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Fix-It-Yourself Project #107
"How to Replace Paneling"

Tool and Material Checklist

Hammer, Eye protection, Nails (several sizes), Fine-toothed saw, Tape or rule, Level, Knife, Plumb line, Drill and bit, Keyhole saw, Carpenter's square, Miter box, Straightedge rule, Chalk or crayon, Chalk line, Powdered chalk, Pencil compass, Coping saw, Panel adhesive, Plastic film or waterproof paper, Masonry waterproofing, Drop-in caulking gun, Furring strips, Shingle scraps, Masonry bit and anchors, Furring strip adhesive, Moisture resistant primer, Moldings, Nail set, Color-matched putty stick, Marking pen, Stain, Paint brush, Stud-finder, Saber saw

1. Estimating Needs

To figure how much paneling will be needed, measure the total width of the walls you wish to cover, and dived by four. This gives the number of 4 x 8- foot sheets required. If your walls are higher than 8 feet, divide the additional height into 8 feet to see how many upper pieces can be cut from a single 4 x 8 sheet. Deduct half a panel for each door, a quarter panel for each window.

2. Conditioning Panels

When you get them home, your panels should be conditioned. Ether stand them up individually on their long edges around the room or stack them flat using plenty of wooden sticks between panels to allow air to flow freely. They need 24 hours (above grade) to 48 hours (below grade) to become acclimate.

3. Wall Preparations

Paneling many be installed on three kinds of wall. Panels less than 1/4 inch thick need a solid backing, such as a level and flat plasterboard wall, behind them for support. Panels 1/4 inch and thicker can be installed directly over even framing members — studs or furring strips (check building codes for your area on this). All may be put up by nailing, or a combination of panel adhesive and nails.

4. On Solid Backing

Locate studs. Repair the old wall, seeing that it is nailed tightly to its framing. The framing behind walls usually runs vertically on 16-inch centers. So when you find one stud, you can usually locate the others easily by measuring. Or use a stud-finder. Either way, mark the locations by snapping or drawing vertical lines along the studs. Continue the lines (or put tape) several inches out onto both ceiling and floor as guides for when the panels cover the other marks.

Remove trim. Take down all moldings: ceiling, floor, and around openings. Take off electrical receptacle and switch covers, first turning off the electricity to them. (Check to be sure it's off, suing a neon test light.) If the ceiling is to be paneled, too, remove all light fixtures, disconnecting them (electricity off) from their wiring. For safety, reinstall the wire nuts or tape around the exposed wires inside the junction box.

5. On a Framed Wall

Check the studs to be sure they are vertical and on 16-inch spacing. Also see that backing is provided at corners, at the top and bottom of the wall, and around openings. Outside walls should have a vapor barrier over the faces of the studs.

6. On a Masonry Wall

First check the masonry walls for excessive moisture. If there is moisture, the walls will need complete waterproofing before they are paneled. Ask your retailer for a suitable product. Moisture can sometimes be caused by condensation. Then add a waterproof vapor barrier installed over the wall (below grade, do this before furring it).

Install 1 x 2-inch or 1/2-inch plywood (ripped 1 inches wide) furring strips horizontally or vertically, getting them on 16-inch centers. They are best fastened with masonry anchors drilled into the wall. Or they can easily be glued on; your retailer will be able to recommend the proper adhesive. Furring can also be used to make imperfectly framed walls even and flat.

Inspect your furring strips as they go up to see whether they are creating an eve, flat surface. Make necessary adjustments by shimming behind some of the strips with pieces of plywood or tapers wood shingles. Nail the shingles with brads to keep them in position.

7. Installing Paneling

If the panels contain a variable pattern, such as woodgrains, stand them against the wall around the room and rearrange or invert some of them for the most pleasing effect.

8. Measuring and Cutting

Begin putting up panels in the corner you see first as you enter a room. Cut each panel 1/4 inch shorter than ceiling height.

