Installing Paneling (2023)

Paneling is one of the easiest things you can do to change the look of a room. The 4 ft. x 8 ft. sheets come in many materials, textures, and colors–you may find that choosing the paneling is the toughest part of the job! Your retailer will be happy to help you.

The basics of panel installation are the same, even when the panel styles require a slightly different method.

Inside this document you will find information about:

  • Estimating your needs
  • Conditioning the panels
  • Preparing the walls
  • Installing on solid backing
  • Installing on a framed wall
  • Installing on a masonry wall
  • Before panel installation
  • Measuring and cutting the panels
  • Paneling with nails
  • Installing with adhesive
  • Fitting electrical boxes
  • Installing around doorways
  • Finishing touches
Installing Paneling (1)
Installing Paneling (2)


  • To figure how much paneling you'll need, measure in feet the total width of the walls you're covering, then divide by four. This will give you the number of 4' x 8' sheets required. For walls higher than 8', divide the additional height measured in feet into 8 feet to see how many upper pieces can be cut from a single 4' x 8' sheet. Deduct half a panel for each door, and a quarter panel for each window.
Installing Paneling (3)
Installing Paneling (4)


  • After you purchase the panels, they should be conditioned. You can either stand them up individually on their long edges around the room or stack them flat using plenty of wooden sticks between each panel to allow air to flow freely between them. The panels need 24 hours (above grade) to 48 hours (below grade) to become acclimated to the environment.
Installing Paneling (5)
Installing Paneling (6)


  • Paneling may be installed on three different types of walls (Fig. 1). Panels less than 1/4" thick need a solid backing–such as a level and flat plasterboard wall behind them for support. Panels 1/4" and thicker can be installed directly over even framing members–studs or furring strips (check building codes for your area). All paneling may be put up with nails or with a combination of panel adhesive and nails.
Installing Paneling (7)

FIG. 1 - Paneling may be installed to solid-backed walls, over studs or over furring strips.
Installing Paneling (8)


  • First, locate the wall studs. Repair the old wall, ensuring that it is nailed tightly to its framing. The framing behind walls usually runs vertically on 16" centers or sometimes 24" centers. When you find one stud, you can usually locate the others easily by measuring. Or you can use a stud finder. Either way, mark the locations by snapping or drawing vertical lines along the studs. Then continue the lines (or use tape) several inches out onto both the ceiling and the floor as guides for when the panels cover the marks at the studs.
  • Remove all the trim. Take down all moldings in the room: ceiling, floor, and around all openings. Take off the electrical receptacle and light switch covers, after you turn off the electricity to them. (Use a neon test light to be sure it's off.) If the ceiling is to be paneled, too, remove all light fixtures by first turning off the electricity and disconnecting them from their wiring. For safety, reinstall the wirenuts or put tape around the exposed wires inside the junction box.
Installing Paneling (9)
Installing Paneling (10)


  • Check the studs to be sure they are vertical and on 16" or 24" spacing. Also make sure that backing is provided at all corners, at the top and bottom of the wall and around any openings. Outside walls should have a vapor barrier over the faces of the studs.
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  • First check the masonry walls for excessive moisture. Walls with moisture must be completely waterproofed before they are paneled. Ask your retailer for a good waterproofing product. Moisture can sometimes be caused by condensation. If this is the case, add a waterproof vapor barrier over the wall (below grade, do this before furring it).

Installing Paneling (13)

FIG. 2 - Furring strips should be placed 16" apart horizontally or vertically. Put blocking every 4 ft. between furring.
Installing Paneling (14)


  • Install 1" x 2" or 1/2" plywood furring strips–ripped 11" wide–horizontally or vertically, placing them on 16" centers (Fig. 2). They are best when fastened with masonry anchors drilled into the wall. Furring strips also can easily be glued on; your retailer can recommend the proper adhesive. Furring can also be used to make imperfectly framed walls even and flat.
  • Inspect your furring strips as you put them up to make sure they are creating an even, flat surface. Make any necessary adjustments by shimming behind the uneven strips with pieces of plywood or tapered wood shingles. Nail the shingles with brads to keep them in position.

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FIG. 3 - Snap plumb chalk lines at the center of all behind-the-wall framing.

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FIG. 4 - To keep from getting ragged edges on the faces of panels, they should be hand-sawn from the finished side or saber-sawn from the backside.

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FIG. 5 - Use a pencil compass to scribe irregular corners onto panels. Cut with a coping saw for a perfect corner fit.

