A couple of years ago, my wife and I purchased a new house. I enjoy remodeling so we are in the habit of looking at a house’s “bones” for its potential and not looking to see if it is “perfect” already. This house was nice and in very good shape with one major exception—paneling! The living room, with its 14’ tall cathedral ceilings and extensive moulding, had paneling on the walls. No other room in the house had paneling, just the living room—the focal point of the entire house! Paneling has its place; but that place is not in my house. The day we closed on the house, I began work on the paneling.
I had three options for dealing with the paneling. The easiest (therefore the most popular) remedy is to simply paint the paneling. This is an inexpensive quick fix but when you’re finished, you still have striped walls, just in a non-wood-grained finish. The second option (and by far the most expensive) is to remove all the moulding and paneling and install drywall. The problem with this option is that all of the window and door frames and casings were cut to be flush with the 1/8” thickness of the paneling therefore making them too short for the 5/8” thick sheetrock. Also, all of the crown (or cove) moulding would have to be cut shorter to account for the extra ½” of wall thickness on each end. Did I mention that this room had 14’ cathedral ceilings? This left me with one last option…Faux Drywall. I made my paneling look just like drywall. This is similar to the first option of just painting the drywall, except this option also removes the dreaded stripes. This was my best option.
While creating faux drywall is just as time consuming and dusty as installing standard drywall, it is much less expensive and you don’t have to replace or re-cut your pricey mouldings. Even a beginning do-it-yourselfer, who is willing to roll up his (or her) sleeves and follow these simple steps, can turn paneling into attractive faux drywall.
Plastic sheeting (enough to cover floors, windows, doors, etc)
Joint compound (also known as drywall mud)
Drywall tape (I prefer the fiberglass mesh, self stick type, but the paper type will work also.)
Sandpaper (medium and fine grit)
Blue painters tape
Drywall knives (6” and 12”)
Dust Mask (Always use a dusk mask when doing any type of sanding)
Paint roller & tray
Drywall texturing tools
Step1 – Preparation
After covering the floors, doors, windows, and moulding with plastic sheeting and blue painters tape, use medium grit sandpaper and the electric sander to remove the shine and any rough spots on the paneling. Removing the shine will help the joint compound adhere to the paneling. When all sanding is complete, go back over the paneling with a damp sponge to remove the dust. Be sure to rinse the sponge often in clean water. The final preparation step is to apply a coat of latex primer.
Step 2 – Hiding the stripes
Using a 6” drywall knife and light pressure, apply the self adhesive drywall tape over all seems and grooves (stripes) in the paneling. If you choose to use the paper drywall tape, then you’ll need to apply a thin layer (1/8” think) of drywall mud to the stripes before putting the tape on. Use the 6” knife to lightly embed the paper tape into the mud. After the tape (either fiberglass or paper) is applied, use the 6” knife at a 45% angle to cover the tape with a smooth thin layer of mud. After the mud begins to dry a little, a damp sponge can be used to smooth out any rough spots or knife marks. Let the mud dry for 24 hours.
Lightly sand (with fine grit sandpaper) any rough spots in the mud and sponge off any dust. Then apply a second coat of mud over the first coat using a 12” drywall knife. Feather the edges smooth by applying slightly more pressure to the outside edge of the knife. Again, a damp sponge can be used to smooth out any rough spots after the mud begins to set up. This step will begin to combine some of the closer stripes into one large stripe. Let the mud dry for 24 hours.
For a smoother, more professional finish, an optional third coat is applied. Using a little water, slightly thin the mud, mixing well. Apply the mud with the 12” knife just as you did the second coat, feathering and smoothing as you go. You guessed it; let it dry 24 hours.
Do a final light sanding on rough spots and to smooth out the edges. Use a damp sponge to remove dust.
Step 3 – Texturing (optional)
I prefer to texture drywall (or faux drywall) but some people don’t. You can hire a contractor to texture the wall for you or you can texture it yourself. There are many different techniques you can use to texture a wall—too many to go into here. If you choose to apply the texture yourself, research the techniques and practice on scrap wood, drywall, or paneling before moving to your nice, smooth new wall.
Personally, I like using a light, blown on texture. To accomplish this, rent a drywall texture hopper and an air compressor from your local equipment rental store. Thin down the mud to a cake batter consistency and shoot it on the wall following the instructions that come with the hopper. Practice on a scrap piece, adjusting the consistency of the mud and the airflow, until you find just the right look you desire. When you’re comfortable with your technique, move to your wall. Any overspray will clean up with warm water. As with all mud applications, allow it to dry for 24 hours.
Step 4 – Finishing
The final step to finish the wall is to paint. The drywall mud will soak in lots of paint, so a good coat (or two) of primer is essential. Follow up with your favorite paint and enjoy your new “drywalled” room.