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Painting MDF Paneling

I was wondering if you can paint over MDF paneling and if so how? This is the type of paneling that you would find in a manufactured home. I have an RV that needs some updating. There are no holes or anything wrong with the walls, just an awful pattern printed on it. So I just wanted to add a fresh coat of paint to give it a new look instead of having to invest in having the whole thing repaneled. Any suggestions?

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Posted 2012-01-05T18:35:08+0000  by Doityourselfer Doityourselfer

Hi Doityourselfer, this is Mike The Home Depot Answer Man.


The paneling in most trailer and motor homes has a semi-gloss or satin finish. Some paneling may even have a vinyl finish.


The first step before painting would be to wash the paneling with tsp or any other household cleaner, to remove any grease soil or cigarette smoke stains.


Test clean an inconspicuous area first to see how well the paneling takes the moisture. If it begins to delaminate skip the washing step.


Once it is dry apply a deglosser to remove any sheen.  Then apply a primer/sealer. Kilz makes an excellent primer sealer. Depending upon the color of the paneling, a second coat of primer may be needed to hide the original color


The paint associates at your local Home Depot will assist you in choosing the best deglosser, primer and paint.


Once the primer has dried use spackle or caulk to hide inconsistencies like seams, nail holes, and fill in joints. Apply a second coat of primer as necessary if extensive repairs are made.


Now you can apply your finish coat. Choose a color that is easy to live with, as you will see it every day. 


A satin or semi gloss finish works better in the kitchen areas, to allow for periodic cleaning.


Be sure to allow for plenty of ventilation when you’re working to minimize the odor and speed up the drying of the paint.


Good Luck with your project,








Best Answer

Posted 2012-01-05T20:19:34+0000  by Mike_HD_OC

Thanks Mike The Home Depot Answer Man.


I am so ecstatic that there is a solution to my problem. I can't wait to get my project underway now!! :smileyhappy:

Posted 2012-01-05T20:40:11+0000  by Doityourselfer


Mobile homes have a kind of pseudo-wallpaper bonded to either a drywall or wood panel type of material.

Obviously, you need a clean surface, especially around areas that may get handled by greasy fingers. I prefer Glidden's Gripper for its adhesion qualities. If their is nicotine on the walls, go to Oil Base Kilz or Zinsser's BIN sealer.


I would be very careful about using a chemical deglosser on this material as it is basically a plastic coating. For sure, test an inconspicuous area first. I personally don't think it is neccessary to degloss this material at all when a good primer is used. BIN is absolutely the best general primer for adhesion, nicotine and stain blocking. Unfortunately, shellac based products went through the roof in price this year. BIN is over $40 pergallon, but it does goe very far - over 400sq. feet. BIN will stick to almost anything and almost anything will stick to it!


This type of paneling often has small patterned batten strips covering the joints in the panels. These can be removed and the gaps treated like gaps in dry wall. Tape over them with fiberglass tape and then spread drywall compound over they. After sanding them smooth, prime these areas.


The finish coat can be the sheen of your choice. My personal favorite is eggshell, as it gives very good washability and scuff resistance, without the cold look of higher gloss paints. Also, if you have primered your walls with a good quality sealer, the finish coat will hold its maximun sheen.


In this case, since you have primed the whole area, I would go with Behr's Premium Plus, rather than the more expensive Ultra line .One final note: if you are going to a stronger color, you might ask that your primer be tinted toward the finish color. This could possibly save you from having to put on two coats of paint just for color coverage.



Posted 2012-01-06T03:42:35+0000  by ordjen

Hi Ordjen :smileyhappy:


It's good to see you on the community.  Thank you for all your comments - you are exactly what this forum is all about.


...see you online.



Posted 2012-01-08T15:34:01+0000  by Kevin_HD_ATL

We painted the thin wood paneling in our older mobile home.  I actually used "scrubbing bubbles" spray bathroom cleaner  to clean the paneling.  This was suggested by the cleaning company that came and cleaned for us.  It removed the nicotine buildup from the years of chain smoking in the living room.  We did not do any primer, just used the Glidden satin finish.  It looks so much better. 

Posted 2013-01-26T10:54:30+0000  by NMlady

HI Mike,


Thank you, I will try the process and let everyone know the results.


Posted 2013-10-18T20:44:30+0000  by fawc4
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