Can You Remove Paint From Your Wood-Paneled Walls?

Everything old becomes new again, and one aspect of home decor once relegated to the "retro" file--dark wood paneling--has made quite the recent comeback in many parts of the U.S. This can be great news for homeowners whose basements, bedrooms, or living rooms are already outfitted with intricate wood paneling or beadboard; however, if the original wood of your paneling has been covered with paint at some point over the past several decades, removing it can be a challenge. Read on to learn more about the hows and whys of removing paint from your wood-paneled walls. 

Paint Stripping Versus Replacement

In some cases, it may be easier and more cost-effective to simply remove your existing wood paneling and replace it with new paneling, especially if your current paneling is on the older side or has already suffered some minor damage from pets, kids, or furniture. Sometimes this damage won't be revealed until after the paint is stripped, so it may be worthwhile to give your wood paneling a careful inspection first, touching it to reveal any soft or rough spots, to ensure you don't head too far down the paint-removal path before deciding to change course.

Replacing your paneling is also a good idea if you're certain that there are at least two coats of paint on it; the more paint of different ages you have to remove, the higher the risk of stripping off the outer coating of wood and causing irreparable damage to your paneling. 

If your paneling is a unique or unusual pattern that can't easily be replicated on the modern market, or if this paneling is in pristine condition with just a single coat of paint, paint removal and solvent sealing can provide you with glossy and sleek-looking wood paneling at a fraction of the cost of replacement. However, the removal process can be challenging, so it's important to be prepared. 

How To Remove Paint From Wood Paneling 

First, you'll want to test a small area of the wood paneling with a piece of sandpaper or an orbital sander to see how easily this paint sands off. (If your home was painted in the 1970s or earlier, you may instead want to call a painting contractor to avoid the potential for breathing in the particles from lead-based paint). 

Sanding is by far the simplest and most effective way to remove paint from wood paneling, but it requires a gentle touch--too much sanding can damage the finish.

If your paint isn't responding well to sanding, you may be able to use a chemical-based solvent like turpentine (for oil paint) or wood stripper (for acrylic paint) to remove it instead; simply place a bit of this solvent on a soft cloth and rub it across the paneling's surface in an unobtrusive area to see what type of impact it has. 

Remaining gentle in your movements and avoiding scraping or scratching at the paneling can ensure a stress-free process that will result in attractive and paint-free wooden walls. Contact a company that specializes in wood finishes for more information and assistance.