remove or drywall or mud over wood panelling?

maylandJune 3, 2007

We have just bought a 1950s ranch of about 2500 sq ft (floor space). It has solid wood panelling on every wall in every room. We would like it all to be gone but given how much there is, we dont just want to paint it as we would then see the grooves still in every wall.

I think our options are:

1 - take it all off, then put up drywall and paint

2 - drywall over the top of the panelling, then mud then paint

3 - mud (skim coat) only over the panelling, then paint

a carpenter that is working on another part of the house said he thought mudding over it is quite difficult and he thought that not many people would be able to make a good job of it. Is this true?

What are the advantages/disadvantages of the three options?

Also, the panelled walls are not all flat -- a couple of the walls have a definite "bulge". Will this mean we will _have_ to take the panelling off on those walls (or can drywall still be put over)?

Thanks very much for your advice!

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"solid wood panelling"

How thick is the paneling?
How much mud to make it smooth?

Wood is a lousy base for drywall mud.
The wood changes dimension enough with humidity the mud is likely to pop off.
If the paneling is 1/2 or 3/4 thick you could add a layer of 3/8 drywall and then finish and paint.
If you have case molding on doors or windows you may need to remove it all, add jamb extensions (pieces of 1x ripped 3/8 wide), and then replace it if you want the job to look good.

Thin plywood paneling can have the seams filled with decent luck and then be painted.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 11:39AM
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Thanks for the reply, that matches what the carpenter says, so sounds like we will need to drywall over. Would you recommend this above removing the panelling first before drywalling?

I think it is 1/2 inch panelling. The carpenter that looked at it said he thought it is mahogany. It seems such a shame to cover up all this expensive hardwood, but I'm scared of what we might uncover if we take it off!


    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 12:20PM
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Being scared to find what's underneath is imprudent at best. Not taking advantage of a discovery process is a missed opportunity. You can add insulation if needed. And it being a '50's house, it probably needs it. You can add outlets, maybe upgrade the wiring. Run cable, computer or phone wire. Check the condition of the framing and sheathing for mold, dampness or insect activity.
Contrary to popular belief, "ignorance is not bliss".

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 1:47PM
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Ron - this is true, i know. Just that Ignorance might be cheaper in the short-term, and given how much we know we will be spending on this house, its very tempting not to find out what else we should be spending on.

We had the house inspected last week and the inspector used an infra-red camera to look for moisture behind walls, and found none. Previous owner seems to have kept up on termite control (although we will have a termite inspection soon).

We will probably have a whole-house rewire anyway as the electrical system is from the 60s.

But we will get quotes from the drywall guy with and without taking off the wood panelling and then decide which to do. Thanks for your advice.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 10:40PM
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Better yet get qoutes from the electric guy with and without taking off the wood paneling. Could be enough difference to pay for the drywall.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 11:44PM
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If you live in a cold region of the country, and the walls are only 4", you can beef them up by adding 2x2's and making them into 6" (actual 5.5") walls. Of course, you would remove the paneling to do this. You would then insulate your walls, put up a moisture barrier, and drywall over this. I have done this in 1/2 of our house and have no regrets. See the link below for more details.

Also, as mentioned, with the walls open, you can add outlets and other wiring for phone, tv, etc.

Here is a link that might be useful: Convert 4

    Bookmark   June 4, 2007 at 10:30AM
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Just wanted to follow up on what we have done in case this is of benefit to anyone else with a similar query:

The drywall guy says only mudding over the panelling will not give great results, so we do need the drywall. He recommends 1/2 inch drywall as 1/4 may leave an uneven surface. His costs were similar with or without the panelling (around $5500 to sheetrock the whole house -- 2600 sq ft of floor space).

In renovating almost the whole house, the contractors have pulled some sections of the panelling off in every room. All 3 bathrooms have been gutted back to the studs. In the other rooms, some have large sections of panelling removed and some have smaller sections.

We can see insulation in all of the exterior walls and some of the interior walls. No evidence of any rot in any of the wall studs so far (and really all of the wet areas, incl kitchen have the panelling off), so we are going to assume the studs that are still hidden are OK.

We are having a whole-house rewire and the electrician is just cutting out the panelling wherever he needs to get access to wiring. I don't think this has made much difference to his costs.

Once the plumber and electrican are done, the drywaller will go thru and sheetrock everywhere. We need to watch for the trim around windows and doors. However, we prefer a modern/minimal style and so we are just going to take it all off and he can either wrap the drywall into the window recesses or use a special J-channel (i think thats what he called it) to make a clean edge level with the window recess.

Oh, and on a side note, the inspector with his fancy infra-red moisture-detecting camera missed a rotten subfloor under a leaking shower and missed that the entire subfloor of an add-on office room is rotten through. Very unhappy about this. But pleased with the outcome of the wood panelling dilemma!

Thanks for your advice, everyone.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 3:35PM
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