Wall Paneling: Repair or Remove?
LESLIE: Alright. Now we have Dale, from Arkansas, who has a decorative question. What happened? You painted some paneling and now it’s falling off?
DALE: Basically that’s what’s happening. I used a sand paint finish and it was alright for about three months and then it just started to bow and come off the wall.
LESLIE: So the paneling itself.
DALE: Yes, the paneling is actually separating from the wall and bowing and all the seams have busted apart. And I’m looking for a solution short of removing the paneling and refinishing the walls.
TOM: Maybe your paneling’s trying to tell you something, Dale. (laughing)
LESLIE: The 70s are over.
TOM: That’s right. Dale, it’s time to put me to rest. I’ve served too long and it’s time for a decorating upgrade.
LESLIE: Well, at least it’s telling you that the paneling isn’t attached in such a horrible way that it’s unable to come off the wall.
TOM: Yeah. Actually, that could be good news because I can’t tell you how many questions we get about … from people that want to actually replace their paneling. It sounds to me like, for whatever reason, you’re getting expansion and contraction that this thing is popping off. Is there anything else structurally going on that we ought to know about? Any moisture problems? Foundation movement? Cracks, shifts? Anything different in the environment of this particular room that could cause this movement?
DALE: Not to my knowledge. It … the area is very high humidity and I have two air conditioning units in the house.
TOM: Yeah, in one breath you say not to your knowledge; in the other breath you say high humidity …
LESLIE: (overlapping) High humidity.
TOM: … two air conditioning units churning away. High humidity is going to make stuff swell.
LESLIE: Well, and another thing, with those paint finishes that have the sand in it, they tend to be very, very moist because there’s so much sand in the finish itself. I mean, basically, they’re just adding sand to the paint compound. So what’s happening is there might just be a lot of moisture still contained within that sand; especially since it’s such a humid room that it’s just causing the paneling to become totally inundated with moisture.
TOM: Or the moisture can get behind the treatment and therefore be trapped in the paneling; and that makes it even worse. If you’re looking for a solution, my only suggestion would be that as these sheets loosen up, that you …
LESLIE: Take advantage of it.
TOM: Yeah, take … well, if you don’t want to take it all the way down, what I was going to suggest, Leslie, is to do what we really hope you never, ever find when you want to remove paneling and that is to put glue behind it.
LESLIE: (overlapping) Glue it! Ooh, I’m not listening.
TOM: But if you put glue behind it, remember, if you ever decide to take that down …
LESLIE: It’s going to be a pain.
TOM: … you’re going to have a big, stinking mess and you’re not going to be able to repair the walls. If you use like a liquid nail or something like that behind it.
DALE: Seems to me the paneling was put up to hide a multitude of sins …
DALE: … that were … or someone that’s lazy and doesn’t want to repaste. So I’m … I was trying to do the economical thing and paint the paneling and hide it.
TOM: Well, I think you might find that removing that paneling – that was a very popular product for many, many years – is not that terrible of a job and the walls may not be in horrible shape when you get it done. If it’s coming off so easily, it might be pretty easy to pull that stuff down, simply spackle the holes, prime the walls. And then I would put a good quality flat finish on it. If you choose a flat enamel … the difference between regular flat and flat enamel is that flat enamel is washable. I would not use anything with a sheen to it; even a slight sheen is going to show …
LESLIE: Well, because any sheen will show any sort of markations on the wall. Whether it’s a ding, a dent, a scratch; you’ll see it.
TOM: Exactly. So use a flat enamel, which is a good quality flat. And I think you’re going to be very happy and find out that it’s not that terrible of a job, especially if these walls are coming off right now.
LESLIE: Even the sand treatment. You can get that … it’s a flat finish but it has a texture to it. So if you can ensure that it will have proper drying time, that will also go a long way to hide any sort of marring on the wall itself.
TOM: Yeah, Dale, but whatever you do, make sure you put a primer on there first because that’s going to neutralize whatever was there first. And it will ensure that whatever paint or sand treatment that you put on there sticks properly. Okay, Dale?
DALE: Oh, I was hoping for an easier solution. (laughing) I just … I did crown molding and the whole bit …
TOM: Oh, man.
DALE: … and now I … now I’m back to square one.
TOM: (very low audio) Well, you know what?
DALE: But you remember the story about … the Li’l Abner comic strip?
DALE: The little guy that ran around with the little black clouds raining on him all the time?
TOM: (laughing) Is that the way you feel? (laughing)
DALE: That’s the story of my life, it seems like.
LESLIE: Aw, Dale.
TOM: Well, let’s … let’s try to change your luck and make it not the story of your home improvement life, Dale. Let’s bite the bullet on this one and go ahead and pull that paneling down. You can save the crown molding and put it back up when you’re done. It’s just going to actually be a little bit …
TOM: It’ll be a little bit shy, that’s right. It’ll be a little bit shy. So you could …
LESLIE: But that’s okay because you can still utilize the corners …
LESLIE: … and just on your longer runs, do a scarf joint.
TOM: Exactly. Exactly. So you could actually still use the molding. That’s right. Alright, Dale, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.