Wall panelling is back in fashion – not only the country-style painted wood panels but also the wood panelling that defined our interiors in the 70’s. Of course both applications need a modern twist. This article will help you to choose the right panelling for your interior.
Panelling is ideal for walls in poor condition (but don’t use it to cover damp!) and it’s an easy DIY job. The most common type of wall panelling is made of solid wood planks with a tongue along one edge and a groove on the other. These joints allow secret nailing to the wall and for expansion of the wood with temperature change. Some tongue and groove panels have moulded or other decorative surfaces but, in my opinion, it’s best to stick to the simple ones..
Most tongue and groove wood panelling is made from softwood, mainly from knotty pine. You can also use hardwood for wall panelling but it’s quite expensive. MDF, plywood or veneered hardboard panels can also be considered for wall panelling. Alternatively you can make panels covered with textile – Hessian, velvet, or textured paper – it’s much easier to remove these later when you get bored with it.
Some manufactures say that you can glue the planks directly to walls – I wouldn’t. Most walls are uneven, so it’s best to attach the boards to battens fixed along the wall. This also makes it much easier to remove or amend them later.
First take off all skirting boards, picture rails, coving etc. Then screw the battens to the wall – horizontal strips of softwood if you want your panels to go vertically; vertical strips if you want your panelling go horizontally. The battens should be about 1ft 4in ( 400mm) apart – make sure they are level. This frame of battens doesn’t have to be very thick – it could be just 1/4in (10mm) in thickness. However, if your room isn’t well insulated, you could use the space between the wall and the panels for reducing heat loss – just construct your frame with 2×1 timber and put insulating material between them.
Cut your panels to the right length. Start in one corner. If you’re panelling to adjoining walls, make sure that the corner boards meet neatly. You can cut or plane them at a 45 degree angle but overlapping is much easier. Fix the first panel to the battens using the secret-nail technique or metal clips. Then slide the next panel onto the tongue and tap it into place with a mallet. When you reach the last panel, you probably will have to cut the board to fit the gap – do this neatly and make sure that the corner boards are attached properly. External ( pointing out) corners can be dealt with by planing a chamfer on the outer edge of one of the boards where it meets the other – for horizontal strips use a bevelled moulding to cover the edges.
You need to consider existing sockets and switches – either panel around them or fix the surface-mounted fitting onto the panels. Attach the mounting box to the wall in a way that it will be flush with the panelling (put battens around it to make nailing the panels onto them easier).
When you’re done with the panelling, reattach the skirting boards and coving if required.
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!