Wallpaper adhesives are difficult to remove.

Will Wallpaper Damage Wood Paneling?

by Kristine Tucker

Wallpaper installation doesn't damage wood paneling, but the glues and adhesives used to attach wallpaper to paneling might harm the wooden surface when it comes time to remove it. Wallpaper glue has chemical components designed to create a durable and long-lasting bond, so removal is difficult and labor-intensive. The scraping process to remove unwanted wallpaper might damage finishes, such as sealants or stains, or harm the actual wood.

Adhesive Strippers

Specifically formulated adhesive strippers break down the enzymes in wallpaper glue, making it easier to remove. Chemicals in these products, however, often have properties that strip protective topcoats on wood paneling. Avoid strippers unless you plan to sand, stain and refinish or paint the wood paneling once you remove the wallpaper. Test a small, hidden area with the wallpaper glue stripper to see how it affects your paneled subwall, or use a natural, less potent dissolver, such as liquid dish detergent or a water-vinegar mix.

Steam or Warm Water

Steam and warm water are beneficial methods for removing unwanted wallpaper but often require the steam or water to penetrate the wallpaper and underlying adhesives. Quick low-heat bursts of steam and brief warm water applications don't usually damage sealed, finished or protected wood paneling. But old paneling, raw wood paneling and paneling that has lost its protective coating aren't designed to withstand exposure to moisture. Results might include water stains, water rings, marbled discoloration or brown-colored heat marks.

Scraping the Surface

One of most hazardous problems with removing wallpaper on wood paneling is the scraping procedure. After removing the top paper surface, underlying adhesives typically require scraping with metal tools and a fair amount of elbow grease. Razor-blade-type edges can ding, score, scratch and pit wood paneling. You can repair some damage with wood-filling compounds, but you'll likely need to sand, stain and reseal the area. It's difficult to match existing stains and topcoats with new ones, so the repair might appear obvious unless you refinish the entire wall.

Temporary Wallpaper

Opt for temporary wallpaper to cover wood paneling to ensure it doesn't damage the surface of the wood. Temporary wallpaper is available in a wide variety of colors and patterns, including paintable options. The adhesives aren't permanent or long-lasting, so the wallpaper peels off easily without chemical dissolvers, heat, water or scraping. Temporary wallpaper is easy to install and only requires cutting and pressing the pretreated material against your wall -- no messy glues. Select a heavy-duty temporary wallpaper or one with a busy pattern to hide visible seams between panels.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

Photo Credits

  • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images