Let’s Talk About Paneling (Faux Real)

Let’s Talk About Paneling (Faux Real)


The Truth About Paneling (Faux Real)



So you’ve bought your dream house and it is beautiful. There are spacious rooms, high ceilings, plenty of light and almost enough charming architectural detail to make you forget the depressing, ugly and retro (in that way that no one wants to be retro) paneling.


“Mad Men” maybe have rekindled enthusiasm for the styles of the 50s and 60s, but I doubt even the most outspoken fan of mid-century modern could have anything positive to say for paneling. At one point in time, though, it was pretty much ubiquitous, from boardroom to bedroom and just about everywhere in between. In fact, if you’re living in a house that survived the 1960s, it’s highly probable that it had at least one room covered in the stuff at some point along the way. That may have seemed chic and sophisticated in 1965, by 1980 read “suburban basement full of teenagers” and by 1990 looked downright morbid, dim and dingy.


Now, to be clear, I don’t want to get nailed to the blog cross for advocating removal of the paneling that was hand-milled and hung by late, Great-Grandfather Julius (freewill preacher and son of a Confederate captain) in the family lake house. I’m not talking about that.  Nor am I talking about that gorgeous hardwood wainscoting in your formal dining room. What we’re discussing are those lovely sheets of circa 1960-something “faux-paneling.” It’s loathsome particle-board composite from the same era that brought you floral print vinyl upholstery and double-knit polyester. While it could possibly be embraced after being dealt with in some DIY challenge, give  “1960s wood paneling” a Google and you’ll find an encyclopedia’s worth of desperate weekend warrior conversations about it. I’ve personally been there and done that and I am here to tell you that the best thing to do with terrible paneling is to get rid of it.


Here are a few suggestions for when you decide to go all the way:


  • Though almost always worth it, taking sheets of paneling boards down can be a decent size project. It’s not advised if you’re on a super-time crunch I am not trying to scare you. Just don’t enter into it casually, like, say, on a Sunday afternoon, when you’re bored, and you’re hosting the in-laws in two days.


  • What you’ll find underneath is indicative of the age of your home. You’ll also be able to tell a little about whether the paneling was part of a previous renovation.


  • Maybe granny fell in-love with paneling in 1965 when she started to remove the original wallpaper in her 1940s cottage and along with the wallpaper, chunks of granny’s plaster wall were also removed, hence the “faux paneling moo-moo” to cover-up granny’s wrinkled plans.


  • You quite like your 1920 traditional home and the increased space a previous owner created when they “finished” the basement but behind that game room paneling there isn’t a wall at all, just some ancient smelly insulation between a Weekend-Warrior-with-tallboy-in-hand-poor-carpentry, two by four stud wall. Don’t stress, take this opportunity to add outlets, frame for a wall mounted TV, etc.


  • Faux wood paneling usually has a small strip of molding to dress the space where the sheet meets the ceiling. Make a plan for how you’d like to treat that juncture. Will you add trim? Crown molding? Or will you want a really tight joint for a finished clean line?


  • I have removed paneling that was simply nailed to small wood tacking strips on plaster walls, glued to wallpapered sheet roc. And I have–hold on to your britches– removed paneling that was screwed into original 1930s bathroom tile in otherwise in perfect condition (sniff, sniff.)


  • Note that faux wood panel sheets are not as thick as the thinnest dry wall so you may need to re-trim around your windows and doors.


  • You need to have a strategy in place to replace the walls when the paneling comes down. Like most renovations, you will not truly know what time or materials will be needed until you demo and remove the paneling so don’t forget to budget for some flexibility. Like car trips and commercial flights, dating and marriage, child birth and parenting, having a plan is all fine and good but you don’t know how it will go or what you’ll really do until you are in it.



Now, give yourself a brighter future and get that paneling out of there.

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