How to Install Wall Paneling
Compared with painting and wallpapering, we think paneling is easier because it's a more "carpenter friendly" project. No drips, no spills, no tears. Just cut, glue and nail.
There are several reasons to choose paneling:
- It's rich in appearance.
- An entire room can be done in a day.
- In many cases it has more depth and texture than do other options.
- It is a relatively clean process.
- It doesn't require a lot of skill, and only a few tools are needed.
Granted, there are some types of paneling that are very thick and difficult to install, but most lighter-weight types can be installed onto 8 or 9-foot-tall walls in no time. Here is how to do it the right way:
- First, clear the room or move all the furniture to the middle.
- Next, remove all the baseboard, door trim (casings) and crown molding. A flat pry bar and hammer make light work of this task. Remove these items carefully so that they can be reused.
- Next, use a level or a plumb bob to draw a perfectly vertical line anywhere on the wall. If the line aligns with the stud layout within the wall, attaching the paneling with nails will be a breeze. More about that later. Measure from this line to the corners at both ends of the wall (top, center and bottom). If the three measurements are not equal, it means that the corners are crooked and that the paneling might have to be trimmed to match. Although corner trim usually covers such irregularities, there are times when trimming becomes necessary.
- If the paneling is too tall, be sure to cut the bottom edge rather than the top. Whereas the bottom of the paneling is usually covered with baseboard, the top often is bare. Having a straight factory-cut edge at the top will provide for a perfect wall-to-ceiling connection and have your friends wondering how you made such perfect cuts.
- The first piece of paneling on each wall is always installed the same way. Gently push the paneling against the ceiling holding one edge next to, and in exact alignment with, your vertical reference mark. Paneling nails (colored to match the paneling) eliminate the need to putty holes and are nearly invisible. Nailing into studs gives a good result, yet a glued installation often works just as well. We suggest both. If the reference line was properly centered on the stud layout, there is a good chance that every paneling joint will fall on a stud allowing full nailing at the joints. Unless there is a specific reason to the contrary, always install sheet paneling vertically. This reduces the number of joints, yielding a more professional result. If your wall height is greater than 8-feet, look into 9 or 10-foot-long sheets. With paneling, fewer joints are better.
- Next comes baseboard and door trim. Install your door trim before beginning the baseboard. Your paneled wall is now thicker. Therefore, the door jams no longer align with the wall surface. Here you will have to furr out the door jamb by adding a piece of wood, causing the jamb to align again with the wall. With the casings in place, the baseboard can be reinstalled.
- Finally, be sure to add "box extenders" to all switch and plug boxes. They cost only a few pennies each and can prevent a fire by "extending" the protection of the junction box to the surface of the new paneling. They are necessary. If paneling will be used to finish a basement, much attention must be given to moisture problems. Tape a piece of plastic to your basement wall during the winter. If water collects beneath the plastic, you might find it wise to contact a contractor who does waterproofing. All the plastic in the world won't keep the smell out when mildew begins to grow between the plastic and the basement walls. If no moisture results, a plastic moisture barrier is in order as the first layer, with a stud wall or furr strips (and insulation) followed by a layer of wallboard and then your layer of paneling. Paneling on furr strips over plastic will work fine, but it is not the kind of work we would do in our homes. Thicker plywood paneling can be used without the layer of wallboard that we suggest. However the wallboard does add strength and some sound-deadening value.
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