Tongue & Groove is a type of wood paneling that has interlocking edges, allowing the panels to fit together snugly. It’s easy to install and can provide a quick and dramatic transformation to any room when used for walls, ceilings, or floors.
The Tongue & Groove paneling can be made from a variety of materials, including wood, metal, or plastic, and is available in a wide range of colors and styles, making it a popular choice for home renovations.
However, this pine wood paneling can start to look dated or worn with time which needs to be painted if you want to update them with a modern look.
Below, in this painting guide, I will show you the proper steps to follow when painting over your old worn-out tongue and groove walls…
Painting Over Tongue & Groove Paneling?
Painting your worn-out tongue and groove pine walls can be challenging since each piece of wood joins with grooves and accumulates extra paint from your brush.
But it isn’t that tough if you do it patiently. All it will require is some preparation, planning, and several extra steps than painting over a simple flat surface such as drywall or a plastered wall.
No matter whether you want to recolor the old paint tongue & groove wall or need to paint the fresh one after installation, here are the exact steps you need to follow to make sure the end result is a satisfying one:
Step 1) Roughen up the surface
Start by lightly sanding the tongue and groove pine walls with fine-grit sandpaper (generally, 120 grit will do the job). This will help to rough up the wood surface and provide a better ‘tooth’ for the new paint to adhere to.
If the wood paneling is already varnished or has a glossy finish, you’ll need to sand it more aggressively (with 80-grit sandpaper) to remove the shiny surface completely.
Step 2) Clean the wall
After sanding, use a tack cloth or a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to remove all the dust and dirt from your interior pine paneling.
Make sure to get the dust out of every joint and crevice, and if you have heavy grime build-up or minor scuff marks, use some Murphy® Oil Soap, water, and a dampened microfiber cloth.
If you’re painting over a previously painted wall, you’ll also need to remove any loose paint before proceeding. This can be done with a scraper or wire brush.
Step 3) Fill gaps with wood filler
If you notice any gaps, holes, blemishes, or cracks in the paneling, use a wood filler to fill them in.
Choose a filler that is similar in color to the wood paneling so that it will be less noticeable once it’s painted. Also, once you have made all the fixes, ensure to sand the surface lightly to smoothen it once again.
Filling the grooves with a wood filler or caulk is not advisable since it can create an uneven surface and decrease its attractiveness.
Moreover, filling the grooves can cause cracks to appear in the long run due to the natural shrinkage and expansion of wood with varying weather conditions, which may be challenging to repair afterward.
Step 4) Prime the wall surface
To prime your tongue and groove walls, choose a primer that is suitable for the type of paint you will be using. If you’re unsure, ask for advice at your local hardware store.
Once you have bought your primer, use a natural bristle paintbrush to cut in around the edges, and then use a standard 1/2-inch nap roller to apply the primer to the rest of the wall beginning at the top.
Do not use a thick roller nap for tongue-and-groove shiplap because it will hold more primer and paint than required and can cause runs and drips. You can, however, use a paint sprayer to apply the primer, which will make the job easier and faster, especially if you have a much larger wall surface area.
No matter what application method you choose, make sure; you keep a piece of rag handy with you all the time to remove the excess primer paint that collects in the grooves of the wood paneling.
Step 5) Paint the tongue and groove wall
Once you have applied the primer to the entire wall and it is dried, it’s time for the final step – painting the tongue and groove walls.
Use a paintbrush to cut in around the edges of the walls, and then use your roller to apply the paint to the rest of the wall beginning at one of the top corners.
Paint the surface in 3-foot sections, and once you are done, wait for a moment to feather out the excess paint from the wood grooves using your brush.
Paint each section in columns, from the ceiling to the ground, and slightly overlap each pass for a uniform appearance.
TIP: When using a brush, keep in mind to load it very lightly as you will need to paint slowly, and it can cause drips.
What Kind of Paint to Use for Tongue and Groove Walls?
Choosing the right paints and finishes for wood walls is very important as it can make a big difference in the overall look of the space.
For primer and paint types indoors, you can use either latex or oil-based products. But IMO, if it’s a living room where people will be spending more time, you want to go with an oil-based product for the durability it offers.
Furthermore, if your goal is to simply paint over the wood paneling for a color change and not necessarily protect it, then any type of paint product will do without adding extra protection.
But, if you will be using the space for cooking or if it’s a bathroom, then you will also want to use a waterproofing sealer such as pigmented shellac in addition to the stain-blocking paints to protect the walls from moisture.
You can also choose to stain the wood instead of painting it. However, when doing so, make sure to use a water-based stain, as oil-based stains can be difficult to remove and may also raise the grain of the wood.
Applying a top coat of varnish or sealer after staining is also a good idea to help protect the finish.
For the finish – the best to use on tongue and groove paneling is semi-gloss or satin paint, as it will help protect the wood and resist stains, scratches, and moisture.
Flat, matte or high gloss paint isn’t very good, especially for tongue and groove kitchen cabinets and walls, as they will need regular cleaning/washing. Also, these finishes will be more likely to show imperfections on the surface.
The Bottom Line
Overall, painting over tongue and groove pine walls is not a difficult task, but it will take some preparation, time, and effort to do it right.
Make sure to follow the steps outlined above and use the right products to ensure a beautiful long-lasting finish.
When it comes to choosing the right paint colors, it really depends on the overall look you are going for in the space and the level of protection you need.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.