Paneling: How to Install It
“To decorate or not to decorate that is the question?” “Whether ‘tis nobler to use wallpaper, paint or paneling?” Which do you think is least difficult: 1) painting, 2) wallpapering, or 3) paneling? Survey says – depends on your interest, your skill level and your background. How’s that for a “political” answer! We like to think that paneling is the easiest of the choices because it’s the most “carpenter friendly”. Why not, we’re carpenters. No drips, no spills, no tears, just cut, glue and nail. However, if you’re not sure whether paneling is your cup of tea – or not – then read on for a few pointers that may help you make your mind up.
We feel there are several reasons to choose paneling:
- It’s very rich looking
- An entire room can be done in a day
- In many instances it has more depth and texture than other options
- It is a relatively clean process
- It doesn’t require a great deal of skill and only a very few tools are needed
Granted, there are some types of paneling that are very thick and difficult to install, but most lighter weight types can be installed onto 8- or 9-foot-tall walls in no time. Here is how to do it the right way:
- First, clear the room or move all the furniture to the middle.
- Next, remove all the baseboard, door trim (casings) and crown molding. A flat pry bar and hammer make light work of this task. Remove these items carefully so that they can be reused.
- Next, use a level or a plumb bob to draw a perfectly vertical line anywhere on the wall. If the line aligns with the stud layout within the wall attaching the paneling with nails will be a breeze. More about that in a minute. Measure from this line to the corners at both ends of the wall (top, center and bottom) – if the three measurements are not equal it means that the corners are crooked and that the paneling may have to be trimmed to match. Although corner trim usually covers such irregularities there are times when trimming becomes necessary.
- If the paneling is too tall be sure to cut the bottom edge rather than the top. Where the bottom of the paneling is usually covered with baseboard the top is often bare. Having a nice, straight factory-cut edge at the top will provide for a perfect wall to ceiling connection and have your friends wondering how you made such perfect cuts.
- The first piece of paneling on each wall is always installed the same way; gently push the paneling against the ceiling holding one edge adjacent to – and in exact alignment with – your vertical reference mark. Paneling nails (colored to match the paneling) eliminate the need to putty holes and are nearly invisible. Nailing into studs renders the best result, however a glued installation often works just as well – we suggest both. If the reference line was properly centered on the stud layout then there is a very good chance that every paneling joint will fall on a stud allowing full nailing at the joints. By the way, unless there is a specific reason to the contrary, always install sheet paneling vertically. This reduces the number of joints rendering a more professional end result. If your wall height is greater than 8-feet then look into 9- or 10-foot-long sheets. With paneling fewer joints are better.
- Next comes baseboard and door trim. Install your door trim before beginning the baseboard. Your paneled wall is now thicker. Therefore, the door jams no longer align with the wall surface. Here you will have to furr out the door jamb by adding a piece of wood thus causing the jamb to align once again with the wall. With the casings in place the baseboard can then be reinstalled.
- Finally, be sure to add “box extenders” to all switch and plug boxes. Box extenders cost only a few pennies each and can prevent a fire by “extending” the protection of the junction box to the surface of the new paneling. These are a must!
Keep in mind that if paneling will be used to finish a basement that much attention must be given to moisture problems associated with basement construction. Tape a piece of plastic you your basement wall during the winter. If water collects beneath the plastic you my find it wise to contact a contractor who does waterproofing. All the plastic in the world won’t keep the stink out when mildew begins to grow between the plastic and the basement walls. If no moisture results then a plastic moisture barrier is in order as the first layer with a stud wall or furr strips (and insulation) followed by a layer of wallboard and then your layer of paneling. Paneling on furr strips over plastic will work just fine, but it is not the kind of work we would do in our homes. Thicker plywood paneling can be used without the layer of wallboard that we suggest, however the wallboard does add strength and some sound deadening value. And, good luck!
For more home improvement tips and information search our website or call our listener line any time at 1-800-737-2474! All you need to do is leave your name, telephone number and your question.
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