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Need advice with removing paneling for a closet remodel

Our home was built in the 1930's and has a good amount of paneling in the home. Both bedrooms, closets, an accent wall in the living room and dining room, as well as an enclosed porch are all covered in paneling. All other walls are plaster. We have painted over the paneling since we never wanted to take down the paneling and get ourselves into a mess.

I recently decided to take on the project of remodeling my tiny 3x4 bedroom closet to get maximize the space and first step was to remove the paneling to see what kind of mess I would be getting into. Boy is it a mess! The panels were both nailed and glued with what looks like sticky black tar. The nails came out very easy but the "glue" is an absolute mess. Does anyone know what this "tar" like substance is and how I can remove it? It was applied in circular globs and it is still sticky to the touch so sanding is out. Thanks for any advice!

If it helps any this paneling was probably added in the 60's or 70's.

A. Spruce
Re: Need advice with removing paneling for a closet remodel

That is some nasty stuff indeed. It is probably a relative of cutback, an adhesive used on old vinyl floors. It's also possible that it's similar to the stuff used to glue mirrors to the wall. Not a lot of help, but this might narrow down your search for products to help remove it.

With cutback, there are biodegradable solvents, I do not know what is used to clean up the mirror bonding goop. Here's the thing, whatever you use, it's going to be a HUGE mess, not only the process, but what will be left of your walls, so tread EXTREMELY lightly when you start into it, until you know the outcome of the process you're using. Be aware that both whatever this "glue" is and whatever you use to remove it may affect paint adhesion, so your closet project will be the perfect place to test your removal techniques and paint effects.

Re: Need advice with removing paneling for a closet remodel

Depending on the amount of this tar you have on the walls, I would seriously consider knocking the dry wall down and replace it with new fresh drywall.

The side benefit is: you will be able to examine, repair or upgrade your framing, electrical, plumbing and insulation - all at the same time.

More expensive? possibly yes.

Better and more professional result? definitely yes.

Re: Need advice with removing paneling for a closet remodel

The poster states the walls are plaster. Were it mine, I would go after the mastic with a sharp razor knife. These have a sturdy, 4" razor sharp blade, which should be capable of removing most of the mastic. The remainder should either sand off, or come off with a solvent, probably mineral spirits. Any damaged plaster can be patched with simple drywall mud. Should the black bleed through, seal it in with a good, stain killing water based primer, such as Zinsser 1-2-3.

It would almost be easier if the walls were drywall. I used to simply cut around the mastic, peel back the drywall paper, seal the brown under-paper, patch and prime.

Re: Need advice with removing paneling for a closet remodel

It is very possible the black stuff is an adhesive that was used in flooring. Our entire basement is covered in old asbestos tiles and my great grandfather was a DIY person. He could have easily used up some extra for the paneling.

Also, yes it is plaster underneath, no drywall in our house with the exception of the remodeled bathroom. I think I will move forward with ordjen's suggestion first since it is the least invasive. There are several chunks of plaster that came off too so I will have some mudding to do anyway.

Re: Need advice with removing paneling for a closet remodel

An alternative would be to do a sheetrock overlay with 3/8" rock applied over the plaster then finished normally. It's less messy, faster, cheap, and more DIY friendly if you can finish decently (which in a closet isn't as important as in a room everyone looks at all the time), that's the way I'd go.


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