Using Paintable Wallpaper to Cover Wood Paneling

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Basement Renovation

In my Basement Renovation introduction post, I outlined the COUNTLESS (okay, you can count them – five) options we considered regarding our faux wood paneled walls in our basement.

We ended up going the route of paintable wallpaper, and I cannot begin to tell you how pleased we are with the results! (P.S., We bought our paintable wallpaper from Amazon here.)


Covering Wood Paneling with Paintable Wallpaper

Once we decided on paintable wallpaper, I contacted three local wallpaper contractors that I found on Angie’s list.

  • The first contractor essentially laughed at our suggestion via email, saying that that wallpapering over paneling would not work.
  • The second contractor at least stopped by to provide an estimate. He said that he could wallpaper over the paneling, but that we’d still have to fill in the grooves with spackle or drywall mud. As I mentioned in the previous post in this series, that would have been a tremendous amount of time and work. I told the contractor that I thought the wallpaper would cover the paneling grooves well enough, but he said that it wouldn’t work. Whelp, that wasn’t encouraging.
  • A third contractor stopped by to provide an estimate. He said that he had never worked with paintable wallpaper, but he was willing to give it a try. Since, as part of our renovation, we were planning on ripping out our basement bar which also had wood paneling, he offered to put up a piece of wallpaper right there on the bar. If it didn’t look nice, it wouldn’t make a difference since the bar would be gone in a few days anyway. He wet the wallpaper in our laundry sink, waited a few moments, and then attached a small strip to the wood paneled bar. ** “Wow,” he said, “this is great stuff.” We could immediately tell that it covered the grooves just fine. We decided to proceed with this contractor. He took some measurements of the room and told us how many rolls of wallpaper to buy.

It’s worth noting that we had this work done in September 2015. So, as of the time of writing this, we’re now 17 months past the wallpaper installation. And it still looks just as fantastic as when it went in!

There are a lot more “before” photos in our intro post, but here are some of the paneled walls again, just for reference:

Basement wood paneling Wood paneled walls in basement

Then, the wallpaper installation began.

Covering wood paneling with paintable wallpaper Installing wallpaper over wood paneling Wallpapering over wood paneling Contractors hanging paintable wallpaper Paintable wallpaper installation

It was an incredible transformation to witness. Even before the wallpaper was painted, our basement looked like an entirely new room.

Room with paintable wallpaper - not yet painted Room with paintable wallpaper - not yet painted Room with paintable wallpaper - not yet painted

I’m not sure how necessary this step is, but just thought I’d share it in case others are considering the same option. After the wallpaper was up, the installers decided to cover the seams of the wallpaper with a little bit of caulking. I think this was to help in case the wallpaper shrunk a bit as it dried.

The instructions on the wallpaper said to give it 72 hours to dry before applying paint. So, three days later the contractors showed back up to paint the wallpaper!

Painting the paintable wallpaper Painting the paintable wallpaper Painting the paintable wallpaper Painting the paintable wallpaper

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it’s now been nearly 18 months since having this work done, and it still looks so fantastic. Just for absolute disclosure though, there is one teeny tiny portion of paneling that is visible under the wallpaper. So, I never had looked very closely at our paneling, but apparently paneling is installed in pieces that are several feet wide. Where these pieces “join,” there is a slightly larger groove than the normal part of the paneling. THAT thicker groove, every 5 feet or so, is ever so slightly visible under the wallpaper.

Here’s our attempt to photograph the deeper groove:

Visible groove in wood paneling under wallpaper Paintable wallpaper

But seriously though, that’s probably only visible to us because we know it’s there. It still doesn’t change our mind that the paintable wallpaper was the easiest and most cost effective option (for the style impact it has) for our basement! And we haven’t had any trouble with the wallpaper settling into any of the regular grooves.

** Here is the sample that the contractor installed on our wood paneled bar before we removed it. We also then used that spot to identify paint samples we’d eventually want to use on the walls.

Paint samples on paintable wallpaper

If anyone is in the DC / Northern Virginia area and would like to pursue this option, message me and I can send along the contractor’s info.  They were great.

Do you have a 1970s era wood paneled room in your house? Did you do anything to cover or replace the paneling? What option did you use?

