An Introduction to Wood Paneling

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If you are working on major home renovations, you will probably find yourself trying to decide what sort of look you want for at least one room in your home at some point. Do you want to drywall? Paint? Wallpaper? What color or pattern? It is a big question with an incredibly large number of different possible answers, but one of the answers that you might not have considered is that of wood wall paneling.

You might think that wood paneling for walls is an outdated design choice, that stinks of the 60s or 70s home design and veneered plastic panels, but it does not have to be. Modern wood wall panels are much better looking and more premium than those 70s wall panels that you might remember. Let us take a look at the state of wood paneling on walls in 2020.

Old and New Wood Paneling

Wood paneling walls have a long history, stretching back far, far beyond the fake (and frequently free from real wood) veneer panels you might remember from 50 years ago. Heavy carved wooden wall paneling made from solid woods such as mahogany, walnut, or oak used to be a sign of status and class in larger homes, offering insulation, sound absorption, and a refined, classy look for those who could afford the high price.

That authentic antique paneling wall material is still available if you know where to get it (dropping an email to your local auction house might be a good start!). Sometimes, you will see individual pieces of paneling, or even entire panel walls going up for auction, but the price is often very high. If you see this at a reasonable price on an auction website, email to see if you can come and see the panels in person! Fake antique products are a major risk, and you will want the real thing for your home.

Antique wood paneling products aren’t the only option, though. There are a number of manufacturers who make authentic solid wood paneling now, much more in the style of that classic, heavy-duty work than the 70s aesthetic. Don’t feel like your only options are cheap 70s panels or expensive antique products – feel free to explore your options with modern manufacturers, and to drop an email to a manufacturer at any time to see if they are free to talk to you about the types of the panel you will need for whichever room you are thinking about decorating in this way.

Modern Wood Paneling

You will probably have difficulty finding entirely solid wood panel products in the modern world. The quantities of mahogany required to panel a room are hard to get your hands on, and come with a massive price tag – premium wood materials aren’t free! To balance price and quality sensibly, you are probably going to be looking for a veneer. Not the sort of veneer that is actually made of printed plastic, free from wood, that you might be familiar with, but a premium veneer that comes with a thin layer of genuine hardwood on the front, and a modern, advanced mounting system built into the back.

Sizing your Panels

If you just buy a pile of standard 4 x 8 ft panels and set them up around your home, they will probably look quite oppressive, even if that is the authentic, historically expected way to set up your panels. But you don’t need to be constrained by expectations – feel free to try something new!

If you buy wood panels in smaller sizes, they could look a little less intimidating. The biggest difference you can introduce, though, is to hang the panels horizontally, which will lead your room to feel more free and spacious.

The Cost of Wood Paneling

Wood paneling isn’t free, unfortunately. The cost of panels can be high, and it is where you will see the biggest difference between wood-free fake paneling, wooden veneer panels, and glue-free solid wood panels.

Even simple MDF paneling isn’t free, but it is the next best thing. 32 square foot sheets of MDF could cost you as little as $11 each, which is as close to free as you can get, and the upper end of MDF is only around $40 for the same sheet. Wood veneer is more expensive, with a high-end ebony veneer panel coming in at around $400 for a 32 square foot sheet. If you want to go for pure, classic wood that is free from glue and any additions that aren’t wood, you will be looking at thousands of dollars for the same product.

A veneer sheet with self-adhesive strips mounted on the back might be the best option for balancing look and price. This is a lightweight option, free from the unpleasant gloss of fake paneling and free from the staggering price and heavyweight of authentic antique hardwood panel pieces.

Reclaimed Wood: the Responsible Alternative

Reclaimed wood veneers are the best option available at the moment, combining that genuine wood aesthetic with a lower cost and a great environmentally responsible sourcing process. Reclaimed wood is made from old lumber, repurposing older wood that has already been used for something else, and leaving living hardwood trees free from harm.

Mounting Wood Paneling

Old-fashioned wood paneling was attached to the walls behind it with finishing nails and glue. That is a great option if you have got a sturdy, even wall, but if your wall is a little uneven or bumpy, then those imperfections will be magnified in the paneling.

Fortunately, the world of modern innovations can free you from any fear of uneven walls. Metal rails can be attached to the wall, and matching metal suspension fasteners can be attached to the back of your panel. You can then slide each panel into place on the wall, and they will stand out from the walls just far enough.


Wood paneling is a more flexible option than you might think, and there are many great solutions available in the modern world. No matter what sort of wood paneled style you want for your walls, you should be able to achieve it with a little bit of research into wood paneling. You can even get great results on a low budget, thanks to recent technological advances in the world of veneer!

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