How to Install Wall Paneling

Add the warmth of wood to a room with wall paneling. Here's what's involved and the step-by-step directions and lists of the materials and tools you need.

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

Tools Required

  • Jigsaw
  • Compass/scribe
  • Hammer
  • Nail set
  • 16-foot tape measure
  • 2-foot (minimum) level
  • Caulking gun
  • Neon electrical tester
  • Drill/driver with wood bits
  • Screwdrivers
  • Utility knife
  • Block plane

Materials Required

  • Paneling nails
  • Paneling adhesive
  • Wood finish stain marker
  • Outlet-box extension frames with screws
  • Clear pine extension jambs
  • 1x4 and 1x6 furring strips
  • Paneling
  • Base, ceiling and door/window trim

Before You Begin

Installing paneling varies depending on the surface it is being applied to. The easiest way to install it over an existing finished wall, such as drywall, plaster, or paneling, is to use an adhesive. Spread the adhesive according to the adhesive maker's instructions. Typically, you apply it and then spread it uniformly with a notched trowel, but you can also apply it in ribbons with a caulking gun. To draw the joints tight and to hold the panels in place until the adhesive sets up and cures, use braces and a minimal amount of face nailing (right through the face of the panel) or blind nailing (hidden on the edges) as needed.

  • Step 1 : Prepare the walls

    Acclimate the paneling in the room where it will be installed. The best bet is to lay the panels flat with furring strips between them to let air circulate. You can also lean them against the walls or anything in the room that will support them.

    Remove any base and ceiling trim and window and door casing. If you plan to reuse the trim, mark each piece's location on the backside. Turn off the power to the room at the circuit breaker and remove any wall-mounted light fixtures. Also remove all outlet covers and unscrew the devices. Install frames that will extend the wiring boxes to the face of the paneling.

  • Step 2 : Locate studs and pencil plumb lines at their centers

    Mark their position with light pencil marks on the floor and ceiling. If you don't have a stud finder use a nail to probe suspected locations to pinpoint the stud because you'll be covering up the holes soon enough.

  • Step 3 : Masonry wall prep

    If you are installing paneling over a masonry wall, fasten furring strip nailers with adhesive and masonry screws. You need horizontal nailers at the top, the bottom, and about every 2 feet in between them. Provide vertical nailing at all inside and outside corners, and on 4-foot centers so the vertical edges of all sheets will fall over solid nailing.

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