Wall Panelling On A Budget – A How To Guide

Looking to transform your home on a budget? Cheap MDF wall panelling is all the rage and we’re here to tell you why.

Making your home feel like home shouldn’t cost the earth. Which is why we’ve put together a guide on how to panel your home on a budget. There are some things in life that we want to do on the cheap, DIY usually being one of them, life-changing surgery – not so much. Interior design and decor has always been seen as something you need to remortgage your house to afford, but nowadays everyone is looking for a cheaper alternative, without compromising on the quality. 

What do wall panels do?

Wall panels provide a decorative flourish to your home. You don’t need to have them in every room, but if you’re as obsessed with panelling as we are – then why not go the whole hog. Before now, cheap wall panelling was never really an option. Traditionally wall panels were made from wood, which made them expensive and difficult to install (unless you’re a professional of course). However, you can now buy mdf panelling for walls which has completely revolutionised the panelling world. Plus, it’s pretty cheap. 

How can I panel my walls on a budget?

The best way to panel the walls in your home on a budget is to invest in an mdf wall panel kit. This clever product makes the process quicker and easier. Plus it’s not harsh on the purse strings either. 

Firstly, you need to measure up the walls you plan on panelling, you don’t want to buy too little or too much as the kits typically come in strips so you need to know the size of the area you’re going to cover. Take into consideration the height and the distance you’ll be covering to ensure you buy the right quantity for your project. 

Where can I buy panelling kits?

We’re based in the UK so this advice is for the UK consumer. You can buy panelling kits online or at your local hardware/ DIY store. Make sure you purchase your kit from a reputable supplier and always read the reviews, if there aren’t any reviews – it might be best to avoid. There are many types of wall panelling styles out there, so ensure you know the style you’re looking for as the strips are cut to spec so you may have measured for a Jacobean wall panel style but end up buying Shaker Style – the length and width of the strips will be entirely different so be prepared. 

Want to buy your panelling kit online? Check out these suppliers:

Small rectangular panelling kit from The Victorian Emporium – https://www.thevictorianemporium.com/store/category/wall-panelling-kits
Wall Panel Kit from Homebase – https://www.homebase.co.uk/easipanel-tongue-and-groove-mdf-standard-wall-panel-915-x-516mm/12843287.html
MDF Wall Panelling Kit from Panel Master – https://www.panelmaster.co.uk/shakerkitwallpanelling.htm
A Painted MDF Wall Panelling kit from James Mayor https://jamesmayor.co.uk/wall-panelling/panelling-kits/

Why you should use MDF wall panelling kits if you’re on a budget

MDF wall panelling kits are the perfect solution if you want to really switch up the interior decor in your home. Maybe, you’re looking to sell your home and you want to give it a more elegant aesthetic – panelling works wonders. Perhaps, you’re bored of looking at the same drab walls and you really want to inject some texture into your living space – honestly, give panelling a go. It’s a straightforward process and the results are pretty astounding. If you’re looking to do DIY Wall Panelling, a kit is a more convenient solution, you don’t have to fret over cutting the strips down yourself – which believe us – is pretty monotonous. You will have the assurance that all of the strips are the correct size and it allows you to simply get on with the job – without all of the boring details. For some styles you will need to trim some of the strips – for instance Jacobean, you will need to half some of the strips provided so that the panels aren’t overlapping as this won’t work.

Why is it cheaper to use MDF wall panelling instead of wood panelling?

We’ve briefly highlighted that wooden panelling is significantly more expensive than MDF. In terms of cost MDF is cheaper, in terms of the time it takes to install MDF over wood panels – it’s quicker and when it comes to the process of purchasing MDF panels – it’s easier. So not only will you save money and time, you won’t have to spend a lot of effort going back and forth with a specialist wood panel designer going through every little detail. No disrespect to wood panel suppliers, we love your products and the finished design – but it’s simply not in our budget. Furthermore, with an MDF kit – you massively reduce wastage, it’s all pre-cut so you have exactly what you need for your wall design project – well you will if you measure your wall correctly beforehand. 

Does MDF Wall Panelling Look Good?

I mean the images speak for themselves but let us provide you with some assurances. MDF is a very popular product amongst joiners. Joiners use MDF to make storage cabinets, shelving, bunk beds, kitchen cabinets, bookshelves and so much more. Why do they use it? It’s dense, it holds its form, it’s very sturdy and will stand the test of time, once primed it looks absolutely stunning when painted. It’s a product that is trusted by Joiners and Carpenters all over the world. It is exactly the material you want if you’re going to be panelling your walls and you want it to be long lasting. So, yes – it does look good, more than good actually – when properly installed and finished it looks fantastic. But you have to prime the MDF before you paint it, 2-3 coats ideally. If you don’t prime the MDF it will form large bubbles on the surface when it’s painted and it will be a case of starting again from scratch – which isn’t very cost effective when you’re doing DIY on a budget. 

