Paint that old Paneling!

I can't tell you how many times I've heard painting contractors say something like, "You don't want to paint over that beautiful wood trim, do you?"...or, "it would be a shame to cover up all that wood".  Well, in some cases that might be true for historical value or specific authenticity and integrity of design. On the other hand, there is the occasional room or overall interior that screams out, "Please add some life, quick", especially if an interior remodel is out of the question prior to going on the market.  Ahhh...the magic of paint!  This is one battle I rarely lose, and nothing drives the point home with the painter (and more importantly, the seller) like a good "before and after" example.  Fortunately, I have an excellent painter who I collaborate with almost exclusively and consider to be part of my "team".   Next time you have a listing that needs some TLC prior to coming on the market, don't forget to consider the magic of Paint.  It's the least expensive project and the biggest bang for the buck a seller can undertake to make a positive impact on the interior of their home.  Here's an example of a listing we had back in December that was in dire need of a tune-up in the lower level Family Room.  The cherry on the cake was when we lifted up the orange shag and found softwood floors begging to be exposed!  Needless to say, we sold the house in a week.

Before...painted paneling


Here's another example of a "bonus" room in another listing that came to life with a similar application.  The staging didn't hurt either  ;-)


painted paneling

This time, carpet was added to soften and warm up the space.


  David Ames 

  Top Producer

  (415) 271-2071

Comment balloon 22 commentsDavid Ames • August 19 2010 08:15PM


Hi David,

Amazing difference between the two photos. From drab and back dated to fresh and poppin' with high end flooring!


Posted by Judi Boad (SOLUTIONS REAL ESTATE) almost 8 years ago

It looks much more appealing - the new furniture certainly helps in both situations too.

Posted by Mel Ahrens, MBA, Kelly Right Real Estate, Customized Choices for your Real Estate Needs (Kelly Right Real Estate) almost 8 years ago

WOW David! What a great before and after! Way to Go!!!

Posted by Paige Walker, Real Estate Guru - Alexandria Pineville LA (Paige Walker) almost 8 years ago

Hi David ~ Photos tell the story! Great post.  While I think some paneling deserves to be left unpainted I'm not sure that "knotty pine" will be in again anytime soon. It's beautiful wood though and looks like a million bucks when painted - as your photos show.

Even the fake stuff improves with paint. I've never forgotten a super cool paint treatment we saw in a listing. They took crappy, fake paneling and painted alternating sections with the same color but one in matte finish, one in gloss. It was fabulous. 


Posted by Elizabeth Bolton, Cambridge MA Realtor (RE/MAX Destiny Real Estate Cambridge, MA) almost 8 years ago

What a transformation!

Crisp and fresh, and all it took was a coat (or two) of paint.

Posted by Palm Springs Realtor Stewart Penn, Bennion Deville Homes - Broker Associate (Bennion Deville Homes) almost 8 years ago

@ Judy, Mel & Gretchen, and Paige...thanks for the response.  Thank goodness most sellers these days "get it"...but, every once in a while it takes a little convincing to understand that spending money on the right projects will not only get their place sold, but often at a significantly higher return had they not done the work (even in THIS market)!


@ Elizabeth: Funny you should mention that.  I saw a similar application last year on a wall (without paneling) and I though it looked pretty amazing.  Even better idea, I'll bet, for the crappy paneling we've all encountered at some point.  I almost want to have a listing with paneling again just so I can try it!!


@ Stewart: (or 3, not to mention the primer and caulking!)  ;-)

Posted by David Ames, San Francisco (Zephyr Real Estate, San Francisco) almost 8 years ago

GREAT update for some really ugly paneling...and the staging really is first class!!

Posted by Kathy Burke, S.F. East Bay Home Staging (Sensational Home Staging~~Danville, CA) almost 8 years ago

Appreciate that Kathy...thanks!

Posted by David Ames, San Francisco (Zephyr Real Estate, San Francisco) almost 8 years ago

Well I have to admit, I am one that does not want to paint over old paneling.  These pictures look very nice so I hope it looks this nice in person.  But can you take your nail and scrape it off?

