Prevention is key to stop paneling from warping. Once warping begins, it can difficult to stop or fix.
What is Warping?
Warp is defined as the “deviation of the geometry of a panel from an initial state of flatness.” When warping occurs in paneling it appears to bubble or bow outward. Depending on the finish of the paneling, other damages can occur when a piece becomes warped. If it is solid wood paneling, splintering can occur. If the paneling has a laminate finish, the finish can separate and start to peal off.
Store and Handle Paneling Properly
If paneling is stored or handled improperly the warping process could begin before the paneling is even installed. Do not store paneling outside or in locations where they may be exposed to water or high humidity. Keep paneling off the floor. Avoid storage conditions where extreme temperature and humidity can occur.
Install Paneling Properly
Try not to bend or damage paneling during the installation process. This can weaken the integrity of the paneling and increase the risk for warping down the road. Make sure the area you are installing the paneling to is level. Paneling must be kept flat to prevent warping. If the area is curved, the paneling will be as well after installation. The surface you are applying the paneling to should be clean and dry. Anything that is on the surface of the installation area will be trapped underneath the paneling after installation. If any form of moisture is trapped under the paneling, this could increase the risk of warping. Properly anchoring the paneling to the wall is key in a successful installation and will help decrease the risk of warping.
Take Proper Care of Paneling
As stated above, when storing paneling wet conditions and high humidity will cause warping. Do not install paneling where these conditions may occur. If something gets on paneling after installation make sure it is properly cleaned and dried. Leaving any kind of liquid on paneling will increase the risk for warping.
If a Section of Paneling Becomes Warped
Some suggest to simply paint over warped paneling to hide the imperfections. While in some cases this will camouflage the imperfection, it is not recommended. The paint can make the damage worse. It is also hard for paint to adhere to most types of paneling, depending on if it has a laminate finish or not. Should a section of the paneling become warped it is recommended that the entire piece be removed and a new piece of paneling be installed. The bowing from the warped section can misalign the other pieces of paneling, causing them to shift and become distorted.
Another cover-up method for paneling is skim coating. This is the process of applying joint compound over the paneling. After the process is complete the surface will be smooth and easy to paint. For minor warping this method will work. If the paneling is to warped, however, the results will not be acceptable.