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Painting over varnish

I live in an old renovated country home, and the living room walls are 1x12 wood panels that have been coated very liberally with a thick wood varnish that has shiny lacquer finish. The color is dark brown, and makes my living room look smaller than it is. The panels also have small gaps in between most of them that would be too wide to fill in with caulk.

I'd like to paint over this, but I'm wondering how I can do this without making it look horrible and having it drip and not stick.

I would prefer to use a sprayer to get do the entire room. I like the wood panel look, and would rather not sheetrock over it.

I've seen primers that are made to use with these, but I'm a bit skeptical.

Is there anything I can do other than sanding, or has anyone encountered this before?

Re: Painting over varnish

Clean the wall, use liquid sander, a good oil based primer, then paint latex or oil based paint. If you want to fill the cracks use rope.

Re: Painting over varnish


Over the last few years I have painted over many dark paneled walls. They were quite popular in the 60's and 70's. Painting brings the most bang for the buck in bringing a dramatic, room lightening change. To this end, I have sprayed two prime coats of Bin sealer. Bin is a very fast dry shellac based white primer. Two coats will blank out the darkest of paneling. It dries so fast that I am able to go around the room twice without much wait time between coats. Bin is also about the best primer out there in terms of adhesion and stain blocking. Some stains used in older homes were dye stains and have a tendency to bleed through lesser type oil or water based primers. Naturally, you want to first make sure that the paneling is clean and free of oily residue or wax residue from past cleaners/polishes. If water beads on the surface, so will most paints and primers. A wipe down with a cleaner/deglosser is a good idea.

After priming, I would fill my HVLP sprayer with an oil enamel. The resulting finish was like a factory coating on furniture. If you want to give a little more interest, you might consider a light glaze over the paint. This is a look often seen on furniture to give an aged look. A light striation with a course brush might be interesting.

As to filling those cracks, what ever you use must be elastomeric. Those boards are probably expanding and contracting with the seasons. Any product that is ridgid will probably break out. You might consider covering the gaps with wooden strips to give a kind of board on batten look.

Re: Painting over varnish

Rope caulk will work for the gaps. Especially something advertised as indoor/outdoor won't harden and cause paint to fail as the wood expands/contracts.
Mark, a Chaska, MN Painter

Re: Painting over varnish

On a samll section that I had, I actually tried liquid nails. It worked but I did not use the Bin primer and my bled through so I eventually just ripped it out and drywalled over it. The rope sounds good.
good luck, John

Re: Painting over varnish

:eek: It sounds like your going to be spending a bit of money for lots and lots of paint, sand paper, caulk. Then all the work trying to make it look decent. It wouldn't be easier to just remove the pain and fix the problem the right way by drywalling? That is if you are the homeowner...

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