There seems to be a lot of very unfortunate, unnecessary and ill-informed wood paneling hatred out there. I want to rant. I seriously want to rant. But let me just say this: Our Dads and Grandpas and in some cases our Moms and Grandmas, put up wood paneling because they were very very cautious with their money. They grew up during hard times, and they learned to fear debt and unnecessary overspending. They saved for a rainy day *clue phone*. Now that we have suffered the Great Recession and are living in the New Normal, this all seems to make a lot more sense to people *clue phone*.

Wood paneling? When Dad and Mom or Grandma and Grandpa excitedly and gratefully bought their 1,000 square foot house after 1945, the basement and attic and maybe even the second floor were unfinished. This is part of what made the house a “starter home”, and couples without children were fine with just having the space they really needed. As money and time permitted and as the family grew, the family — on their own — could start finishing off the basement or attic or second floor themselves. They would frame interior walls, add electric and maybe some insulation and then Cover the Walls with Wood Paneling. Cherry or knotty pine were particularly beloved, I think, but there may have been regional preferences. Installing wood paneling was way easier than putting up and taping drywall — Dad could do the paneling all his own, no problem. I’m thinking it was cheaper, too. Mom and Dad and Grandpa and Grandma did not feel at all oppressed by the paneling. The paneling was cozy. They made more space for their families, within their budgets. They were proud, and deserved to be.

So just shut yer pie holes, all you wood paneling haters who *can not bear to live with it*.

Eartha Kitsch — owner of a lovely time capsule knotty pine kitchen — did not rant and was very funny and probably more effective than me when she addressed the wood paneling topic last week in her story Dear Lord! Not Wood!  The three images above are hers and used with her permission. Click on any of them to get to her sassy story. Props to you, Eartha Kitsch.

I had paneling like this in one of my bedrooms growing up. I did not grow up to be a warped and deranged person. I think.

Where to get affordable wood paneling if you, like Mom and Dad and Grandma and Gramps, are interested in using it for a cozy, affordable DIY wall finish? I found this seemingly excellent company — Decorative Panels International, which makes a large variety of wood paneling.

The panels are affordable — $18 – $32 for a 4′ x 8′ sheet, depending on the design. They seem to be widely available at big box and lumber stores. I can’t vouch for the quality — I’d suggest asking to see a full panel before committing — but online, they look just like the wood paneling in the houses that my Mom and Dad and Gramps an Grams built.

Noon update: I talked at length this morning to the president of DPI, Tim Clark. Very nice and passionate man — passionate about making all DPI products the U.S., and passionate about doing it in an environmentally sensitive way. He clarified that DPI’s products consist of an engineered wood substrate with the final top design printed; the top is not veneer. Made in Alpena, Mich., the substrate or backer is made of only three ingredients — wood, water and a flaxseed-based oil. The substrates are put through presses in Alpena that create different textures. The final design is then printed onto the substrate in Toledo. DPI uses rotogravure (not digital) printing, and generally takes each design through several runs with different colors to get the design effect they want. I asked Tim if he thought I would be able to tell the difference between DPI’s printed cherry paneling (for example) and veneered cherry paneling. He said he thought I would be hard pressed (pun haha). Veneered paneling will likely cost about 50% more, he estimated. Also note, Tim said that DPI’s paneling is not positioned to be the cheapest in the market — it’s not the kind of paneling that an economical landlord would put into rental units between tenants. Tim said that DPI is passionate about the structural integrity and overall aesthetic of the product and the processes, and their pricing reflects that. This, along with their focus on environmentally sensitive manufacturing (their processes use minimal solvents, so there is zero or minimal offgassing of the paneling), means the have made major inroads in terms of being stocked at the big box stores like Home Depot, Lowes and Menards, he said.

Tim is sending me samples of a variety of designs — ones I thought would be of greatest interested to Retro Renovation readers. I will take a look and report back. I also will continue researching veneered wood paneling and compare the two.

About DPI:

For more than 50 years, we have been providers of high quality utility and designer wall panels.  With a solid hardboard manufacturing facility located in Alpena Michigan, and a superior finishing facility in Toledo Ohio, we are proud to offer one of America’s finest wall products – worldwide.

DPI is recognized industry-wide as the leader in design style innovation and state-of- the- art manufacturing processes. A perfect fit in virtually every part of your home, DPI wall paneling allows you to achieve looks and performance comparable to ceramic tile, wall paper, wood wall paneling and even stone and brick masonry – at a fraction of the cost!

