Help w/ finishing vertical tongue and groove paneling

bldn10June 26, 2011

I have renovated a circa 1923 bungalow and both sides of the wall between the LR and DR were panelled w/ random width, vertical, tongue and groove boards. I could not believe that this was original to the house so wanted to get rid of it. Because of the crown molding, baseboard, and door casing I did not want to take it down or even sheetrock over it. What we did initially was just to fill the V-grooves w/ 90-min. mud, float the walls out, and paint. Looked fine for awhile. Then the mud in the grooves not so much cracked and fell out but looked like it swelled up, raising out of the grooves. It also felt soft like putty as if it was damp. We redid it, this time first putting a bead of caulk in the groove to allow for movement. A month later and we're right back where we were. If it were brittle and cracking I could understand but it is not. It is again like putty and bulging out. What is going on?

I'm looking for a permanent solution. Fibatape makes their fiberglass mesh joint tape in 3' wide rolls - thinking about that but that may not work either if the filler bulges out again. Sheetrocking over is a last option - any other ideas?


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Mud and caulk are not designed to stick to wood in the way you want to use them.

The best permanent repair is to remove the boards and repair the wall surfaces or add sheet rock.

By adding sheet rock and lathing you will be able to match the thickness of the boards and be able to reinstall all the trim.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 2:20AM
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The wood is always going to move. Any filler solid enough to produce an absolutely level filling of the grooves is destined to fail. Caulk all alone (first remove all of the joint compound) will fill the grooves sorta/kinda, but would be flexible enough to withstand the movement.
The middle groove of v-groove can be filled perfectly well with bondo, but the edge grooves (at the T&G joint) are the "mission impossible" culprits.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 8:29AM
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They are all T&G, Casey - individual boards. Do you think I could caulk the joints as level as possible and then use the wide Fibatape? Maybe some additional nails would help too.

No way am I taking down all the molding. This is a finshed house. If all else fails, and as much as I hate it, I will sheetrock over w/ 1/4".


    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 8:59AM
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"Maybe some additional nails would help too. "

All the nails in the world will not stop the movement of the T&G wood as the humidity changes through the year.

It is not that hard to remove molding for re-use with little damage.

Wonder bars and some 6 inch drywall knives to help spread the force on the molding will remove it easily (putty knife in first, followed by wonder bar. Pry gently. It does ruin the drywall knives for finishing drywall.)

Any nails that come out with the wood should be pulled through the back if the trim to avoid damaging the front.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 9:43AM
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This appears to habe been something I never would have thought of. I dissected out a few joints yesterday, taking care to see what the soft mud was all about. Turned out it itself was not soft - it was like a bubble underneath. We floated over a layer of paint that was evidently latex over oil and it is pulling away from the underlying layer. I suspect that the moisture in the mud was drawn into the latex layer, loosening it. It is not a problem except in the grooves where the mud was deeper.

I know how to remove molding but that's only the start. Then you have to re-cope the corners (2-piece crown) and deal w/ the gaps created between the door jamb and casing. Just too much, and too much mess in a finished house.

I relented and am laying 1/8" Masonite over the panelling. Easier to cut around molding, easier joints, much less mess. We roughed it up so it would look more like old plaster. It will look just fine.

Thanks for your suggestions.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 9:38AM
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Why would you not think this was original? Seems like a fairly credible wall for 1923. And original or not, it has its attractions....


    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 7:40PM
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Well, let's just say I've never seen panelling like this in a craftsman-style bungalow around here, and the people I asked who I thought might know didn't think it was either. It looks '50s. But I'm curious - does anyone know for sure if panelling was around then, and used in this way?


    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 9:00AM
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The house my wife grew up in has knotty pine/bead vertical planks. Her home was built in 1933 and they purchased it in'42. If the original owners installed it, it would have been between the two timeframes, but I know there is nothing behind the planking. It is also installed on the ceiling. The kitchen and bathroom is plastered.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 10:24AM
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Panelling of some sort has been around in many eras from prior to your house to 70s at least; I'm no house historian so I won't venture much more than that. But have you considered asking in the Old House Forum? Post some photos, get some feedback.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 1:56PM
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