After a decision is made to install wall panels, the next conclusion to be reached involves the kind of finish, style and effect desired from among the dozens of choices available – real wood, veneer, stains or whatever.
Have the wall panels delivered to your home a week or so before you plan to install them. Store the wall paneling in the room where they’re to be used. When stacking the panels, separate them by placing thin sticks between them so that room air can circulate. This allows the paneling to adjust to the room’s humidity and reduces shrinkage and expansion after installation.
• Remove old moldings. Turn off the electric power, then take out receptacles or switches.
• If the wall is uneven or is made of masonry or has wall studs spaced other than on 16-inch or 24-inch centers, install 1-by-2 furring strips horizontally at 16-inch intervals. Then nail 13-inch vertical furring strips between the horizontal strips, spacing them every 48 inches so that they will be under the edges of the panels.
Caution: Using furring strips under paneling on all of a room’s walls can be a fire hazard. Air spaces between the wall surface and furring strips encourage airflow; this helps the flames of a concealed fire to spread quickly.
• If you are installing the wall panels directly to the wall surface, mark the stud positions every 4 feet, and starting 4 feet from one corner, drive a nail partway through the wall into the stud. Tie a chalk line to the nail, pull the line taut and snap it against the wall. Repeat every 4 feet.
• Install the first panel at a corner. Cut it to fit between the floor and ceiling with 1/2-inch clearance. Set it in place and check that its plumb by holding a level at the edge away from the corner. Make sure the outer edge is along the chalk line or centered on the vertical furring. If the wall that the panel abuts is not even, place a compass point against the wall and draw a line with the compass’ pencil along the length of the panel. Then trim the panel to fit the wall.
• For a door or window, mark its position, then trim the panel to fit around it. Use the cutouts to fill the area above or below other doors and windows.
• For an electrical outlet or switch, carefully mark the position on the panel. Drill 1/2-inch holes on the inside of the corners and cut out the rectangle with a keyhole saw.
• If you are mounting the panels directly to the wall, apply panel adhesive to the wall at 16-inch intervals, horizontally and vertically. Or apply beads of adhesive to all furring strips.
• Set the panel in place. Drive paneling nails partway into the panel top and press the panel against the wall.