Remodeling 101: Wood Paneling

Like a lover who returns after getting their act together, wood paneling is back and better than ever. Greener, more stylish and nothing like you remembered, this once maligned material looks fantastic. You know you couldn’t stay mad at it forever. It’s time to let wood paneling back into your life.

Once a popular choice for interior walls, wood paneling was banished long ago along with avocado bath tubs and orange shag carpet. During its years wandering the home decor wilderness, wood paneling reinvented itself as something both retro and modern. While it retained its rustic character, it cast off the tackiness and toxins to achieve a total comeback.

Wooden walls can add spiritual simplicity to that space behind the bed, the one we see every night right before we go to sleep, warm the living room or separate two different areas in the dining room.

While the thin 4×8-foot fiberboard panels with the faux wood surface haven’t regained their full popularity, designers have flocked to reclaimed wood and various veneer panelings. A variety of producers have emerged offering new and unique wood paneling products, and some designers have even begun to incorporate it into iPhone and iPad skins.

Originally popular throughout 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s for its inexpensive price and simple installation, wood paneling rapidly became so popular it was found just about everywhere. Cheap composite imitations become standard and eventually everyone came to see them as common and trashy. Homeowners moved on to drywall, not just because it’s cheap and fire retardent, but also because it is easily painted.

Much has changed since wood paneling’s heyday in the 1960s. You’re more likely to see it hanging horizontally than vertically, and there’s greater emphasis on using wood that’s weathered, scratched or marred in some way. Whether as an accent wall or simply to add a splash of texture and color, wood paneling has returned to take its rightful place in the home.


Fiberboard Panels: Like the cheap ones people walled their basements and attics with, these are an engineered wood substrate with the wood design printed or glued onto it. Prices start at around $20 for a 4x8-foot sheet. This product is easier to install and doesn't require the numerous stages and difficulties of installing drywall. Style run the gamut from trashy to fairly realistic.

Veneer Wood Panels: These are made with a thin layer of wood adhered to the surface of plywood or particle board. A fraction of the cost of real wood boards, but more than fiberboard panels, they usually have the appearance of real wood boards or else a repeating pattern.

Iconic Panels: Wood and reclaimed wood veneer iconic panels display intricate patterns that are truly eye catching.

Reclaimed Solid Wood Panels: These take wood from demolished buildings, old gymnasiums, ripped up flooring, and more. The used panels have a lot more character than new panels.

Wood paneling may be back, but it's still in its resurgent infancy, and typically best used in moderation. Unless you want your home to look like a hunting cabin, it's suggested that you don't use it simultaneously for the floors, ceilings and walls in the same room.

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