Installing Paneling (18)

FIG. 6 - Space the panels apart about the thickness of a dime to allow for expansion.
Installing Paneling (19)


  • If the panels contain a variable pattern, such as woodgrains, stand them against the wall around the room. Then you can rearrange them or invert them for the most pleasing pattern.
  • Begin putting up the panels in the first corner you see as you enter the room. Trim each panel to 1/4" shorter than the ceiling height.
  • Get the first corner panel exactly plumb, using a level or chalked plumb line snapped onto the wall (Fig. 3). Its outer edge must be centered on a framing member. The edge against the corner may have to be trimmed to bring the outer edge over a stud or furring strip. Double-check all your measurements before sawing the panel. Cut with a fine-tooth saw–never use one with coarse teeth. Do the sawing with a table or hand crosscut saw (not rip), working from the finished side of the panel (Fig. 4). With a saber saw, circular saw or radial-arm saw, work from the back side.
  • If the corner of the wall is not plumb or is irregular, the edge of the panel against that corner can be scribed to fit, as shown in Fig. 5. To do this, plumb the panel 2" back from the corner. Then, holding the pencil compass horizontally, scribe a line onto the panel with the compass point following the irregularities. Once this uneven edge is marked and the panel is cut with a coping saw, it will fit into its corner perfectly.
  • When the first panel is readied, nail (or glue and nail) it to the wall. Move on with additional panels, avoiding a fit that's too tight between the panels. Leave the thickness of a dime between panels to avoid expansion problems (Fig. 6). The gaps will not show greatly if the area between panels is precolored with a marking pen or a stripe of paint the same color as the grooves.
Installing Paneling (20)
Installing Paneling (21)


  • Cover your hammer head with a rag to protect the face of your panels when nailing. Use the nails recommended by the manufacturer of the paneling you purchased. These will likely be 1" brands or 3-penny finishing nails. If you're nailing through an older wall, the nails need to be extra long (usually 1-5/8") to penetrate into the framing. Place nails every 4 to 6 inches along the panel edges and every 8 to 12 inches throughout the rest of the panel on studs. Always begin nailing at one edge and move across the panel to the other edge. Never nail opposite edges first, then the middle of a panel. Drive the nails about 1/32" below the surface with a nail set.
  • The countersunk holes may be filled later with a matching colored putty stick. If you use color-matched nails, countersinking and puttying will not be necessary.

Installing Paneling (22)
FIG. 7 - Apply gapped 1/8" beads of panel adhesive, using a drop-in caulking gun and cartridges.

Installing Paneling (23)

FIG. 8 - After contacting panel and adhesive, pull it away from the wall at the bottom. Wait for the adhesive to get tacky before recontacting.
Installing Paneling (24)


  • To hold the panels firmly to the wall, apply 3" long 1/8" beads of a solvent-based panel adhesive to the studs or solid-backed wall (Fig. 7). At the panel edges, apply a continuous zigzag bead. If the wall has been papered, the wallpaper must be removed before applying adhesive. (Consider simply nailing the paneling over the wallpaper.)
  • Place the panel in position on the adhesive and drive several nails loosely across the top to hinge it in the proper position.
  • Then pull the panel about 10" from the wall at the bottom, resting it on a block of wood. The adhesive will become tacky in 2 to 10 minutes (Fig. 8).
  • One 10-oz. cartridge of panel adhesive will adhere three or four panels. Use adhesives according to the directions on the cartridge. Avoid prolonged breathing of vapors, and remember that panel adhesive may be flammable.
  • Now press the panel firmly against the adhesive and tap all over it with a hammer and cloth-padded wood block or rubber mallet. The "hinge" nails at the top can be covered later with trim, or else countersunk and filled over.
  • Heavy panels need additional support, with nails 16 to 20 inches apart. In this case, you need not pull the panel away from the wall to allow the adhesive to become tacky.
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FIG. 9 - Marking cutouts for electrical boxes is easy if you chalk the box edges and make contact with the panel in position.

Installing Paneling (26)

FIG. 10 - Drill four holes at the corners of the box, then make the cutout with a fine-toothed keyhole saw. Add 1/4-inch all around.
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  • Panel cutouts for switch and receptacle boxes can easily be made.
  • First, generously chalk the wall around the edges of box.
  • Then, hold the panel in position and tap it lightly against the chalked box. When the panel is taken away, the box outline will have been transferred to the back of the panel (Fig. 9). Remember that the outlet box itself should be adjusted outward to meet the surface of the paneling.
  • Simply drill four holes at the corners of the chalk outline, insert a keyhole saw, and make the cutout. Make it 1/4" larger than the cutline (Fig. 10).
Installing Paneling (28)

FIG. 11 - To make the waste cutout in a panel at an opening, measure a, b, c, then transfer these measurements to the face of the panel.
Installing Paneling (29)


  • To make cutouts for windows and doors, measure horizontally from the last panel installed to the untrimmed opening where you want the edge of the panel to reach. Also measure from the floor to the top of the door. Transferring these measurements onto the face of the panel (Fig. 11), saw out the rectangle of waste material. Saw to leave a 1/4" gap between the edge of the panel and the opening. Paneling around a fireplace will have to be scribed (Fig. 5). Use trim to hide any rough edges.
  • Once your paneling is installed, you can finish the project with trim. Some plastic-finished panels use built-in metal or vinyl moldings that are installed at the same time as the paneling. Paneling in bathrooms is often done this way, using a troweled-on adhesive.
Installing Paneling (30) Installing Paneling (31)


  • Most trim, however, is installed with nails after the paneling. Cut your wood or plastic moldings in a miter box using a fine-tooth saw. Nail it into position with small finishing nails, countersinking the nails and filling the holes with putty stick. If the moldings are prefinished, clean them with a dry cloth. Otherwise, apply paint or stain and a clear finish to complete your paneling project.


