used to finish drywall.

If you’re looking to speed up the drying process, mix a little “fast mud” or “20-minute mud” with your regular joint compound. Mix the two together, and apply. Watch this video to see how it’s done.

Using your putty knife, scoop up some of the paste and begin applying it to the top of the wood paneling. Scrape downward, filling the groove with paste. Repeat this process, applying the paste ‘top to bottom’ until all the grooves are filled.

Allow the drywall mud to dry.

Step 4: (Again) Sand the Wood Paneling & Clean

Once the drywall mud has dried, repeat the same process as before of sanding your paneling (and if you didn’t sand initially, do so now to flatten the newly filled-in grooves). Lightly sand the entire surface of the paneling, once again creating a smooth surface which you can paint.

Additionally, same as before, quickly run over the sanded paneling with a damp rag, removing any sanding dust, debris, or grit that may still be stuck to the wall.

NOTE: What if I have deep grooves in my paneling?

If the grooves in your paneling are deep you may need to apply a second layer of joint compound. If the first application of drywall mud has not completely filled in the grooves (so that there is almost no noticeable difference between the groove and the wall), then you need to repeat steps 3 & 4 until you create an even surface.

painting paneling grooves

Step 5: Prime & Paint the Paneling

Now that the grooves in your paneling are completely filled, you are ready to prime the wall and paint it. While we’ve covered how covered how to paint wood paneling with grooves, you may have other interior painting questions:

For step 5, you may want to refer to some of our other painting guides including: