By Gene and Katie Hamilton
One of the least expensive yet most dramatic ways to change a room with dark paneling is to paint it with a splash of color. It's a transforming facelift that lightens and brightens paneled walls with a fresh new look. A bit of preparation work is required to clean, patch and prime the surface, but once that's done it's as easy as rolling on the paint.
A painting contractor will charge $795 to prepare and paint the paneling in a 15-by-18-foot room (approximately 500 square feet), which includes labor and material. But you can do the job for $175 and save 78 percent. The job involves several phases. First, fill any nail holes or blemishes with wood filler; when the filler is dry, sand the filled-in spots smooth.
Then clean the paneling with a rag saturated with a mixture of half household ammonia and half water, and let it dry. Next, apply a stain blocker like B-I-N with a roller to prevent any bleed-through of stains from knotty wood and to create a surface for the paint to bond to. Finally, apply the finish topcoat of quality paint. If the paneling is very dark, you might need two finish coats of paint or have a primer tinted to the shade of the finish topcoat which will save in the number of finish coats needed. You'll need a paintbrush, roller and pan. A power sander with 120-grit sandpaper comes in handy for smoothing the wood filler and any rough surfaces.
If you don't have the time or desire to paint, you can find a painting contractor who has the skills and tools to do it right. Click
Home Advisor, a free referral service that connects homeowners with local, prescreened contractors.
Here's a link from Lowes about primers you may find helpful Primer Buying Guide.
The bottom line: compare the price of a contractor’s bid to paint paneling with what it costs to do it yourself and make your decision. You adjust the cost to where you live by adding your ZIP Code.
Improvement and Repair Cost Updated 2020