The Top Three Rooms to Upgrade with Wood Paneling

Rob Sabo

Tired of looking at the plain walls of your dining room, bathroom, or study? Installing wood paneling in those living spaces is a great way to add a unique custom-crafted look to your home and increase the warmth and beauty of its most-used interior spaces.

Unlike the vintage paneling predominant in high end period homes, much of the paneling installed today is modular and does not require custom milling. Another key difference is the original solid hardwood paneling found in period homes, is more difficult and costly to procure. However, a variety of quality veneers and painted panels of lessor woods or even MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) are increasingly popular. This can be a benefit to your pocket book and the environment.

Another popular trend is the use of wainscoting, or paneling that does not run the full height of the wall. Wainscoting was typically found in more modest homes or bungalows. Now, it is a sensible choice for today's casual lifestyles.

Wood Paneling in the Dining Room

The main consideration when adding wood paneling to the dining room or kitchen nook is to choose a material and color that does not compete with existing cabinetry nor makes your room too dark. Sometimes, a simple chair rail can provide a good visual break to a wall and can provide a border for contrasting colors. For a Cape Cod-style house, beadboard paneling, a type of wainscoting with narrow repeating planks, is popular. Aside from aesthetics, paneling can provide some protection for your walls against splashes and chair dings.

Wood Paneling in the Study

Perhaps no other space in your home benefits more from the addition of wood paneling than the study or den. Creating an elegant study with wood paneling requires a great deal of thought, though. There are many types of panels with different architectural styles, as well as different hues. The type of wood paneling you select dictates if the room is light or dark, and its overall feel and comfort level. Natural finish wood paneling darkens with age, so choose carefully.

Wood Paneling in the Bathroom

You need a paneling type that resists the high humidity of bathrooms with showers or baths. Surprisingly enough, sometimes a solid wood paneling can be more problematic because of moisture induced warping. Be careful to look for wood paneling that has been treated to prevent warping. Likewise, if you use MDF paneling, be sure to choose a product that is designed for high moisture environments. MDF is made by gluing wood fibers with resin and then compressing the panel with heat and pressure. It is water-resistant but not totally waterproof.

Wood Paneling Materials

Hardwoods

  • Mahogany is the preferred choice for many builders due to its beautiful grains, reddish-brown hues, and durability.
  • Walnut also is renown for its texture, and its ability to hold stain well.
  • Both mahogany and walnut are extremely durable and resist shrinking, warping, and cracking over time.
  • Teak also is a preferred material choice when designing with wood panels, but it's also among the costliest.

Softwoods

  • Pine is easy to work with since it resists shrinking and warping and holds finishes well.
  • Fir is mostly used for timber framing, but it also makes a good veneer due to its uniformed texture.
  • Redwood is typically used for outside applications such as decking or siding, but it produces good paneling, too, due to its high resistance to decay.

Installing wood paneling brings style and sophistication to ordinary living spaces, and it can hide damaged or blemished walls with a touch of class.

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