Go Alpena! Go Toledo! DPI also points out that their product is produced in an environmentally sensitive manner:

  • All GreenCore finished products feature our S2S premium hardboard foundation for high performance with lower environmental impact
  • Inherent durability resists buckling and warping experienced with other products
  • Our prefinished panel resists moisture on the surface
  • Formaldehyde-free manufacturing means our panels will not adversely affect your indoor air
  • Mold-resistant formulation built into the substrate to fend off typical stains
Do I *love* wood paneling? I actually do love the cherry paneling in our man cave — my husband loves it, too. Do I love all wood paneling? No. There is a quality, ergo beauty, continuum. Does anyone really need to *hate* wood paneling? Save hatred — and the call to action that such intense levels of passion incite — for truly important things, like social injustice and crushing greed, for example.

Where to find it:

  • Look at all the DPI wood paneling designs here.

  1. Voluptuous Vegan says:

    I recently purchased and moved into a 1915 home. The kitchen was renovated at some point and the former owner (who lived there for 75 years), installed blue paneling in the kitchen. In a word: awful! I do not have the money to rennovate this kitchen so I am going to have to figure out a way to live with this G-d awful stuff. 🙁

  2. Jason says:

    Your description/analysis of why paneling was used so much postwar is right on. I remember my dad converting the entire basement in our New Suburban Home DIY c. 1961. Linoleum tile on the floor, acoustic tile ceiling, and wood paneling on the walls (on which could be mounted the necessary wood-and-brass mallard ducks in flight). Now I live in a house that has an obviously-DIY “family room” (converted porch) off back — and I need to find one 4×8 piece of paneling to match the existing stock. It is very hard to impossible to find. I would hop that people doing teardowns and makeovers would find a place to store and repurpose some of this stuff.

    1. pam kueber says:

      Thanks, Jason. You know, I’ve been thinking about this some more. I don’t think that the use of drywall or even plaster walls was all that common until the early 20th century. Or something like that. Look at old old old houses, and there was wood on the walls. Use of wood on walls was a strong part of our design heritage for hundreds of years. It likely was not until drywall became ubiquitous that anyone began to think that wood on walls was u***. Calling it u***, is just … well, let’s say… just ill-informed.

    2. Elaine says:

      What kind of paneling, Jason? Maybe somebody on here has some. I have a piece of two of cherry, will have a little more, the width of double doors to the patio.

  3. Elaine says:

    PS, just had an early 50 flashback! They were building new houses in our neighborhood, those little flat ranches. They were using wallboard, not drywall. It was about 3/8″ thick and we could use the broken pieces to draw on the sidewalk. There was a white papery cover on the “pretty side” that we peeled off to use as chalk. Lots of hopscotch happened around those building sites. I bet we kids got full of asbestos.

  4. Panzyzz says:

    Finally!! Someone who “gets it”. My Dad put wood paneling in our 1960 house (now my house) and I LOVE it. It’s something my son does not understand, but its lasted 50 YEARS! I don’t think drywall holds up that long without looking its age.

    The only thing is now, that I need to replace some of it in the stairwell where some irresponsible previous owner continually poured water down it when watering plants above. The color is more golden than what this company has, so they may not be a solution, but I’m not giving up….or in!

    Thanks for the article Pam!

  5. Vicki says:

    I live in a 70’s house. We built it 35+ years ago. It was fully paneled. Over the years I have painted ALL of the paneling and I LOVE it! I just love the way the paneling looks painted. We are building a new house (will keep the other house too) and I want to panel it and then paint the paneling. My kids think I am NUTS to put paneling in a new house. It is a lake house and I think it will look great and hold up with all our grandkids. Any opinions?

  6. Gretta says:

    Looking for 1/4′ thick 4′ x 8′ walnut veneer paneling.

    Paid $9.60 per sheet in the mid 1970’s –

    Where can I buy similar and for what price?

  7. Elliott says:

    I am looking for wood veneer paneling that has the appearance from the 1970’s. I have a sample of the kind I had in my bedroom growing up and a photo of it, as well. It looks like that typical 1970’s wood paneling, but it is blue. Looking for help on this in order to do a room.

  8. Rebecca Prichard says:

    Hi Pam,
    How were those samples he sent? My dream is wood in the lower level, real wood I wouldn’t know where to even GET and affording it would be insane. I am very interested in panelling!

Commenting: Information

All comments are moderated, generally within 24 hours. By using this website you are agreeing to the site's >> Terms of Service, << which include commenting policies, and our >> Privacy Notice. << Before participating, read them in full.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.