Painting over fake wood-grain paneling

Answered by Jeffrey ~ February 21, 2011 ~ Comments

My 1,000-square-foot mobile home is in fine shape but the interiors are a dark wood-grain paneling that looks as if it's printed on the surface. Every winter I think of painting the interior a more cheerful color. Is there a paint for this? About what would a painter charge me for doing all the rooms--two bedrooms, a bath, kitchen and great room?

Clara ~ El Paso, Texas

Jeffrey Anderson

Hi, Clara. I don't recommend painting over wallpaper, but I know in some cases there isn't much choice. If all the walls in your mobile home have this type of wood paneling with some sort of wall covering on it, this is going to be a fairly sizable project for someone. You might want to try doing some of the work yourself to cut down on your potential costs.

The first step is removing the wall covering in any place it might be loose. You don't want to spend a lot of time and money redoing all the walls of your mobile home and then have the wall covering you painted over start peeling.

When all of the loose wall covering has been removed, the walls should be painted with an oil-based primer. You don't want to use anything with a water base as that can cause your wall covering to lose its adhesion.

Once the walls have been primed, use drywall mud or compound to put a coat of mud over all defects in the walls. Basically you want to hit any spot that has a rough surface. This could be spots where you pulled the loose wall paper off, joints in the wood paneling or holes where pictures were mounted. The mud should be applied with a broad blade drywall knife. Smooth the thin coats out with the blade of your knife. You may need to apply several coats over spots depending on the depth of the defects.

The next step is to sand all the walls. This is a dirty job and you should cover all furniture and cabinets prior to starting. You should also cover all HVAC vents and returns to prevent dust from getting into your duct-work. When the sanding is complete, dust or vacuum your walls and then apply a bead of caulk in all wall corners where the wall meets the ceiling, and along the top of your baseboard. This helps prevent the wall covering from peeling at the edges.

You are now ready to apply your final coat of paint. I recommend an oil-based flat paint. A flat finish tends to hide wall defects, but a semi-gloss or eggshell finish may highlight them. When painting with your oil-based primer and finish coat, you should make sure your home is very well ventilated as the fumes can be very strong.

The costs of hiring a contractor to do this work can vary based on how much interior wall area you have and what the labor rates are for El Paso, Texas. I would allow about $1.70 a square foot of wall area for the prep work and the coats of primer and finish. That total would include labor and all materials needed. The cost could go up if your walls need a lot of prep work or there is something special about the wall covering that needs additional attention. The costs could go down if labor is considerably cheaper than it is around where I live.

I would not use an inexperienced painting contractor for this project to save a little money. Painting over wallpaper and having it ending up looking good requires experience and skill.

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