The 4 Best Ways to Cover Up Fake Wood Paneling

Audrey Bruno
Written by Audrey Bruno
Updated September 2, 2021
Bedroom with painted paneling
Photo: Perry Mastrovito / Image Source / Getty Images

Say goodbye to your fake wood paneling with one of these creative solutions

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Even though it’s no longer the hit that it once was, fake wood paneling somehow continues to be everywhere. There’s no denying that the favorite of the ’70s has left its mark on modern-day homes, much to the chagrin of the homeowners and renters who’ve seen enough of it. Fortunately, you can erase this passé trend from your abode with a few tools and materials and a couple days’ time—no need to hire a pro. Use this guide to determine the best fake wood paneling cover-up solution for the space you have in mind.

1. Spackle and Paint

This four-step process takes a bit longer than some of the options on this list, but painting wall paneling produces the most consistent results.

The Tools You’ll Need

  • Drop cloth

  • Painter’s tape

  • Paintbrush

  • Roller brush

  • Spackle

  • Putty knife

  • Sandpaper

  • Acrylic paint

Clean the Panels

Wipe down the panels to remove dust and debris before doing anything else. This will ensure a smooth, uniform finish. Let dry completely before moving onto the next step.

Cover the Grooves With Spackle

Use the putty knife to apply evenly spackle over the grooves. Take this opportunity to also cover up any scratches or holes from wear and tear. Let the spackle dry completely before sanding. For a bit more texture, coat the walls in a layer of plaster in between this step and the next to create a fabulous faux finish.

Sand It Down

The amount of sanding that you do depends entirely on your preference. The smoother you want the finish, the more you’ll need to sand. If you’re trying to achieve a textured, gritty appearance you may not even need to sand at all.

Primer and Paint

Use a vacuum to suck up any remaining dust from sanding. Use a roller brush to apply primer all over. Let dry then apply the paint color of your choice

2. Shellac-Based Primer and Paint

Using a shellac-based primer to cover fake wood paneling eliminates the need for any spackling or sanding. Though a bit more expensive than traditional primers, you get what you pay for because it does a better job of hiding the grooves and dries in less than an hour. Even if you’re planning on making a couple coats of paint afterwards, using this kind of primer will reduce the project’s length to a day or less. 

3. Caulk and Wallpaper

Billiards room with wallpaper
Photo: Paul Viant / DigitalVision / Getty Images

If you’d rather avoid doing any extra painting, wallpaper is another great alternative for covering up fake wood paneling. The catch is that wallpaper on its own is not thick enough to fully conceal the grooves underneath. Using caulk to fill the grooves is a quick fix for this problem. When it’s dried, sand it down then apply wallpaper as you normally would to the other walls in your home. 

4. Wall Liner

Wall liner is a thicker, more adhesive alternative to wallpaper that will cover the grooves in your paneling on its own so you can skip the caulk entirely. Once applied, you can continue by adding a coat of paint for color or even a layer of thin, decorative wallpaper. There are plenty of great styles and textures to choose from. 

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