Dark-beaded wood paneling can make an otherwise beautiful room look dull and drab -- not the look you want for your bedroom, kid’s room or playroom. While wood paneling was a popular wall covering choice in the 1970s and '80s, as design trends changed, paneling became outdated. If your home was built during the wood-paneling era, you do not have to tear out the walls to create a light, breezy atmosphere; instead, you can whitewash the paneling. While stripping the paneling of its dark finish is labor intensive, the result after whitewashing will completely change the look of your space.
Put down drop cloths on the floors and over any furniture in the area. Open windows for proper ventilation. Apply painter’s tape to the edges of the paneling to protect the ceiling and adjacent walls.
Put on a long-sleeve shirt and long pants, and wear goggles, a mask and chemical-resistant gloves. Keep the kids out of the area and block off access.
Apply gel varnish stripper to the walls and grooves on the paneling to remove the existing varnish and stain. Allow the stripper to set according to manufacturer directions.
Remove the stripper with a putty knife on the flat panels and using a flathead screwdriver in the grooves. Wipe excess stripper off your tools with a rag.
Wash down the paneling with a rag soaked in mineral spirits to remove any stray stripper; allow the walls to dry.
Put a 60-grit sanding disk on the palm sander and sand the paneling using long, even strokes, working in the direction of the wood grain. To sand the grooves, wrap a rag around the head of a flathead screwdriver then wrap sandpaper around the rag; secure with painter’s tape and use this tool to sand the grooves.
Put a 120-grit disk on the palm sander and repeat the sanding process to create a smooth surface on the paneling.
Wipe down the walls with a tack cloth and go over the paneling with the brush attachment of the vacuum cleaner. Vacuum the drop cloth as well to remove sawdust, or gather it up and take it outside to shake it off.
Pour white latex paint into an empty paint can until the can is half full, and then add 1 cup of water to create the whitewash solution. Mix well with a paint stick and test on a portion of the paneling to ensure the color is the way you want it. If you want a more translucent finish, add more water; add more paint for a thicker whitewash.
Apply the whitewash to the walls with a paintbrush using long, even stokes. Wipe the walls with a rag to remove paint drips or to spread out thick areas of the whitewash. Allow the whitewash to dry.
Apply a non-yellowing varnish to your whitewashed paneling using a roller or paintbrush. Apply at least two coats, allowing the first coat to dry before applying the second coat.