White Washing Over Real Wood Paneling

by Debra

in Painting Groovy Paneling, Remodel Ranch Home

White Wash Over Wood Paneling
Hi Debra, I have a question about painting or white washing real wood paneling.

We have a VINTAGE 1975 house that we have recently purchased. I love the BONES of the house, but it is in need of some serious updating.

The den has real wood knotty pine paneling in a walnut type color finish. It is BEAUTIFUL but way to dark.

How can I update it a bit and lighten it up too. Without completely stripping it and refinishing it….NOT AN OPTION!

Thanks, Heather Milan


Most paneling has a glossy surface (varnish?) and before you can paint or whitewash to lighten it you’ll have to “de-gloss” it.

Years ago I painted some ugly paneling and skipped this step. Huge mistake! The paint peeled away in huge strips. Not good.

I have since learned that all I needed to do was give it a light scuff-sanding (steel wool works) or there are de-glossing chemicals available at professional paint stores that you can use as well.

Once “de-glossed’ you’ll need to apply a good primer/sealer if you are going to paint. Behr has a good one at Home Depot, but Kilz is another good one (a little pricey though) and can be found most anywhere (even Wal-Mart). After you’ve primed it you are ready to paint it your favorite color.

White Wash Over Paneling

If you’d rather just “whitewash” the paneling you can skip the “primer” part and simply take a thinned down coat of white/off white paint (or a color can be used, too) and using a sponge (a regular sponge will work but one that fits in your hand nicely/comfortably) “wash” the walls.

To avoid “streaks” you will need to either wash in one direction (down the wall with the grain of the wood paneling) or you’ll need to soften your wash streaks with a woolie as you go and before your “wash” dries.

Too, if your wood is “raw” it will absorb the paint unevenly like rubbing chalk with water.

You may want to put a sealant on it like MinWax Ploycrylic first, then “ruff it up” before whitewashing over real wood paneling. Work in small sections of the panel and in a continuous flow (one long wipe down the wall rather than across two or three sections).

When you are finished seal your work with MinWax Polycrylic in and finish you like (Matte, Semi-Gloss, etc). This will protect your pretty new walls and allows you to wipe them clean with a damp cloth if necessary.

Click Here to read more about:

Colorwash Painting On Wood Paneling

paint wood paneling

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Judith August 9, 2009 at 9:38 am

Hey Paint Lady,

I have honey colored oak contract grade cabinets which were in the kitchen when I purchased the house. I want to add a pantry and attempt to match the existing cabinets. The existing cabinets have too much yellow for my taste. Any ideas on how I could tone down the yellow in the old and the new piece I will purchase? Help!

Debra August 17, 2009 at 7:41 am

When a color is too bright – to tone it down and take the intensity out of it without making it darker, we add a small amount of the color’s complimentary color. The complimentary color of yellow is purple. So, in order to tone down a bright yellow, you would mix the yellow with a little bit of lavender. You can even wash over the yellow with a light colored glaze that is mixed with lavender. To achieve the right color, play around a bit with the paint on sample boards. Purchase the bright yellow base color and work in the glaze in varying tones of color.

Hope this helps. DEBRA

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