I don’t know if any serious DIYers are reading my drivel or if anyone who might be searching for real DIY tips or advice ever happens upon my blog, but just in case, I’m going to start sharing some of the details of our projects and real lessons learned. The content will be less entertaining but hopefully more informative.
Dining Room Paneling
The dining and living rooms at The Money Pit were lined at some point with gorgeous, solid, tongue-and-groove wood paneling, probably an inch thick, clear with few or no knots and full of character—worm eaten and varied grain patterns.
Unfortunately the wood was stained in a dark mahogany color and trimmed with matching dark crown and baseboard. It felt like a giant cave, and the beautiful crown and trim were completely lost against the equally dark wood.
I would love to know when the paneling was installed. I am guessing it is not original because the trim is smaller and strays from the unembellished, Craftsman style found elsewhere in the house. My best guess is that it was done in the 60s or 70s when dark paneling was all the rage, but the house was built in ’23 and I don’t know if there were earlier eras when this type of paneling might have been installed. If anyone reading knows anything about this, please shed some light on the subject!!
At any rate, the wood was too beautiful to paint, and Rush didn’t think he would like a pickled look, so I decided to sand it.
I started with a small palm sander. I was an idiot. I was so scared to damage the beautiful wood that I used too small a tool and too light a grit. Now I know better. Tim “The Toolman” Taylor on Home Improvement got it wrong most of the time, but sometimes, he’s right: size DOES matter and more power can be better. [Insert ape-like grunts of approval here.]
To Remove Stain
Protect yourself: Wear work gloves, earplugs, safety glasses, and a respirator mask—one of the serious ones that looks like a gas mask. I tried a small dust mask with a little respirator disk in it and I had sanding dust in my nose and in my throat after just an hour or two. ONLY a serious respirator mask will do for this kind of work. Keep in mind this advice is coming from someone who DETESTS wearing a mask of ANY kind.
No matter the weather or temperature, put a box fan in the window, blowing outside to help keep the air as clear as possible. This will also minimize dust getting into the rest of your home. Hang plastic secured with painter’s tape around internal doorways to keep dust in. Dust will still get out of the room, but much less than without an exhaust fan and plastic.
Use a belt sander with 80 grit paper (NOT a palm sander with 100 grit like I did for FAR too many hours) to do the bulk of the work. The belt sander may be heavier, but it actually requires MUCH less muscle than the palm sander because it does all the work for you. You just run it up and down the wall slowly—no pushing necessary.
To get into the corners and up against the trim, tape off the trim with painter’s tape and use a palm sander with a pointed tip (I used a Black & Decker 4-in-1 Smart Select Power Sander). I tried a small triangle edger, but that was USELESS!!!! For a job like this, you need the power of a decent sander, even for the finish work!
I am sure you already know to sand with the grain, but I found that in some spots you have to ignore that advice to completely remove the old stain. Just be sure to do so sparingly and always go back over the area with the grain to take off unwanted sanding marks.
Gray areas indicate that the stain is not quite gone, so keep going over the paneling until you get down to clear, blonde wood.
Once the old stain is gone, go over the entire room again with 120 grit paper to prepare the wood for new finish. Once again, use a belt sander for the majority of the room and a palm sander with a pointed tip for tight areas and against the trim.
Clean by vacuuming walls with a dusting attachment on a shop vac. Then wipe the wood down with a damp cloth. Let dry completely before applying finish.
This is as far as I’ve gotten, so I’ll repost if I learn anything while applying the finish. I’m planning to use Polycrylic. I want a clear, matte finish that will leave the wood as natural-looking as possible while providing as much permanent protection as possible.
Date: March 10, 2011