How to Panel a Wall


Wood paneling offers homeowners options for updating an interior look with durable, high performance materials. Far removed from the days of pre-fabricated panel sheets, choices in custom wood panels can accent any interior and fit any budget. Oak, cedar and knotty pine panels can replace older wood paneling. The difference in the look of real wood rather than composite can be dramatic. If you can use a tape measure and a hammer, this is the home improvement project for you.

Things You'll Need

  • Protective eye-wear
  • Wood glue
  • 1-inch paneling nails
  • 8- by 4-foot wood panels
  • Flat pry bar
  • Screwdriver
  • Utility knife
  • Drill
  • Small drill bit
  • Jigsaw
  • Pencil
  • Stud finder

Preparing the Wall for Paneling

  • Measure the length and width of the wall to be paneled. Most paneling is sold in 8- by 4-foot sheets. Calculate how many panels you will need and purchase them from a local home improvement center.

  • Use a flat pry bar to remove all of the molding and trim around the windows, doors and top and bottom of the wall. Remove these carefully so that they can be re-attached after the paneling installation.

  • Remove any and all vents, light sockets and plug-in covers using a screwdriver. Set these aside to install after the paneling is in place.

  • Locate and mark all of the wall studs using a stud finder. There should be a stud every 24 to 48 inches. Determine if the wall is even by centering a level from the left side corner and running it along the wall to be paneled. Draw a line using a pencil and remove the level. If the line is straight, the wall is level. If the line goes upwards or downwards, the difference will have to be figured into the cutting measurement of the wall panels. Cut panels to fit using a jigsaw or similar tool. Always cut the paneling from the bottom so that the cuts are not as noticeable.

  • Place the panels loosely along the wall to determine how well they will fit. The top and bottom need to have a clearance of ¼ of an inch from the ceiling and floor. The right and left edge pieces should be no closer than 1/8 of an inch from the bordering walls. This will allow for the natural expansion and contraction of the wood panels.

  • Mark the location on each panel of where all vents or electrical plates will need to go. Cut the openings out using a sharp utility knife.

Attaching the Panels to the Wall

  • Dot the back of each paneling section with ½-inch beads of wood glue. Place the glue patches approximately 4 to 6 inches apart.

  • Secure each panel by hammering a 1-inch nail into both the top and bottom edge. Run hands along each section to assist the panel in adhering to the wall. Finish the installation of the panels by hammering 1-inch nails every 12 inches along the edges. Place a nail every 16 inches across and down the remainder of each panel.

  • The last panel will have to be cut vertically to fit. Measure the distance to the wall and subtract 1/8 of an inch from the edge. Turn the panel over and cut the needed width. Cutting from the back of the panel will provide a smoother cut.

  • Use a screwdriver to re-attach all of the vents, electrical outlets and switch covers. Fit the molding and trim back along the floor, ceiling, windows and doors.

Tips & Warnings

  • Cut slowly from the back side of the wood panels for a smoother line. Drill a small hole in the center of any areas designated for the vents or electrical outlets and switches. Pierce through with the utility knife and use a slow sawing motion to form an opening of the correct dimensions.
  • Wear protective eyewear when sawing the wood panels. Use caution around any electrical outlets or switches.


  • Photo Credit Image courtesy of Photobucket photo pool.
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