Choosing the Best Paneling Type for a Room

Dear James: We have a storage room, and the drywall is pretty beaten up. I want to put paneling over the drywall. What panel choice is good, and how can I install over the drywall? —Randall K.

Dear Randall: The walls in a storage room can get damaged from hauling things in and out, and people are generally not too careful about avoiding dinging the walls. Drywall can easily be nicked and scratched, but if it is not badly damaged with big holes, you should be able to attach new paneling over it.

There is quite a range of quality of paneling types and their prices vary accordingly. Cheap paneling definitely looks cheap. It is just a sheet of weak bracing with wood graining printed on it. With a drywall backing as you will have, it should be strong enough. Spending more for paneling with simulated joints and better graining might be a better long-term choice.

When selecting your paneling, make sure to actually touch it before buying it. Don’t just select from images a catalog or online. Whether or not paneling looks cheap also is a function of how it feels to the touch. It is good to be able to feel some sort of grain and texture to the surface and feel actual grooves in the simulated joints.

If you want the best rich appearance for your study, consider selecting solid plank paneling or sheets of pre-finished wood veneer paneling. Both of these look and feel good because the exterior surface is real wood. These types of paneling can be one of the most expensive wall covering materials available though.

Sheet paneling is made from thin real wood veneers glued to a strong plywood backing. The density of the plywood gives it strength and a hefty feel when touched. Solid plank paneling is often made of softwoods such as cedar, pine or cypress for a more casual appearance. Hardwoods such as maple, oak, and birch usually create a more formal appearance. Light-colored wood really brightens up a room, but darker colors are more traditional for a study.

From the standpoint of price and cleaning, painted-on or shallow grooves are easy to keep clean and some look satisfactory even at a short distance. Some medium-priced paneling has actual grooves, but the quality can vary and be uneven with rough edges. Most of the expensive veneer and solid plank paneling has crisp, straight grooves which enhance the appearance.

One of the most ignored installation tips is to store the paneling for several days in the room where it will be installed. Separate the panels so room air can flow around them. This allows the material to adjust to the typical humidity in the room to minimize size change after it is installed.

When using real wood veneer paneling, sort the pieces to try to get similar grain patterns on the mating edges. It won’t be perfect as with printed paneling because the grain in each piece of real wood is unique.

The proper way to cut paneling depends upon the type of saw and the direction of its blade rotation. When using a circular or jigsaw, place the good side of the paneling down. When using a handsaw or table saw, put the good side up.

James Dulley


Send your questions to Here’s How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at Copyright 2021

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