However, I am one to tear out the paneling and put up new drywall - or fix it.  Different techniques, but I think it is almost as easy - depending on whether or not you are going to texture - that can get difficult over large areas requireing a hopper (which I can't use).  I have a great drywall guy who works for very good rates.

Posted by Alysha Munoz, Alysha (RE/MAX Gold Napa) almost 8 years ago

Fortunately I have an amazing painter who knows how to prep surfaces properly.  In these two examples, the paneling added definition and value to the space...particularly in the 'first' example above.  With the exposed wood floors, we were able to create a sort of "New England/Cape cod/beach" look which was befitting the exterior and surrounding landscape of the property.  Then again, it's also good to have a great drywall guy with good skills.  There's an art to doing it right!

Posted by David Ames, San Francisco (Zephyr Real Estate, San Francisco) almost 8 years ago

Wow!  I recognize that knotty pine paneling!  My dad put that on the walls of our "breezeway" (a connector room between the house and garage in Michigan usually unheated).  Somehow in Michigan knotty pine works.

I love the before and after pictures.

Posted by Marge Draper, REALTOR, Keller Williams Realty, Menlo Park CA (Keller Williams Realty Palo Alto) almost 8 years ago

Thanks Marge.  The first set of photos was a property on Crystal Springs Rd in San Mateo that I co-listed with a colleague/friend of mine at Alain Pinel. I usually don't venture down the Peninsula, but this was a case where the seller's granddaughter was a previous client I had worked with in the City, and she insisted that I work some magic for her.  How could I say no?!  ;-)

Posted by David Ames, San Francisco (Zephyr Real Estate, San Francisco) almost 8 years ago

David, How I love your post. On first seeing the heading I thought I better write him quickly before he does something unthinkable "paint over paneling"? But your before and after shots are incredable I too can't wait until I have an opportunity to make this suggestion. We are very often asked what to do knowing the sellers are not really interested in spending to much $$$ you have proven a little paint can do wonders.

Posted by Agnes Tabor, REALTOR - Premiere Plus Realty (Premiere Plus Realty Co) almost 8 years ago

Those are great before and after photos.  You have! definately soldl me

Posted by Evelyn Johnston, The People You Know, Like and Trust! (Friends & Neighbors Real Estate) almost 8 years ago

Thanks again for all the feedback, everyone.  I'm sure I can dig up a few more "out of the ordinary" examples to share again soon.   The whole purpose, really, is to share some ideas and show that some projects (although they may appear daunting at first) can be easily resolved.  And affordably, too! 

Posted by David Ames, San Francisco (Zephyr Real Estate, San Francisco) almost 8 years ago

Great post David and the pictures really send the point home. I especially like this when the paneling is not the $8.99 a sheet stuff from 30 years ago but actual WOOD.

Posted by Charles Edwards Bentonville, AR REALTOR, Bentonville Real Estate Agent and Broker (Coldwell Banker Harris McHaney & Faucette 479-253-3796 ) almost 8 years ago

Thanks Charles.  I agree.  Although, Liz Bolton (above) witnessed a "fake" paneling makeover that appeared to have a positive impact as well.  Good to know.

Posted by David Ames, San Francisco (Zephyr Real Estate, San Francisco) almost 8 years ago

What a huge difference with the before and after pictures! The rooms look so much better! The staging is awesome!

Posted by Debbie Stevens Top Producer Coaching for RE/MAX (Unlimited Success) almost 8 years ago

Thank you Debbie, and thanks for popping in for a look.

Posted by David Ames, San Francisco (Zephyr Real Estate, San Francisco) almost 8 years ago

Awesome post!! I agree!! Paint, paint, paint!!  In terms of selling, you have to appeal to the mass market and this will definitely do it!! Your "after" pictures belong in Coastal Living! Fabulous!

Posted by Margaret R. Memoli, Broker, Realtor, GRI - Fairfield & New Haven Counties (Memoli & Memoli Real Estate) over 7 years ago

Thanks Margaret...I really appreciate it.  (and Kudos to you for finding this post buried back into September!)

Posted by David Ames, San Francisco (Zephyr Real Estate, San Francisco) over 7 years ago

David, you have made your point perfectly!  The photos say it all!

Posted by Sharon Parisi, Dallas Homes (United Real Estate Dallas ) over 4 years ago

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