How to Paint Over Dark Paneling

Bin Zinsser Photo

It may be time to “green up” your gloomy family room with a fresh coat of light-colored paint. The lighter color will help limit the need for artificial light and improve the distribution of natural light. But what if your family room is one of those with the old dark wood paneling? How do you lighten that?

Your first impulse might be to remove the paneling, but that will disturb the trim around windows and doors as well as the flooring. With the paneling removed, you may also find damaged or unfinished drywall – another project to keep you busy.

Painting the paneling is the quick fix. The room will be lighter and look more modern with minimal effort. If the paneling has grooves, they add to the finished appeal.

Before painting, wash the paneling with a strong detergent like Mex or a TSP substitute, and rinse thoroughly. If the paneling is still shiny, lightly sand with medium sandpaper.

The next step is the key: prime with BIN or KILZ. These special white primers will cover the dark color and bond to the surface. After the primer is dry, paint with any high-quality latex interior paint.

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