Tongue & groove paneling is a type of wood paneling that has interlocking edges, allowing the panels to fit together snugly.
This type of paneling is often used for walls, ceilings, and floors.
Tongue & groove paneling is easy to install and can provide a quick and dramatic transformation to any room.
The paneling can be made from a variety of materials, including wood, metal, or plastic.
And it is available in a wide range of colors and styles, making it a popular choice for home renovations.
However, with time, this pine wood paneling can start to look dated or worn.
If you’re looking for a way to update your tongue & groove paneling, painting it is a great option.
Below, in this painting guide, we will show you the right steps to follow when painting over your old 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 if you do it patiently, and follow all the steps it isn’t that tough either.
All it will require is several more steps than painting over a simple flat surface such as drywall or a plastered wall.
No matter you want to recolor the old wall or want to paint the fresh after installation, here are the steps you need to take to paint tongue & groove paneling for a better result:
Step 1) Roughen up the Surface
Start by lightly sanding the tongue and groove pine walls with fine-grit sandpaper (generally a 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 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 the surface.
If you’re painting over a previously painted wall, you’ll also need to remove any loose paint before proceeding.
Step 3) Fill Gaps with Wood Filler
If there are 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.
And, once you have made all the fixes make sure to sand the surface lightly to smoothen it.
TIP: It’s not recommended to fill the grooves with a wood filler or a caulk as it may make the surface uneven and less desirable.
Also, if you fill the grooves, the cracks may appear over time due to the shrinkage and expansion of wood with changes in climatic conditions. This will be hard to fix later.
Step 4) Prime the Wall Surface
Once all the gaps are filled, and you have sanded it, it’s time to prime the tongue and groove walls.
This is an important step as it will help the paint to adhere better and provide a more even finish.
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.
When priming tongue and groove shiplap, 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 paneling 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 paint that collects in the grooves of the wood paneling.
Step 5) Paint the Tongue and Groove Wall Surface
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 Paints and Finishes to Use for Tongue and Groove Paneling?
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.
If your goal is to simply paint over the wood paneling and not necessarily protect it, then any type of paint will do.
However, if you are going to 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 paint finishes to use on tongue and groove paneling is semi-gloss or satin paint as it will help to 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 time and effort to do it right.
Make sure to follow the steps outlined above and use the right products to ensure a beautiful and 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.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
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