How to Wood Panel a Wall

Create a warm and inviting room with paneling.
Create a warm and inviting room with paneling. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Installing wood paneling is an effective and aesthetically pleasing way to cover imperfections and minor damage on walls. Paneling cannot cover some types of damage including mold, wet walls or severe bowing. Homeowners can hang wood paneling over existing drywall, plaster or exposed wall studs. Paneling is available as sheet panels made to resemble individual planks or as individual planks. Sheet paneling generally comes with a finish whereas planks either are finished or require sanding and finishing.

Things You'll Need

  • Furring strips
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Wood shims
  • Wood glue
  • Mallet
  • Finishing nails
  • Nail set
  • Circular saw or saber saw
  • 180-grit sandpaper
  • Jig saw
  • Construction adhesive
  • Level
  • Gloves
  • Stud finder

Plank Paneling

Remove all molding from the walls.

Nail furring strips horizontally to each wall spaced 24 inches apart. Secure furring strips to the wall studs with nails. Begin at the ceiling and end at the floor even if this means some of the furring strips will lay closer than 24 inches apart. Furring strips are thin pieces of wood that will support the planks and prevent them from putting stress on drywall or plaster and pulling out of the wall.

Inspect the strips for gaps between the existing wall and the furring strips. Coat wood shims with wood glue and insert them in between the furring strip and the wall. Tap them in place with a mallet if necessary.

Position the first plank at a corner and drive finishing nails through the plank into the furring strip on both the right and left side of the plank. If you are using tongue and groove planks, drive the finishing nails through the tongue and into the furring strip. Drive nails through the plank into each furring strip. Place a nail set over the finishing nail and strike with a hammer to countersink the nails.

Continue to set planks abutted next to each other and nail into the furring strips. If you are using tongue and groove planks, slide the grooved side into the tongue and nail in. Make cuts as necessary with a circular saw or saber saw equipped with a standard blade.

Sheet Paneling

Remove all molding from the walls. Sand high spots with a 180-grit sandpaper to level the surface. Measure and mark cutouts on the unfinished side of the paneling. Cut out the marked areas with a saber saw or jig saw.

Apply nickel-sized dots of construction adhesive to the back of the paneling every 3 to 4 inches from top to bottom. Position the paneling against the wall beginning in a corner. Leave a one-eighth-inch space at the corner. Leave a one-quarter-inch gap at the top and bottom that you will hide with molding later. Use wood shims to ensure the correct space.

Place a level along the side of the panel to check for plumb. If the bubble is not in the center, adjust the panel with wood shims until the bubble lies in the center. Place a level along the top of the panel. If the bubble does not lie in the center, adjust the panel until it does and keep in place with wood shims.

Run a gloved hand over the entire surface of the panel. Press the panel to the wall to gain good adhesion. Continue to apply nickel-size dots of adhesive to the unfinished side of the panel and press it in place until paneling covers all walls. Allow the construction adhesive to set for one to two hours.

Locate the wall studs with a stud finder. Drive finishing nails through the paneling into the studs. Try to nail the paneling in along the recessed lines to hide the nails. Place a nail set over the nail head and strike with a hammer to countersink the nails. Cover the nail heads with wood putty.

Tips & Warnings

  • Hide gaps along the top and bottom of paneling with molding.
  • If you do not want to nail paneling into furring strips, coat the furring strips with construction adhesive and then set the planks.
  • Fill in areas where the countersunk nails are with a matching color wood putty to hide them.


  • "Floors, Walls and Ceilings"; Creative Homeowner Editors; 2007
  • "Walls and Ceilings"; Time Life Editors; 1982
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