Having attached your wood panelling to the walls as per the previous article, you can then decide whether you want to varnish, limewash or paint it..
To paint panelling
If your panelling is old and the paintwork is peeling or lumpy, you should strip & sand it back to bare wood. Fill holes, splits and blemishes with wood filler then smooth with a fine sandpaper. Wash it with a mild detergent to remove dust and you’re ready to paint or varnish. If the old paintwork is in good condition you can paint over it, but wash the paintwork first and do use an undercoat!
If your panelling is new and made of softwood (such as pine) make sure that, before you paint it, you treat the wood with a knotting solution that stops the wood bleeding. Then use a primer followed by two coats of undercoat. Then paint with your chosen color. Remember to paint paint in the direction of the grain!
If you have solid wood panels, just oil the surface with Danish or raw Linseed oil – you’ll need to re-apply some oil once or twice a year. Hardwood (particularly tropical wood) prefers oil to varnish. Don’t even think about staining or painting hardwood – it’s just too good to ruin it!
Colors on panelling
Dark and rich colors are not really suitable on panelling (well, not on tongue-and-groove panels). The traditional wood panelling used to be pale green or blue – the Swedish or Shaker smokey green, or the Wedgewood & sky-blue shades are timeless. White, or any other off-white color that has a hint of hue, is also a good choice.
If you want a romantic or French country effect – or panelling with a twist – why don’t you try limewashing your wood panelling? Treat the bare wood with knotting solution then dilute your undercoat with water or white spirit depending on whether you are using a water-based or solvent-based undercoat. You can also mix some Scumble Glaze into this – this will make the paint more transparent and the painwork more subtle. Then, with a piece of cotton or muslin, rub the mixture into the wood – make sure you do so in the direction of the grain – then seal it with a satin or matt varnish. You can also add to the solution a drop of burnt umber or burnt sienna to create an antique or old effect – but it’s always to experiment with this first on a spare bit of the same wood!!!
If you don’t like painted panelling (or just want to be trendy) you can stain or varnish your softwood panels. Oak, walnut and ebony are very popular finishes – but be careful – again, first experiment on a piece of the same wood – stain it with your chosen finish, then varnish it with matt or satin varnish. Note: the varnish will change the color of the stain!
Before you start any DIY job, make sure you have a first-aid kit, you’re wearing comfortable & sensible clothing – and you’re covered by proper home insurance!