Wood Paneling: a Simple and Inexpensive Way to Upgrade Any Room

About: A tinker since the cradle, I love looking at things and trying to figure out how they work and the best way to mod them
The Inspiration.

When I got married, we decided to live in my apartment. The location was great, but it did need a little work.
And what needed the most work was our single bathroom.
As a single guy, I knew that the bathroom was bad (but I could still live with it).
Needles to say my wife had a very different opinion on what "tolerable" was.
So, with a tiny budget, I started to do the things I knew how:
  • Changed the horrible yellow floating sink for a new sink with a cabinet .
  • Changed the 1960's yellow toilet for a single piece one from Costco
  • Put in a vinyl floor (the kind that comes in single pieces where you peel of the paper on the back that protects the glue).
But then I hit a snag...the walls.
The plaster had seen better days 10 years before I moved in. It looked more like the face of the moon that a wall. Add to that about 15 coats of paint that had peeled partially and irregularly of the walls...well it actually looked more like a a slab of Swiss cheese gone bad.

I tried to fix it, only to make maters worse. Me and plaster will never be friends. So I called a guy and he gave me an estimate of how much it would cost.
Not nice, not nice at all. 
A few days later, I was cleaning out some old magazines when I saw a pic of a real nice wood paneled room when inspiration hit.

Wood Panels!!

They would look great, and would be cheaper that re plastering the walls.

A little side note.

I did this almost six years ago, and as you can see, the panels still look as good as the day I put them up. One day I will have to re varnish but hopefully that's still a few years in the future (lot of other projects to spend my time on)

In the end, it cost about $300 to panel the bathroom, which was a lot less that having the walls re plastered and then having to paint them.

Step 1: Turning an Idea Into a Doable Plan

So, now that I knew what I wanted, the next step was finding a way to do it easily and without any special tools or a lot of non existent cash.

I went to my neighborhood home improvement store and quickly found an inexpensive 3 ply plywood sheet that would fit the bill. The "nice" side was some really nice reddish wood.
The only problem was that there was no way I could use a complete sheet per wall, due to size mismatch.
I didn't like the idea of an asymmetrical panel on the wall, so after thinking about it a bit, I decided to cut the sheet down into wood tiles. 
It proved to be a good idea, since it does look grand.
At the time, I still did not own a table saw, so I got the guy at the home improvement store to cut the wood down to size.  

Step 2: What You Need

  • Enough wood tiles to cover the wall or walls you want to panel (my tiles are 10" by 10", but you can make them any size you want)
  • Glue. I used Liquid Nails but any glue should do the trick
  • Waterproof stain (I used Thompson's WaterSeal's "waterproofer plus tinted wood protector")
  • Varnish (I used Helmsman urethane transparent non glossy varnish)  
  • Brushes
  • Wood putty
  • Sandpaper (200 grit)
  • Handsaw
  • Caulking Gun (if you use liquid nails or any other glue that comes in the big cardboard tubes)

Step 3: Prepare You Tiles

Once you have all your tiles cut, lightly sand the cut edges and the top. Depending on the amount of tiles you have, this may take some time and elbow grease.

Using a brush, apply the waterproofer on each tile front and sides.
Once they dry out, apply to the back of the tiles (to protect then as bet we can)

Step 4: Start Glueing

Start from the bottom of a corner or and edge.
It's important to start at the bottom, since the glue does take a little time to set and your tile will need the floor to support it.

Get a tile and put 4 nickel size drops of glue about and inch from the edge on each corner. Since the glue I used is real strong, that's all it needs. If you use another type of glue, use what the packaging suggests.

Place the tile on the wall, and press it to the wall.

Now, I glued the tiles alternating the wood grain in each tile to give it a nice effect. Your could do the same, or find a patter you like.
Repeat until you finish the wall.

Step 5: The Edges

Now, you may find that once you get to the edges of the wall (near the roof and the wall edge) your precut tile may not fit.

Use you handsaw (or table saw) to cut the tiles down to size.
After you glue them in place and the glue has dried, fill in any gap with wood putty.

Once the putty had dried out, sand and waterproof it the same way you did the tiles.

Step 6: Finishing Up

I waited until the next weekend to start the last phase, just to make sure that the glue hand dried out.
Make sure the room is well ventilated before you use a brush and apply the varnish to the newly paneled wall.

I applied three coats of varnish.

Once the varnish has dried out, it's time to enjoy the room!



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