How to transform your walls with panelling

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  • Give your walls a traditional-style makeover without having to replaster with our guide to wood panelling

    Fancy a period or country look in your home? Panelling is a great way to create a feature and to cover up uneven, patchy walls. First, make sure the plaster you’re covering isn’t blown (coming away from the walls) – if it is, you’ll need to replaster.

    Another no-no is damp walls – panelling fixed to these will eventually rot, so find the cause of the damp and treat it. Otherwise, wood panelling can be used in any room in your home (waterproof it properly if you plan to put it in the bathroom).

    For more decorating inspiration, craft ideas and cleaning hacks don’t miss our dedicated DIY guide.

    1. Get the tools for the jobs

    Here’s a list of what’ you’ll need:

    Tape measure and ruler
    Wooden battens
    Masonry and wood bits
    Cable and pipe detector
    Spirit level
    Rawlplugs and screws to fix the battens
    Metal clips or panel pins
    Pin hammer
    Fine pin punch
    Wood filler
    Craft knife
    Handsaw or jigsaw
    Grip-and-grab adhesive
    Wooden beading
    Skirting board

    2. Measure up and prepare your panels

    For a classic vertical tongue-and-groove look, decide how far up the wall you want your panelling to go. Instead of fixing the panels directly to the wall, screw them into wooden battens attached horizontally to the wall spaced about 60cm apart.

    Drill pilot holes in the battens before fixing them in case you split them. And don’t drill into the wall until you’ve checked that it’s safe – use an electric cable and pipe detector first.

    Use the spirit level to check that the battens (and later the panels) are straight as you fix them. Countersink the batten screws so they don’t make fixing the panels tricky.

    3. Choose how you want to fix your panels to the wall

    One method of fixing tongue and groove is metal clips. These fit into the groove and leave a small tongue, through which you bang a pin into one of the battens on the wall. Another method is ‘secret’ nailing, which involves driving panel pins through the tongue at an angle.

    To prevent the tongue from splitting, you need to pre-drill the holes for the pins. Bang the pins in using a pin hammer and then a fine pin punch for the final 5mm or so. Fill the pin holes afterwards with wood filler.

    To cut a piece of tongue and groove, first score it with a craft knife and metal ruler, then cut with a handsaw (or a jigsaw with a very fine blade).

    4. Disguise the ends

    When you’ve fixed all your panels, glue and nail a piece of wooden beading along the top to disguise the cut ends. Finish off by fixing a new skirting board to the bottom. Now you’re ready to paint your wood panelling!

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