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I need some ideas on how to cover old paneling. I don't want to just paint over it. I've heard about a burlap wall treatment but can find anything on it thanks
If it were me I'd just remove it and repair the walls properly.
Since you don't want to remove it, you can cover it with wall paper, float the surface, texture and paint it, decoupage, or just about anything else you'd like to try, just don't expect the end product to look very good.
Panels were popular years ago, but their time has passed. Removing them is the best way to get rid of them. Once removed, you can finish the drywall or if it's in bad condition, replace it too.
That's what I did last year in a rental house.
One more vote for biting the bullet and getting rid of the paneling. In the long run, it will save you work. Depending upon what you find under the paneling, it might actually be less work initially.
If you do decide to wallpaper, there are super heavy liner papers which are almost like stiff cardboard. This can be hung over the existing paneling, even without filling in the grooves. However, hanging the stuff is not fun and is considerable additional expence. Make sure none of the wallpaper seams coinside with the liner seams. Liner paper is often hung on the diagonal to preclude this.
As I said, I'd pull down the paneling!
As an aside, if you don't want to merely paint the paneling, painting and glazing can give an interesting effect. Something as simple as applying a thin, even coat of glaze with a roller and brush and then dragging a stiff brush down the entire height of the wall. If it is rough cut paneling such as T-111 , you can again roll on stain and then use a squeegee to remove the surface glaze, leaving the glaze in all the textured areas. Try painting on an off-white base coat on ceilings and walls and then a darker glaze on the walls. The woodwork could be painted the same color as the ceiling off-white. It gives a nice tone-on-tone effect.
If you are going to leave the paneling up, fill the curfs with a paintable caulk and a plastic putty knife to smooth off the excess. This will remove the identifying texture. It will be worth the effort prior to using wall paper or painting. Knowing the plaster and lattice walls weren't in good shape under the mismatched paneling in a bathroom, I chose this option to re-working the walls entirely and painted it a solid base color after removing the wallpaper and filling the cracks. Then I sponge painted two tones, which nicely distracted from all subltle surface defects. It has turned out well and can be either repainted or papered in the future without screaming that there is paneling beneath.