I’m A DIY Novice – Are Wall Panelling Kits Hard To Use?

Whether you’ve been doing DIY since you were 10, or frequently confuse butter knives with chisels. Panelling kits are designed for everyone, the process is easy to follow and provided the kit is bought from a reputable supplier – anyone can do it. Of course mistakes can be made, that’s why we’ve highlighted these mistakes in some of our blog posts – so you can avoid them. 

How long does it take to panel your walls with a panelling kit?

Well that entirely depends on the size of the surface you’re looking to cover. If you plan on panelling your entire house, I would be generous with the timeframe you choose to do it in. You’re not just sticking strips of MDF to a wall, you have to prime and paint them too. You also need to ensure your walls are in good condition before you start your panelling project, sand down any lumps and bumps and fill any small holes ( if you have big holes – you might want to get someone to give them the once over beforehand). If your walls aren’t prepared it could affect how the panelling fixes to the wall, bits could jut out or be off-centered which would throw the whole design off – and symmetry is key to successfully panelling a wall. So, if you’re panelling just one medium sized wall – we would allow 1-2 hours to fit the panelling – this is dependent on the complexity of the pattern and then you’ll need some extra time to prime and paint with drying time in between. 

Are  MDF Panelling Kits Easy to Find?

Yes, unless you live on a secluded island with no internet connection or contact with the outside world – which actually sounds quite blissful, we might join you. There are quite a few online suppliers in the UK with good reputations, and of course you can always pop down to your local DIY store and have a look through the ranges that they offer – unless you are on a secluded island with no DIY Stores in which case you may have to attempt your panelling project using tree bark, good luck. 

If it’s Cheap Can It Really Be That Good?

When we say cheap, we don’t mean poor quality. Don’t get us wrong you won’t be paying under £10 for your wall panelling project. This alternative is a more cost effective way of doing it, in place of spending £300-£400 per square metre for wood panels. Think more along the lines of £20-£50 per square metre for MDF wall panelling – and probably less if you go down the wall panel kit route as you won’t be losing money on wastage or on the tools to cut it. There’s nothing wrong with watching the purse strings as long as you don’t cut corners, important corners like checking your walls beforehand and priming your MDF. 

What other costs are involved?

Panelling kit aside, you will need to budget for sandpaper and polyfiller to correct your walls, adhesive to fix your kit to the wall, primer, paint, paint rollers and a tray. You will definitely need a tape measure and we recommend having a spirit level on hand. A pencil will always come in handy to mark out where you need to start your wall panels too (middle of the wall). If you’re a bit messy when it comes to painting, make sure you cover your floors with something suitable like a tarpaulin. Protect your skirting boards with tape – a low-tack masking tape, it needs to be low-tack to ensure it doesn’t strip the paint off of your skirting boards when you remove it. If you’re not sure on the type of adhesive and primer you need – we’ve listed some well known brands below:

Glue/ Adhesive For Wall Panelling

Gorilla Heavy Duty Grab Adhesive https://uk.gorillaglue.com/gorilla-heavy-duty-grab-adhesive/

No Nonsense Grab Adhesivehttps://www.screwfix.com/c/sealants-adhesives/grab-adhesives/cat850076?brand=no_nonsense

Primer For MDF

Leyland Trade Specialist White MDF Primerhttps://www.diy.com/departments/leyland-trade-specialist-white-mdf-primer-2-5l/1335260_BQ.prd?storeId=1002&ds_rl=1272379&ds_rl=1272409&ds_rl=1272379&gclid=Cj0KCQjw3f6HBhDHARIsAD_i3D_1jZ8d6AOoqjyLjKX2M1q-LMjETejNHDAbqvaMP7TICHNhjcpVhRsaAlnAEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

Wickes Trade MDF Primer Whitehttps://www.wickes.co.uk/Wickes-Trade-MDF-Primer-White-1L/p/121751

Dulux Trade Quick Dry MDF Primer Undercoathttps://www.duluxtradepaintexpert.co.uk/en/products/dulux-trade-quick-dry-mdf-primer-undercoat

Painting Your Wall Panels

If you need some serious paint inspo, we’ve included some images below from specialist paint suppliers who concoct the most stunning shades you can possibly imagine.

Panelled Hallway inspiration from the wonderful Farrow & Ball – https://www.farrow-ball.com/room-inspiration/hallway-inspiration
The striking Tuscan Red Bedroom from Little Greene Paint Company – https://www.littlegreene.com/tuscan-red-bedroom
Muted tones from Dulux  – https://www.dulux.ie/en/new-colour-inspiration-guide-2021/panelling-trend

That’s how you panel your walls on a budget, for more handy tips on panelling why not explore our other blogs.