How to Make Wood Paneling Look Like Drywall – 5 Steps to Follow

Once a traditional norm in home construction, the 60’s beautiful wood paneling has increasingly turned into an eyesore for the majority of the homeowners.

Now the question stands – “how to make wood paneling look like drywall?” Ditching the retro look is easier than you think and what’s more?

It’s budget-friendly! With a little patience and some work, anyone can update their panels and make them look more aesthetically pleasing.

How To Make Wood Panelling Look Like Dry Walls

Things you will need:

  • Fine grit sand sponge or sandpaper
  • Spackle/ Joint Compound
  • High-Quality stain killing primer
  • Good Quality interior-latex paint
  • Paint tray and paint roller
  • Cloth

How Can You Make Wood Paneling Look Like Drywall?

Step 1: Color Selection

The key is the color – contrary to popular belief, a dark wash compliments wood really well. However, doing that to your living room wall would not sit right.

Dark color often “eat up” room space and makes it seem more compact than it actually is.

That is why it is best to go for white or any light colors for living rooms and rooms with low ceilings. If grey is your thing, go for it!

Step 2: Filling the Grooves

Before filling in the grooves, we must dull the gloss of the wood.

Wood panels are generally coated in shellac, lacquer or polyurethane which gives them a glossy look.

Whether you are looking to achieve a more matte look on your wood paneling or not, going with the degloss is the essential first step.

Before you start, open every available window and door in the room for proper ventilation and make sure children, older adults, and pets are outside or somewhere away from your work area.

This work process releases paint fumes, which is not good for health.

  • Lay a spreadsheet or spread newspaper all across the floor underneath the wood paneling before starting working. This is to avoid making a mess which would be hard to clean up later on.
  • Use sandpaper or sand sponge to sand the panel lightly. Sand in the direction of the grooves, not the other side around. You do not want sand dust in the grooves at any cost.
  • Wipe away sand dust with a clean cloth. Ensure no residue is left whatsoever.
  • Fill the grooves with a generous amount of spackle or joint compound. You want to fill your grooves if you want your walls to look smooth and not just like painted wood.
  • Let the compound dry. Be patient. This may take up to one day.
  • Apply a second coat of joint compound. Repeat as many times necessary. This whole process is easy but not a fast one, but it is worth the wait.

Step 3: Prep and Prime

In this step, we will prep the board:

  • Sand the paneling with a fine-grit sandpaper. The compound must be even with the panel.
  • The grooves may need refilling with the compound in case of imperfections as sometimes there are tiny little dimples which are hard to notice the first time around, but once the brush hits the panel, it becomes apparent. After refilling, dry and dust again like in Step 2.
  • Next, a high-quality stain killing primer is needed to cover the wood paneling. The stain blocking primer is critical to ensure that no stains ever destroy the beautiful wall.
  • Pour the primer onto a paint tray and with a paint roller like we would paint any other wall.
  • Priming is important because the wood absorbs or “drinks” paint and the primer seals the surface to give off a smooth base to work. Make sure that no seams are peeking through the paint because you don’t want to fill the seams in again.
  • Let it dry.

Make Wood Paneling Look Like Drywall

Step 4: Paint

  • Good quality interior latex paint is needed to make the panels look like drywall. Latex paint is the best to paint any wood since it is easier to work with and dries much more quickly than oil-based paint.
  • Apply the latex paint in thin layers. Applying a large amount in an area at once will only create an uneven spread which would make the paint job sloppy.
  • Apply pressure while going over the grooves; this must be done slowly.
  • Apply 2 or more layers for best results and better coverage.
  • Give time to dry up.

Step 5: Marvel at Your Work

Take a step back and appreciate the masterpiece you have created. Your fresh drywall over paneling is ready!

Turning wood paneling into a smoothwall requires TLC but can be done quite easily.

A few days of hard work will ensure you enjoy your nicely done walls for years. Make a toast to yourself; you deserve it.

Everything related to this job is straightforward, but it can be time-consuming. But if you give it the time it requires, the results you blow your mind off.

Of course, there are other ways to DIY the process, or you could get a contractor to do so.

But doing it all yourself gives you a satisfaction that you will never get from others doing the job for you. At the end of the day, it’s your canvas to marvel.


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