Basement Renovation (Introduction)

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Basement Renovation

A while after we had finished installing the recessed lights in our basement, Ken and I started to seriously consider a major basement renovation. But, we wanted to keep the budget pretty small. Here is what we wanted to do:

  • Remove the basement bar. Although it was a fun conversation piece, and we thought it was fun when we first moved in, we never really used it for entertaining. It was at an awkward spot. We couldn’t really use the area behind the bar for anything, since it was meant for people to stand there and serve drinks I guess? After living with the basement bar for nearly 7 years, we decided that it was a fairly big waste of space. So, it was time for it to go.
Basement Renovation | Before Photos | Basement Bar
  • Create a dedicated workspace / workshop table. As you can tell in our previous posts, like our DIY DVD shelves or our Ikea Barn Door Hack, or when installing our recessed lighting, our “worktable” consisted of a plastic folding table and an old black metal table that used to serve as Ken’s desk way back in the day. Since we don’t have a garage, and hardly any yard space, our finished basement is consistently our workspace, and we wanted to have a more finished looking spot to do our work!
Basement Renovation | Before Photos
  • Get a nicer, softer carpet installed. The carpet in our basement was berber, and the texture of it drove me NUTS. There were always little strings getting loose and getting caught on things. Vacuuming the carpet was always a gamble, because a single thread pulled into the vacuum could cause like a 1/4“ strip of carpet to completely unravel and basically disappear. Plus, if the bottoms of my feet were even the slightest bit dry, sometimes the berber would like ”stick” to my feet. It was a yucky feeling!
  • Somehow update the wall paneling. This proved to be the most problematic issue. Keep in mind that our paneling is not real wood, it is a fake vinyl-type wood. So that was a major factor in considering our options. We considered:
    • Ripping down the paneling and installing drywall in its place.
      • Pros: A fresh start on the walls in the basement, getting rid of the paneling once and for all.
      • Cons: VERY expensive. Also, ripping down the paneling meant that our entire baseboard trim would have to be ripped out and redone (since the drywall would be a different depth than the paneling). Further, we’d likely have to redo our entire drop ceiling, since the “grid” of the drop ceiling was attached to the paneling. Every time we heard more and more problems with ripping down the paneling and replacing it with drywall, all we heard was money rapidly draining from our savings account. This option would cost us $10,000+. Not exactly within our “small budget” desires.
    • Drywalling OVER the existing paneling using thinner drywall (like 1/4 inch).
      • Pros: Saving labor costs of ripping down paneling. The drop ceiling grid would likely NOT have to be redone, as some sort of moulding option could have been added to hide where the drywall met the ceiling grid.
      • Cons: We weren’t sure how the moulding option would look. Also, We’d STILL have to redo our baseboard trim since the new drywall would now protrude beyond the baseboard. Furthermore, the addition of the new drywall, no matter how thin, would make the drywall almost flush with the doorway frames in our basement (like the doors to the basement bathroom and to the laundry room.) We DEFINITELY knew that would look weird.
    • Painting over the paneling (without filling in the grooves.)
      • Pros: Relatively cheap and we could DIY the paint job.
      • Cons: Labor intensive (lots of sanding, oil-based primers, and many coats of paint). Also, I was afraid that the finished look would be a bit too “country cottage” for my taste. (I found tutorials here, here and here).
    • Painting over paneling (with filling in the grooves with wood putty or drywall spackle or caulk). (I had read tutorials for this method like here and here.)
      • Pros: Relatively cheap and would avoid the “country cottage” look of painted paneling that still has grooves.
      • Cons: EXTREMELY EXTREMELY LABOR INTENSIVE. Plus, there were questions about whether filling in the grooves would end up being smooth enough to paint over. Our basement is quite large, and the thought of filling in every single one of those grooves and then having to sand them down (in addition to all the “normal” prep work that would go along with painting paneling) made me shudder!

So, what option did we go for to handle the wood paneling? It wasn’t any of the above! I’ll talk about the option that we FINALLY selected in a subsequent post in this series. But it IS AWESOME!

For reference, here are some “before” photos of our basement! (Looking cleaner than it ever has!)

Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos

Notice how dark the basement is with the wood paneling, even after installing our great recessed lights!

Here are our ugly, non-dedicated work areas:

Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos

And the bar which, while fun, was a waste of space.

Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos

And, our “home theater” area with our couch, TV, and projection screen that comes down.

Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos

The next few posts will show all the steps of renovating this basement to a more modern space!