Get the first corner panel exactly plumb, using a level or chalked plumb line snapped onto the wall, figure 4. Its outer edge must be centered on a framing member. The edge against the corner may have to be cut off enough to bring the outer edge over a stud or furring strip. Double check all measurements before sawing. Cut with a fine-tooth saw, never with one having coarse teeth. Do sawing with a table or hand crosscut saw (not rip) working from the finished side of panels. With a saber saw, or radial-arm saw, work from the back side.

If the corner is not plumb or is irregular, the edge of the panel against the corner can be scribed to fit. To do this, plumb the panel 2 inches back from the corner. Then, holding the compass horizontally, scribe a line onto the panel with the compass point following the irregularities. Once the uneven edge is marked and cut with a coping saw, it will fit into its corner perfectly.

When you get the first panel right, nail (or glue and nail) it to the wall. Proceed with the other panels, avoiding a too-tight fit. Leaving the thickness of a dime between panels will avoid expansion problems. So the gaps do not show greatly, the area between panels can be precolored with a marking pen or a stripe of paint the same color as the grooves.

9. Paneling with Nails

Use the nails recommended by the paneling manufacturer. Often these are 1-inch brads or 3-penny finishing nails. If nailing through an old wall, the nails need to be extra long (usually 1-5/8 inches) to penetrate into the framing. Place nails every 4 to 6 inches along panel edges and 8 to 12 inches throughout the rest of the panel on studs. Always begin nailing at one edge and work to the other. Never nail opposite edges first, then the middle of a panel. Drive the nails about 1/32 inch below the surface with a nail set.

The countersunk holes may later be filled with a matching colored putty stick. When color-matched nails are used, coutersinking and puttying is not necessary. If you cover the hammer head with a rag, it will protect the faces of your panels.

10. Installing with Adhesive

To hold paneling firmly to the wall, apply 3-inch long 1-1/8-inch beads of a solvent-based panel adhesive to the studs or solid-backed wall. Leave 6-inch gaps between beads. At panel edges, apply a continues zigzag bead. If the wall has been papered, the wallpaper must be removed first. (Consider simply nailing the paneling on right over the wallpaper.)

Contact panel and adhesive, driving several nails loosely across the top to hinge it in the proper location. Then pull it 10 inches out from the wall at the bottom, resting it on a block of wood while the adhesive gets tacky enough for a quick grab. This may take from 2 to 10 minutes.

Now press the panel back against the wall and tap all over it with a hammer and cloth-padded wood block or rubber mallet. The "hinge" nails at the top will alter be covered with trim, or else countersunk and filled over. Heavy panels need additional support, with nails 16 to 20 inches apart. Then you need not pull the panel away from the wall to let the adhesive become tacky. New 10-ounce cartridge of panel adhesive will do three or four panels. Use adhesives according to directions on the cartridge, avoiding prolonged breathing of vapors. Remember, too, that a panel adhesive may be flammable.

11. Fitting Electrical Boxes

First generously chalk around the edges of the box. Then hold the panel in position and tap it against the chalked box. When taken away, the box outline will have been transferred to the back of the panel. The outlet box should be adjusted outward to meet the new wall surface. Then you can simply drill four holes at the corners of the panel, insert a keyhole saw, and make the cutout. Make it 1/4 inch larger than the box is.

12. Around Doorways

To make cutouts for windows and doors, measure horizontally from the last panel installed, going over to the untrimmed opening where you want the edge of the panel to reach. Do the same from the floor to the top of the door. Transferring these measurements onto the face of the panel saw out the rectangle of waste material. The panel should fit with a 1/4-inch gap between it and the opening. Paneling around a fireplace will have to be scribed. Trim will hide tough edges.

13. Finishing Touches

Once your paneling is up, you can trim out the project. Some plastic-finished panels call for using built-in metal or vinyl moldings that are installed at the same time the paneling is. Paneling in bathrooms is often done this way, using a troweled-on adhesive.

Most trim, however, is installed afterward by nailing it on. Cut your wood or plastic moldings in a miter box using a fine-tooth saw. Nail with small finishing nails, coutersinking the nails and filling the holes with putty stick. If the moldings are prefinished, clean them with a dry cloth. Otherwise, apply paint or stain and a clear finish.