Panelling a Wall – An Easy Guide

Ok, I know you’re all taking a huge deep breath and thinking, really Mel? Another blog post about panelling a wall? You are so 2019! Problem is, I’ve wanted to panel a wall for so long now but just never got around to it. I really didn’t know where to begin! I procrastinated for about a year and when we had some MDF left over from our wardrobe doors makeover, I knew it was now or never!

how to panel a wall

I put up a few stories on my Instagram feed this week as I was starting my panelling DIY project and I was actually quite surprised with the number of questions I got. I guess there’s still a lot of people out there, like me, who want to give it a go but really don’t know where to start. So I thought there may still be some people out there who hadn’t read a blog about panelling yet… 🙂

I am by no means an expert. I love to do a bit of DIY and painting but this was totally out of my comfort zone as it meant I would have to use power tools which I’ve always been slightly frightened of! Haha. But panelling a wall was actually a LOT easier than I thought it was going to be and so much cheaper than getting an expert in. So, here’s how I did it.

What type of panelling do you want?

There are so many different types of panelled walls, do your research first and find out what style you like best. There is so much inspiration on Instagram at the moment, I found it quite difficult to decide what style I wanted, but in the end, I opted for panelling a wall 2/3rds of the way up with a shelf. As you all probably know, I love to faff and the shelf would give me the opportunity to put pictures up!

panelling with shelf
I love this halfway panelling with shelf, painted in a dark colour. Image credit: @my_grey_place
Beautiful pink panelling in a girl’s bedroom. Image credit: @theonebespoke
A lot of my inspiration came from Laura’s bedroom! Image credit: @houseproject_36

What you will need

  • MdF wood panelling – you can either get this cut to size or you can buy MdF and cut it yourself. We had some MdF left over from when we had our wardrobes made so I bought a jigsaw and cut it to size myself. I had a few questions about this so I have put a Q&A at the end of this post.
  • No nails glue
  • Decorators Caulk
  • Saw or cutter (refer to my Q&A at the end)
  • Notebook and pencil
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Sandpaper
  • Tape measure
  • Spirit level
MdF and jigsaw ready to cut the panels
Wood panels, spirit level, caulk, no more nails, tape measure, notepad and pencil and paint!

Measuring the walls

Measuring the walls

Once you’ve decided what style of panelling and where to put it, it’s time to measure up the walls.

  • Depending on the style, measure the width of the wall and the height you want your panelling to go.
  • Sketch the dimensions onto a piece of paper including all light switches, plug sockets, windows and doors.
  • Work out how wide and tall you want your panelling and then make sure the panels are equal distances apart.
My very rough sketch!

My wall is 3300mm wide between the two doors and I decided to use 7 panels with each panel measuring 80mm. This gave me the sum, 7 x 80 = 560mm which would be the total width of all the panels. I then subtracted the total width of the panels (560) from the length of the wall (3300), 3300 – 560 = 2740 which gave me the remaining distance in between the panels. As there would be 6 gaps in between the 7 panels, I divided 2740/6 = 457mm (rounded to the nearest mm).

MdF panelling

Once you’ve got your measurements ready, you can start preparing the wood. I went for MdF that I already had which needed to be cut to size. I decided to go with a 1520mm height, plus another 80mm for the top panel which would mean the panelling would be about 2/3rds up the wall.

The one thing that I will definitely advise, get thick MdF! The MdF we already had is only about 6mm deep and so it doesn’t really stand out against the wall. I would advise to go for around 12mm.

Me sawing MdF in our garden

I bought a jigsaw to cut the wood to size (you can get places such as B&Q to cut the wood for you), including a small shelf and once I’d cut them to size, sanded them down to make sure they were smooth. Then I marked out in pencil on the wall, where the panelling was going to give me a good guide.

Sanding down the panels

The glue!

I used No More Nails for this and I cannot recommend it enough. Just don’t do what I did and get the squeezy tube version from Amazon as you will need a lot of glue and it’s quite hard to squeeze it out. I ended up having to do another dash to B&Q to get the canister version with the skeleton gun and my goodness! It was so much easier.

Apply the glue liberally to the back of the panelling, creating a zigzag pattern so it is spread on both sides. Once you are happy, fix the panel to the wall. The glue doesn’t set immediately so you have a little time to wiggle it into place until pushing it firmly onto the wall. Make sure you use a spirit level to guarantee the panel is straight, not forgetting the top of the panel too.

The vertical and horizontal panels going up! There was a lot of obstacles in the way but this isn’t a problem as I just cut the panels around them and then used decorators caulk to seal

Repeat this process with all the panels. I made sure that all the panels were straight at the top and inline by placing the spirit level on top of the panels each time.

The Shelf

I decided I wanted to add a small shelf above my panelling so I could add art to the remaining part of the wall, I do love a faff with different prints! I bought some slightly curved wood from B&Q – 18mm x 30mm in dimension and using the same glue, stuck it to the wall above the horizontal panel. I was worried the glue wouldn’t hold it but I underestimated the power of the glue! The shelf is well and truly stuck and will easily hold some lightweight prints.

Attaching a shelf
I was worried the shelf wouldn’t hold with glue but I had nothing to worry about!

Decorators caulk

It’s up to you whether you use caulk on your panelling, this just helps seal the wood with the walls. As our walls our quite wonky, I wanted to use caulk to fill in the gaps and give the join between the panelling and the walls a smooth finish. Caulk is really simple to use, just run it along the join and smooth it down to give it an even finish.

Applying caulk to seal the panelling with the wall

Paint

Once the panelling is secure and the glue and caulk is dry, you can start painting. Make sure you frog tape your skirting board and any door/window frames around the panels.

I started off by using a primer to paint the panelling and waited until it was dry. Then, using a small paintbrush, paint along the edges of the panelling and finish off by painting the wall in-between with a small roller. I applied 2 coats to the wall which was enough to make sure it was even and the wall and panelling were the same colour.

I’ve used Zoffany Faded Rose on the walls and panelling

The finishing touches

I decided to paint the rest of the room in Zoffany Faded Rose so finished painting the remaining walls. All that was left to do was to choose some art to balance on the shelf above the panelling.

Tips and Tricks

There are a few things that I learnt whilst doing the DIY panelling which I wish I’d known before I started…

  • Use Unibond No More Nails with a skeleton gun! I originally bought the no more nails glue in a tube and after doing 2 panels, my wrist was not happy with me!
  • If you really want the panelling to stand out against the wall, get thicker MdF. 12mm or more should probably do it.
  • Wipe the decorators caulk down with a wet finger to give it a smooth finish. Once it has dried, you can’t sand it down if it is uneven.
  • I bought a jigsaw as I want to use it for other upcycling projects I have planned which includes cutting curves. However, as you want a really straight cut for the panels, I think a circular saw would be better for panelling.
  • If you are putting a shelf in, make sure the wood is completely straight! I started gluing a piece of shelf and it wasn’t until I couldn’t fix it to the wall (thinking the wall was wonky) that I realised the wood was warped.

Now, what to panel next?

Mel x

how to panel a wall an easy guide

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