Wood paneling certainly has a place in the home. It can make a space feel traditional and warm, but it can also look dark and dated. If your paneling is getting you down, you could tear it out or hide it behind drywall. But if the paneling is in good shape, it may be quicker, cheaper, and easier to brighten it up with a few coats of paint. Here's how.
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Start by washing the wood-paneled walls with a solution of TSP and water. Fill any nail holes, gouges, or other imperfections with spackle, let it dry, then sand. Now lightly sand the entire paneled area to scuff it up (don't forget the trim and baseboards). Scuffing will help that first coat of primer adhere. Be sure to wear a dust mask and to wipe away the dust with a damp rag as you go.
Once the surface is sanded and dust-free, move on to priming. For best results, use a stain-blocking primer and plan on two coats.
Finish by applying your chosen paint. Put on two or three coats, lightly sanding between each one. For a smoother finish, opt for a foam sponge roller cover. Keep a paintbrush handy for cutting in at corners and wiping up drips. Then step back and admire the new, lighter view.
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