panels with openings whenever possible. If finished
panels are to have a grain, stand the panels around the
walls and shift them until you have the most pleasing
effect in color and grain patterns. To avoid mix-ups,
number the panels in sequence after their position has
When cutting plywood panels with a portable saw,
mark the layout on the back side. Support the panel
carefully and check for clearance below. Cut with the
saw blade upward against the panel face. This
minimizes splintering. This procedure is even more
important when working with prefinished panels.
Plywood can be attached directly to the wall studs
with nails or special adhesives. Use 3/8-inch plywood
for this type of installation. When studs are poorly
aligned or when the installation is made over an existing
surface in poor condition, it is usually advisable to use
furring. Nail 1- by 3- or 1- by 4-inch furring strips
horizontally across the studs. Start at the floor line and
continue up the wall. Spacing depends on the panel
thickness. Thin panels need more support. Install
vertical strips every 4 feet to support panel edges. Level
uneven areas by shimmying behind the furring strips.
Prefinished plywood panels can be installed with special
adhesive. The adhesive is applied and the panels are
simply pressed into place; no sustained pressure is
Begin installing panels at a corner. Scribe and trim
the edges of the first panel so it is plumb. Fasten it in
place before fitting the next panel. Allow approximately
1/4-inch clearance at the top and bottom. After all panels
are in place, use molding to cover the space along the
ceiling. Use baseboards to conceal the space at the floor
line. If the molding strips, baseboards, and strips used
to conceal panel joints are not prefinished, they should
be spray painted or stained a color close to the tones in
the paneling before installation.
On some jobs, 1/4-inch plywood is installed over a
base of 1/2-inch gypsum wallboard. This backing is
recommended for several reasons. It tends to bring the
studs into alignment. It provides a rigid finished surface.
And, it improves the fire-resistant qualities of the wall.
(The plywood is bonded to the gypsum board with a
Through special processing, hardboard (also called
fiberboard) can be fabricated with a very low moisture
absorption rate. This type is often scored to form a tile
pattern. Panels for wall application are usually 1/4 inch
Since hardboard is made from wood fibers, the
panels expand and contract slightly with changes in
humidity. They should be installed when they are at their
maximum size. The panels tend to buckle between the
studs or attachment points if installed when moisture
content is low. Manufacturers of prefinished hardboard
panels recommend that they be unwrapped and placed
separately around the room for at least 48 hours before
Procedures and attachment methods for hardboard
are similar to those for plywood. Special adhesives are
available as well as metal or plastic molding in matching
colors. You should probably drill nail holes for the
Plastic laminates are sheets of synthetic material
that are hard, smooth, and highly resistant to scratching
and wear. Although basically designed for table and
countertops, they are also used for wainscoting and wall
paneling in buildings.
Since plastic laminate material is thin (1/32 to 1/16
inch), it must be bonded to other supporting panels.
Contact bond cement is commonly used for this
purpose. Manufacturers have recently developed
prefabricated panels with the plastic laminate already
bonded to a base or backer material. This base consists
of a 1/32-inch plastic laminate mounted on 3/8-inch
particleboard. Edges are tongue and grooved so that
units can be blind-nailed into place. Various matching
corner and trim moldings are available.
SOLID LUMBER PANELING
Solid wood paneling makes a durable and attractive
interior wall surface and may be appropriately used in
nearly any type of room. Several species of hardwood
and softwood are available. Sometimes, grades with
numerous knots are used to obtain a special appearance.
Defects, such as the deep fissures in pecky cypress, can
also provide a dramatic effect.
The softwood species most commonly used include
pine, spruce, hemlock and western red cedar. Boards
range in widths from 4 to 12 inches (nominal size) and
are dressed to 3/4 inch. Board and batten or shiplap
joints are sometimes used, but tongue-and-groove
(T&G) joints combined with shaped edges and surfaces
are more popular.