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How to do DIY wall panelling

Home office with Lick White 02 wall panelling

DIY wall panelling is a cheap and easy way to transform any room in your home by making your walls look a little more interesting. Wall panels can give any room a bit more depth, and they’ve got that perfect blend of traditional and contemporary style. And not only do panels look great and revive your decor, they can also help cover up any uneven surfaces or walls that may be in need of filling.

DIY wall panelling - can I do it myself? 

There’s a general misconception out there that putting up wood panelling is too hard to bother with. If you’re wondering whether you can fit panelling yourself, the short answer is: yes. If you have basic DIY skills, you’ll find that wall panelling is actually easier to fit than tiles.

One of the most important (and some would say most challenging) parts of the wall panelling process is getting the measurements just right. Once that’s done and your panels are in place, you’ve just got to follow the standard prep + paint process to get the look you want. 

Discover our easy step-by-step DIY guide on how to do wall panelling below.

MDF panelling: what you need to know 

Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) is the most common type of wood panelling used for interior walls. To get started, you need to first decide the width and thickness of MDF you’re going to use. Now, this is usually based on personal preference. We’d recommend cutting some sample pieces of panelling down and placing them on your wall to select the width and thickness that works best for you. 

How to do wall panelling 

Step 1: Gather your equipment. Here’s what you’ll need: 

Step 2: Take your measurements 

  • Start by measuring how wide your wall is. This is an important one to get right so grab that tape measure and take your measurements at least 3 times to be super sure. Write down those measurements so you don’t forget!  
  • Decide how many panels you’d like on your wall. Sketch out a design of how you’d like your panel wall to look - this can be a huge help to visualise and stay on track as you work your way through all the steps.

Step 3: Prep 

Although panelling can hide a multitude of sins on surfaces, there are certain problems you’ll want to fix before going ahead with attaching your panelling: 

  • Get rid of any flaky plaster or peeling paint by sanding down with a gritty sanding block.
  • Fill in any holes or gaps by carefully pushing filler in with a filling knife.
  • Once you’ve got a smooth surface to work with, it’s time to start attaching the panels onto your wall. 

Learn more about how to prep a room for painting.

Step 4: Attach your panels 

  • Start with your base rail. Using strong glue, stick each panel to your wall, making sure to press down for a secure fit. Leave to dry. 
  • Once you’ve finished attaching your base rail, start attaching your top rail. You can then move on to your side stiles, which should slot in between your top and bottom rails. Use a spirit level to ensure they’re straight before sticking them down. 
  • Continue to fit the remaining stiles one at a time and finish off by adding in horizontal rails between them. 
  • Remember to ensure each panel is securely fixed on before moving to the next. 
  • Spotted gaps in your panelling? Caulk any such areas and leave them to dry for a smooth finish.

Step 5: Prime 

For a good pre-paint prime, we recommend preparing the wooden surface first with Zinsser BIN oil-based primer for a paint finish that sticks and lasts. Use a foam roller to apply your primer coat onto the wooden areas of your panelling. To get into the nooks and crannies, use a smaller brush for application. Leave your primer to dry.

Top tip: if you’re painting MDF that hasn't been painted before, add a mist coat (a blend of 70% water + 30% paint) before applying your choice of Lick paint colour.

Step 6: Paint

Your panelling is all primed and ready for paint! Opt for a durable and easy clean Matt finish for wood panelling. Cut in using a cutting-in paint brush (learn how to cut in when painting here) and use a roller to paint the rest of the wall and panels. Leave to dry for at least 4 hours before applying your second coat.

We recommend using Bedec water based vanish after painting with your Matt paint, to protect the panelling.

After you've painted and added vanish - sit back and admire your work. Yep, you did that.

(Just a note - if your panelling is in a narrow, high traffic area (such as a hallway) you can opt for an eggshell finish. We are currently out of stock on a few of our eggshells, so check back on the site next month if your colour isn't available)

Looking for inspiration?

We've got a few goodies for you direct from our decorating community.

Hallway panelling

How gorgeous would Green 03 panelling look in a hallway? Here is some inspiration from the living room of @Bigg_house_project

Panelling walls painted in Lick Green 03

Green 03 living room panelling by @Bigg_house_project

Panelling walls painted in Lick Green 03

Green 03 living room panelling by @Bigg_house_project

Living room panelling

Chic living room with Teal 01 painted wall panels and dark blue sofa

Teal 01 living room panelling by @abodewithme

Log fireplace in living room with Lick Blue 06 painted wall panels and flowers in a vase on the floor

Blue 06 living room panelling by @philzych & @jennaz1988

Home office panelling

Home office with Lick White 02 wall panelling

White 02 home office panelling by @makingmelrose

Home office with Lick White 02 wall panelling

White 02 home office panelling by @makingmelrose

Bedroom panelling

(Check out Krystal's £80 bedroom transformation with Greige 02 wall panelling)

DAOB close up of krystal's panelling headboard with symmetrical pillow arrangement on bed

Greige 02 bedroom panelling by @krystaltrips

Bedroom with walls and panelling painted in Lick Beige 01

Beige 01 bedroom panelling by @home_in_the_crescent

Bathroom panelling

Elegant bathtub in bathroom with walls painted in Lick White 04

White 04 bathroom panelling by @love_this_old_house

Opt for White 04 for the ultimate refreshing bathroom

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