By Gene and Katie Hamilton
Old knotty pine paneling can be lightened and revitalized by removing the darkened varnish, but it's a lot of work. Is it worth it? We think so, because once that nasty old varnish is gone, the wood's natural beauty will show through. You can even add color with a whitewashing finish and transform the room entirely. Whatever your decorating scheme, you'll give new meaning to "lighten up."
A painting contractor will charge $507 to strip a 10-by-12-foot room of varnished paneling. You can do the job for $100, the cost of the materials, and save 80 percent for your effort. The materials include gel-type varnish remover, mineral spirits, steel wool and sandpaper. For tools you'll need a wide paintbrush, roller and pan, a broad knife scraper, palm sander and shop vacuum.
Click here to see SF Gate's instruction
How to Strip Varnish Off Wood Walls.
Prepare the room by moving things to the center, so you have enough working space in front of the wall, and cover the items and the floor with a heavy drop cloth. Working in 3-foot sections, apply the remover and wait for it to soften the varnish. When it bubbles up, remove it with the scraper. Clean the wood with a wipe-down of mineral spirits, let it dry, and then sand lightly. Use a rag and wipe on oil-base finish, or apply a water-based polyurethane finish with brush and roller.
Too messy and complicated for you? Find a painting contractor who has the skills and tools to do it right. Click here to get to
and it will open in a new tab and you’ll have to answer some basic questions about your job followed by contractors in your area to do the job.
The bottom line: compare the price of a contractor’s bid to strip varnished 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