Paneling 8 - Tongue and Groove

Wood paneling.

Paneling with solid wood Tongue-and-Groove boards is more tedious to install than with hardboard panels, but their weight and stiffness mean they require less support. They also offer a real wood appearance. Special boards for paneling can be used, or tongue-and-groove hardwood flooring can be used.

Most Common Mistakes

Common mistakes include: neglecting to fur out an existing wall if needed prior to installing the paneling; adding insulation or a vapor barrier over an uninsulated outside or basement wall; cutting panels face up with a saber or circular saw, thereby splintering the veneer panel; neglecting to check that each piece is plumb on the wall before applying the next; transferring measurements to the panel incorrectly or to the wrong side; and not using a finishing hammer and saw blades when working with paneling.

When paneling vertically, because the boards are narrow pieces, you may need to put up horizontal furring strips (using adhesive or nails) so that the boards have something to hold onto.

Attach the furring strips horizontally across the studs every 24" to create a solid backing. You can also install plywood over the existing walls. If you are paneling over existing wall material, you need to locate the studs and mark them on the floor and ceiling for nailing reference.

If you choose to install this type of paneling on the diagonal or horizontal, furring is not necessary if the walls are in good shape. The boards will cross the studs at an angle and be adequately supported. Always start the boards in a corner with the groove edge facing the direction in which you are paneling. The boards can be glued or nailed to the walls, or both. I recommend a paneling adhesive and toothed trowel, or a paneling adhesive applied from a caulking gun. Follow the adhesive instructions for application. If using the cartridge method for adhesive application, an air compressor with a caulking gun attachment will save you a great deal of time and effort.

Apply the boards in a stair-step pattern and be sure they are plumb. Use a small piece of paneling board as a pounding board to force two adjacent pieces together. The last piece, next to the intersecting wall, should be cut to size and its tongue slipped into the groove of the adjacent board. It should snap right into place. You may need to make a scribe cut, although corner trim often eliminates the need for scribing.

Fitting Boards Around Openings

If you are notching, cut only to within 1/4 inch of your intersection of two cut First, remove all existing trim and apply full-size boards as close to door and window jambs as possible. Measure the distance from the edge of the last board to the edge of the opening. You will need to notch some boards and cut others to a specific length, above doors and windows and below windows. Then, very carefully, transfer these dimensions to your board, and, just as carefully, cut the boards out.

If you are notching, cut only to within 1/4 inch of your intersection of two cuts with the circular saw, and finish the cut with a handsaw if the board must butt up against existing trim since the trim will not cover the cut. Otherwise, use a circular saw with the board face down so the circular blade doesn't cause the board to splinter. This step takes patience and care because you are working with such narrow pieces. Each board must be measured and trimmed separately.