Installing Paneling? ›


Panels 1/4" and thicker can be installed directly over even framing members–studs or furring strips (check building codes for your area). All paneling may be put up with nails or with a combination of panel adhesive and nails.

Do you glue or nail paneling? ›


Panels 1/4" and thicker can be installed directly over even framing members–studs or furring strips (check building codes for your area). All paneling may be put up with nails or with a combination of panel adhesive and nails.

Is paneling easy to install? ›

Installing paneling is easy, especially when you remember these tips: With unfinished walls, nail paneling sheets right onto the studs or blocks of wood nailed between the studs. When nailing into plastered walls, you may need to attach furring strips first to provide a secure place for the nail to grab hold.

How do you fasten wood paneling? ›


Secure the paneling to the wall with panel adhesive and finishing nails. Load a caulking gun with a tube of panel adhesive and apply a small dab of it on the wall about every 10 inches. Place the panel on the wall and press it into the adhesive.

Do you install paneling over drywall? ›

The easiest answer to the question would be a simple yes. However, there are some things that you'll need to consider before learning how to install paneling over drywall. The largest concern for most homeowners is the fact that installing wood paneling over drywall will mean that walls become larger.

What is the best way to stick panelling to a wall? ›

The best type of adhesive to use is either grab adhesive or construction glue. Before applying, check that all the openings align and that the cuts have been made correctly. Using a caulk gun, apply the adhesive to the back of the sheet in a zigzag pattern. Carefully press the sheet into place on the wall.

How do you stick wall paneling to the wall? ›

Attach the panels

The quickest way to attach the MDF to the wall is with adhesive glue. If you choose this option, apply the adhesive to the MDF, 10cm from the edges and no more than 30cm between blobs. Position the MDF against the wall and firmly push it into place.

What are the disadvantages of paneling? ›

  • Grout can turn mouldy.
  • Difficult to clean.
  • Cold to the touch.
  • Promotes condensation.
  • Extensive preparation required.
  • Messy to install.

What is wood paneling attached to? ›

First, your “boards” or panels are attached to the walls, and then the “batten” or molding is situated between the panels. Board and batten can be expensive to have installed, but it offers a very sophisticated look to any home or room.

Is it cheaper to do paneling or drywall? ›

When you compare the price of vinyl wall paneling with drywall, you will come to know that the cost of wall paneling is higher than the drywall. Investing in quality-assured vinyl restaurant wall panels is comparatively expensive but you don't have to deal with further repairs and replacements in the future.

Are nails or screws better for paneling? ›

Nails are more flexible and will give a little more with hardwood flooring, so they're often the choice for panel installation. Because the wood expands and contracts as a reaction to moisture, nails provide a more flexible fastening job.

How do you hide seams when installing paneling? ›

To prevent the drywall from showing through the seams in the paneling:
  1. Mark the paneling seam with a pencil.
  2. Move the sheet of paneling out of the way.
  3. Spray black spray paint on the seam along the pencil line.
  4. Install the paneling on the wall.
Feb 17, 2006

Should I fill in the grooves in paneling? ›

He recommends USG joint compound. You'll also need a putty knife. “This step is only necessary if you desire the finished product to look more like [drywall] and less like paneling,” Shipwash says. “In my opinion, you need to fill in the grooves with at least two coats of drywall mud.” Also, sand between coats.

What is usually under paneling? ›

Most wood paneling has drywall behind it, especially in modern homes. Some older homes won't have drywall behind the wood paneling since the panels are usually much thicker in these homes. Having drywall is important as it provides a base for the wood paneling.

Does paneling need to be glued? ›

Also, paneling may be applied with nails or panel adhesive. The advantage of using adhesives is that the panel surface is unmarked by depressions that result from the use of nails and, therefore, adhesives typically give a better appearing job. Trim molding may also be applied with paneling adhesive.

Do you have to fill in the grooves on wood paneling before painting? ›

You will need to use joint compound (also called drywall mud) or spackle to fill in all the grooves in the paneling to meet the rest of the surface.

Can you just glue paneling? ›

Decorative paneling and tile boards can accent a space in your home, and can easily be installed with a construction adhesive. To get the job done, we recommend using LIQUID NAILS® Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive (LN-903).

What kind of nails do you use for paneling? ›

A finish nail is far more suitable for things like crown molding, paneling and cabinetry.

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