Painting Wall Panelling 101: The Essential Guide

Unsure on how to paint your mdf wall panelling? We’ve put together an essential guide on how to make your mdf wall panelling look incredible. 

Painting mdf wall panelling isn’t as simple as applying a few licks of paint. You don’t want to fall foul to the common mistakes most people make when painting their wall panels. There’s a few tips and tricks you’ll want to know before you get started:

Check Those Walls

If you’ve read any of our articles, you’ll notice this comes up a lot. Checking your walls for holes and cracks, lumps and bumps, before you start your mdf wall panelling project is super important. Unsightly blemishes can be fixed really easily, but if you don’t – it could ruin your panelling project, boo! For lumps and bumps, simply sand them down. For small holes – we recommend a smidge of Polyfilla and a little bit of sanding once dry. We would advise having cracks and larger holes looked at by a professional. Just to be on the safe side. 

Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

Prep Those Walls

Painting your walls white before you adorn them with wall panels will ensure the colour you paint the wall panneling will match the wall once painted. It’s crucial to have a good base to start with. Especially if you are planning on using lighter tones when painting your wall panels. The white undercoat will provide you with a fresh base to work from. If the paint on your walls is peeling – you need to remove it before you get to work. The same applies for wallpaper. 

Photo by Lakeisha Bennett on Unsplash

Prime Your MDF  

This step should never be missed! Priming your mdf is imperative. Otherwise the mdf will absorb the paint and you’ll be left with large bubbles on the surface. Not a great look! Why does mdf need priming? It’s really porous so it will soak up the paint and leave you with a blotchy effect. Not only will this cost you more in paint, you might have to start again from scratch. We recommend applying 2-3 layers of primer to your mdf wall panels, make sure you allow drying time in between and before you begin painting them. 

Priming MDF via Bidvine

A Lick Of Paint

When applying paint to your wall panels you want to ensure the paint is evenly distributed, this can be achieved by using a small fluffy roller. By using a fluffy roller the paint application will be uniform, which is important because no one wants patchy wall panelling. You can use a paint brush to cut in and reach those nooks and crannies that the roller simply won’t reach. Or if you’re really into spending long hours simultaneously painting and daydreaming – you can just use a paintbrush to do the whole project. 

Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash

Drying time

Allow for drying time between each coat, this applies to both the primer and the paint. Check the instructions on both products as these will advise you of the amount of time you need to leave before adding the next layer. Drying time is important because paint can flake off or become tacky if you add another layer before it’s dry.

Spice It Up

One of our favourite trends right now is the combination of wall panelling and wallpaper. You can wallpaper above the wall panelling or apply wallpaper in the spaces between each panel. It enhances the wall panelling and allows you to introduce other shades and patterns to really give your interior walls some flair!

wallpaper with panelling
Image Courtesy of Graham & Brown

There you have it, everything you need to know about painting your wall panelling. If you’re stuck for wall panelling ideas – check out our gallery.

MDF Wall Panelling Kits Painting Wall Panelling Installation

The Top 5 Mistakes People Make With Wall Panelling

What are the most common mistakes people make when panelling their walls? We’re going to tell you. 

We like to think that panelling your walls is a pretty straightforward process, but we’re panelling pros and sometimes we forget that not everybody is privy to the technical stuff. So we took some time and thought long and hard about the 5 biggest mistakes that people make when installing MDF wall panels and put together a list so you don’t make the same blunders. 

First and foremost, you must measure the space you’re going to be panelling. Heck! measure it several times to be sure – at least twice for good measure. You will need to take the skirting board into consideration too, unless you plan on removing the skirting entirely. If you’re panelling your wall floor to ceiling then take the coving into account as well (the skirting between the wall and ceiling). You don’t want to be wasting time cutting your panels down if they’re too long when you could be doing something more interesting, like admiring your newly panelled walls because you took the coving into account and everything fitted like a dream. 

Coving / Cornice
Coving – take this into account when measuring up for your wall panels.

When buying panelling kits online, always check how many pieces you are ordering and cross-check it with your measurements. This way you can ensure you achieve the desired coverage. There’s nothing worse than ordering an online panel kit whilst under the impression that you’re going to transform your entire living room, and then unwrapping six pieces of panelling that will only cover a quarter of the wall. We’ve been there – it hurts.

Always check your walls beforehand – for things like bumps, cracks, nodules, hidden doors, trap doors – the usual stuff. Lumps and bumps are easy to sand down or fill if necessary and this will prevent you from having bumpy panelling. For small areas that need filling you can always caulk it after you’ve glued the panelling to the wall this will fill any gaps and prevent your panelling from protruding. Panelling hides a multitude of sins but it’s always better to deal with any that are jutting out of the wall.

A general example of a wall that needs a bit of TLC before panelling.

When panelling it’s important to figure out the middle point of the wall, you can then work outwards to create a uniform design. Don’t start at one end and work your way down as it will be off-centre and ruin the entire aesthetic – unless you detest symmetry then by all means work from whatever point you want. 

We’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times. Always prime your MDF wall panels. MDF is very porous, which means if you paint it without primer it will essentially just absorb the paint – you’ll end up spending way more on paint than you need to and the colour won’t pop as much as it should. Try to apply two to three coats of primer before you start painting. 

If you paint without primer you’ll notice large bubbles appearing on the surface and if we’re completely honest it’ll just look a bit rubbish. 

MDF being primed before painting.

Keep these tips in mind when you start your wall panelling project and you won’t go wrong. We hope. 

Additional Information

We found a really helpful article by Jennifer Noonan and Bob Vila on how to paint MDF properly –

Not sure which primer to choose? Check out this blog from A Lick Of Paint –