There is a style of paneling to suit almost any decor. Choices include rustic boards, frame and panel designs with or without molding, and elaborate raised panels. You can cover an entire wall or choose waist-or shoulder-high wainscoting. Paneling can be made of fine hardwoods or inexpensive pine. Finishes run the gamut as well: Panels can be painted, stained, given a clear finish, or coated with any number of decorative finishes.
Paneling is sold in two main forms: sheets and boards. Sheets are typically 4 feet by 8 feet. Solid boards range from 3/8-to 7/8-inch thick, but the most common thicknesses are ½ and ¾ inch. Boards fall between 3 and 10 inches wide and may have either square, tongue-andgroove, or shiplap edges.
Before installing paneling, move the materials into the room where they will be installed for two to five days to allow the wood to adjust to the home’s humidity level. This will help eliminate any excess shrinkage or expansion once the panels are secured to the wall.
Preparing A Wall When applying sheet or board pane 5 over a finished wood-frame wall, you may be able to attach the material through the wallboard or plaster to the wa studs; otherwise, attach furring strips-l-by-3s or 1-by4s-to the studs as a base for securing the panels. If the wall is new, without wallboard or plaster; you can attach sheets or boards directly to the studs or to 2-by-4 blocks nailed between the studs. Attach furring strips to wall studs with nails long enough to penetrate the studs by at least inch. Fasten them to masonry walls with concrete nails or screws and shield-type masonry anchors.
Furring strips should be plumb and fiat; you can make small adjustments with cedar shingle shims wedged behind the strips. If the existing wall is severely out of plumb, shim out furring strips as needed. Leave a 14-inch space at both the top and bottom of the wall when applying the strips to allow for unevenness in the floor or ceiling.
Note that furring strips and paneling will add to the thickness of the wall. Window and door jambs must be built out in order to compensate for this added dimension. It’s like that you’ll have to add extensions to electrical switches and receptacle boxes as well.
Installing Sheet Paneling Before installing each sheet, cut it ¼ inch shorter than the distance from floor to ceiling. Apply adhesive to the framing in wavy lines. Drive four finishing nails through the top edge of the panel. Position the panel on the wall, leaving a ¼-inch space at the bottom drive nails partway into the wall to act as hinge pins. Pull the bottom edge of the panel out about 6 inches from the wall and push a block behind it; wait for the adhesive to become tacky. Remove the block and press the panel firmly into place. Knock on the panel with a rubber mallet or hammer against a padded block. Drive the top-edge nail all the way in, then nail the panels at the bottom. Cover the nail heads and the ¼-inch gap with molding.
Fitting a panel around any opening requires careful measuring, marking, and cutting. Keep track of all the measurements by sketching them on a piece of paper.
Starting from the corner of the wall or the edge of the nearest panel, measure to the edge of the opening or electrical box; then, from the same point, measure to the opening’s opposite edge. Next, measure the distance from the floor to the opening’s bottom edge and from the floor to the opening’s top edge. (Remember that you’ll install the paneling ¼ inch above the floor.) Transfer these measurements to the panel, marking the side of the panel that will face you as you cut (face-up for a handsaw, face-down for a power saw).
Installing Vertical Board Paneling Before installing vertical solid-board paneling, install horizontal furring strips. Measure the width of the paneling boards and then the width of the wall. Calculate the width of the final board. To avoid a sliver-size board, split the difference so the first and last boards are the same. Cut boards ¼ inch shorter than the height from floor to ceiling. When you place the first board into the corner, check the outer edge with a carpenter’s level. If the board isn’t plumb or doesn’t fit exactly, scribe and trim the edge facing the corner.
Attach the first board, leaving a ¼-inch space above the floor(use a prybar as a lever), then butt the second board against its edge and check for plumb. Repeat with all subsequent boards, then nail 24 inches on center. To make the last board fit easily into place, cut its edge at a slight angle(about 5 degrees) toward the board’s back edge. At the inside corners, simply butt adjacent board edges together scribing if necessary. At the outside corners, you can either bevel the joints for a neat fit(cut the bevels at an angle slightly greater than 45 degrees so they’ll fit snugly) or you can butt boards and then conceal the joints with trim.
Installing Horizontal Board Paneling To avoid ending up with a very narrow board at the ceiling, measure the distance from floor to ceiling, figure the number of fullwidth boards, then split the difference between the top and bottom boards so they will be the same. Start at the bottom of the wall and work toward the ceiling. Nail the first board temporarily at one end, ¼ inch above the floor; use 1½-or 2-inch finishing nails. Level that board, then complete the nailing and set the nail heads. If you need to scribe and trim a board at its ends, follow the instructions for scribing sheet paneling, on this page. Working toward the ceiling, attach each board in the same way, nailing every stud. Rip the last board to width as required. If you have trouble fitting the last board, bevel Its back edge slightly and pivot it into place. Set all nail heads and fill the holes with matching wood putty.
Attaching A Panel
It’s easiest to glue sheets to horizontal furring strips spaced on 24-inch centers. Start in the corner that is adjacent to the most irregular wall and work clockwise. Nail and glue the panels in place as described in the text.
Scribing Sheet Paneling
To mark a wall’s irregularities an the panel’s edge, prop the panel into place about 1 inch from the uneven surface and shim it so that its long edge is plumb. Draw the paints of a compass(open to the greatest gap) along the irregular surface so the pencil leg duplicates the unevenness onto a strip of masking tape on the paneling. Cut the paneling along the scribed line.
Attaching Horizontal Boards
As you install horizontal boards up the wall, keep checking for level and make slight adjustments as necessary. Nail as described in the text.