How to deal with panelling

Hi,
I'm closing on a house in a couple of days. It's 102 years old but the panelling was only put up in the 70s. Every room has it. I don't know if it was put up to hide something or if it was because the former owner liked that style. I tend to think the latter, because there is no panelling in the hallways and those walls (plaster) are in great condition. If all the hallways walls are in great condition, isn't it unlikely that panelling was put up in all of the rooms (3 bedrooms, parlor, living room, dining room, laundry room, kitchen and bathroom) to cover up beat up plaster walls?
Anyway, I wanted your advice on something. . .I know I can paint over the panelling using wallpaper, but I would rather just remove the panelling altogether and just paint the walls. However, someone recently told me that if I took the panelling down I would probably take the plaster down with it, and that scares me!
What is the likelihood that this is true?
Thanks so much for your help!
Best,
Lesley
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paneling is frequently put up with glue. attempting to remove it will pull lots of chunks out of whatever is behind it.
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Lesley ( snipped-for-privacy@buffalo.edu) writes:

That depends how the panelling is held up. I have seen panelling attached to walls with nothing more than small finishing nails; this is extremely easy to remove. On the other hand they might have glued it to the plaster, and if you take it down the plaster will come with it.
If you can see the heads of finishing nails in some of the dark grooves, there is hope. However, they could have used both nails and glue, so proceed cautiously. If there is no glue, the panel should flex a little in places. -- "For it is only of the new one grows tired. Of the old one never tires." -- Kierkegaard, _Repetition_
James Owens, Ottawa, Canada
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It was very popular in the 70s. Never needs painting so that was a big feature.

It was often used for that purpose too.

Crap shoot. A lot of paneling was put up with an adhesive applied with a caulking gun. Strong stuff, it would probably pull down the plaster where it was adhered.
Depending on how much restoration you want to do, you could have quite a project ahead. Are the walls insulated? If not, you want to do that if there are cool weather days where you live. In that case, you could strip the walls, insulate, the either re-plaster or sheetrock.
You may be able to sheetrock over the paneling. That affects the trim and window casings though. You may want to talk to a pro about that. I'm not a pro.
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I would like a peek under that panelling if you can but plaster can be fixed if you can find an old guy who knows how. I am old enough to remember the panelling craze in the 70s and it is very possible they just made a tacky decoratiing choice. You can expect some nail damage but that can be floated out.
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BTW the show stopper would be if they glued up the panelling. Look for nail heads and hope
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In my house it was put up to cover abount four (depending on the room) layers of wallpaper.

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I have a 70s house with a lot of paneling. The previous owners painted it a light cream and it is just beautiful - gives some visual interest to the walls. The only room they didn't get to was a large (30 x 16) den on the lower level. Even though this room gets a lot of light it was still dark and dated looking. So recently I painted it.
You need to clean it very well. Prime the "stripes" of the grooves first and then prime all of it. It was a lot of work but I think it looks wonderful. Everybody who has seen it comments favorably.
Some paneling is very difficult to remove cleanly so I would suggest you try painting a portion and then decide if you really feel the need to remove it.
BTW - we all thought the "real wood" paneling was gorgeous in the 70s. Everybody felt it was rich looking. And it was - the good stuff - very expensive to put in. So much so that I found if difficult to paint it remembering how wonderful we all thought it looked!
I had a 90 year old house with plaster and when I removed some wallpaper, the plaster started falling. If the plaster is in bad shape behind the paneling you really DO NOT want to get into that can of worms!
Lesley wrote:

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Sterling wrote:

That's a pretty good idea, give you sort of a beadboard effect, although spacing of the grooves in most of the old paneling was wider and not consistently spaced.

We had it all through the basement when I was a kid in the 70's. It was good for a finishing job, because it could cover up drywall that had been gouged, dented, had old shelves removed, that sort of thing.
My house currently has some paneling used as a wainscoting in the family room. That works pretty well, you get some wood accent without overwhelming the room like floor-to-ceiling paneling can. The rest of the walls and ceiling are a neutral buff color.
Brian
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I agree with Sterling's comments, and have seen great and esthetic results from degreasing, carefully priming with stain-killing primer, then painting over with acrylic wall paint. The seams in the panelling add interest to the room, and the wood will not crack like plaster, over time.. In the event you find the panelling is easy to remove, and leaves the plaster largely intact, then I would go with complete removal, then spackling and painting. That will give a nice restored look. (The panelling *could* have been used to hide something undesireable, like cracked/settling plaster, discolored areas, multiple wallpaper layers, or other defects in the surface, where the owner didn't want to start over, but just cover it all.)
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snipped-for-privacy@buffalo.edu (Lesley) wrote in message

It's annoying isn't it. I had the same problem with the panel stuff. it's like in the old days when paint was in and people started painting over lovely wood furniture. I picked a section of the house that had the paneling and tore it off. There was 0 damage to the plaster cept a few nail holes which were easily repaired. Next thing i did was attempted to determine if the layout of the house was origional (no new walls put up at a later time that did not have plaster). In the end all the panel was removed and fine plaster was exposed. There was 0 adhesive used on the paneling (that would be your main worry).The panel was placed there as it was in style (shudder). Pick a room and go for it.
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THANKS! I got so many good ideas here! First thing, figure out if adhesive was used. If not, try removing some in one of my extra bedrooms (I'm not going to use them all anyway) and see how good the plaster is. Maybe even use the same room to try painting one wall of the panelling to see what it would look like.
Chances are, if I'm really lucky and have a CHOICE, I would like to mix it up a bit--leave some panelling up and paint it, take some down. I have seen what painted panelling can look like if you do a really careful job, and it's gorgeous.
Thanks again for your advice!
I love this group!!!
Lesley
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