Wall paneling can add beauty to a not-so-beautiful room. It hides uneven plaster, old wall paper and masonry – and once installed, requires little upkeep. Wall paneling has come a long way from the limited choices available years ago.
The biggest difficulty in paneling a room these days is choosing from among the many finishes, styles and effects available. You can find dozens of different wood grains veneered, printed or lithographed on wall panels.
Often they are done so expertly that it takes a trained eye to tell them from real wood. Philippine mahogany, knotty pine, cherry, oak and walnut are only some of the possibilities.
Other paneling is stained in a variety of colors or finished to resemble delicately veined marble or rough-hewn stone. When choosing wall paneling, keep in mind the following factors:
• The size of the room will diminish by the thickness of the paneling, plus that of the furring strips – thin pieces of wood that are attached to walls as a base for the paneling – if used.
• If paneling is a dark color or a wood tone, the room will also appear to shrink.
• Electrical outlets and wall switches will often have to be moved forward to be level with the paneling’s surface. Extender collars for the wall boxes are available from electrical supply stores.
• Heating and air conditioning registers also will need extender collars. Ask a heating contractor to make them. If there are electric baseboard heaters, the power will have to be turned off and the heaters removed.
• Door and window frames, baseboards and ceiling moldings are usually removed and replaced with trim that matches the wall paneling. But you can get fit the paneling around your current trim if you want.
How many standard 4-by-8-foot panels will you need? If your ceiling height is 8 feet, as it is in most houses, just measure each wall’s width and divide by 4 feet. Subtract, on the average, a half panel for each fireplace or window and twothirds of a panel for a door.
Wall panels must be bought whole. If your calculations end in a fraction, round out to the next whole number. To be absolutely sure, make a scale diagram of your room’s walls, and use it to calculate the number of panels you need.