Wood Wall Panelling Guide with MDF

Keen to learn how to panel a wall? This wood wall panelling guide will tell you everything you need to know about how to panel a wall using MDF.

Wood wall panelling using MDF has taken the world by storm. And with so many mouldings, height options and paint colours to choose from, it’s clear to see why.

With some careful planning and measurements, it’s a simple but effective way to add character and personality to any room of your house. If DIY isn’t for you, you can shop our wood wall panelling kits here.

Let’s start with what you’ll need.

  1. Read our DIY safety tips and manufacturer instructions

    Before you begin any DIY work, we recommend you read our DIY Safety Tips guide along with your power tool manuals to keep yourself and others safe, while completing this how-to guide.

    And don’t forget to open your windows before starting – and keep them open – to properly ventilate the room you are painting in.

    If your walls have any holes or cracks, you can find out how to repair them here.

    Remember, if you’re in doubt about anything, you should reach out to a certified expert for assistance.

  2. Devise a plan

    It’s always good to have a sketch of what you want your finished wall panel to look like. This will not only help you stay on track but can also be used as a helpful guide to the person cutting your MDF to size for you.

  3. Work out your measurements

    To accompany your plan, you’ll need some wall measurements.

    This is a crucial stage of the overall process to ensure you get evenly sized panels and gaps.

    To measure:

    • Using your tape measure, measure the width and height of your wall from floor to ceiling.
    • Decide how many panels you want your wall to have.
    • And then decide what you width you want your rails and stiles to be (these are the horizontal and vertical MDF pieces used to create your shapes) and what you want your base rail to be.

    These will then help you form your cutting list.

  4. Create your cutting list

    Your cutting list can be quite tricky, so take your time and have your design sketch (and some patience) to hand.

    For your horizontal rails:

    • Multiply the chosen width of your pieces (from step 2) by the number of pieces you need for your columns.
    • Then, take that total number and subtract it from your wall’s total width.
    • Finally, divide your new figure by how many panels you’ve decided on.

    For your vertical stiles:

    • Combine the depth of your base rail with the depth of your top rail.
    • Then, take that total number and subtract it from your wall’s total height.

    Then, jot down your measurements  onto your sketch so you can explain to the people cutting your MDF to size exactly what it is you’re looking for.

    Top tip: If you are cutting the MDF to size yourself, you’ll need a circular saw. You must also wear your safety goggles, ear defenders and a half mask respirator to protect yourself from the dust.

    We only recommend you cut MDF yourself if you are confident using a power saw and if you can do so in a well-ventilated area – ideally outside.

  5. Preparing your wall

    You’ll want to ensure your wall is as smooth as it can be, ready for your new panelling.

    To do this, sand your wall and fill in any holes using your filler. It’s also recommended you repaint your wall completely white – this is to ensure your wall panels and new wall colour are all the same shade.

    You can find out more about how to repair them here.

  6. Start sticking

    Only move onto this step when your wall paint is completely dry.

    This is where your second person will come in handy. While one of you holds the base rail to the wall, the other can check it is completely level using the spirit level. Once it’s straight, mark some guidelines on your wall with the pencil and start sticking with the heavy duty grab adhesive.

    Top tip: To secure each piece, add the grab adhesive in a zigzag down each panel, stick it to the wall and apply pressure for about one minute. Two of you will be needed to ensure pressure is added at either end.

  7. Create a border

    Then stick your top pieces to the wall and move onto your outer vertical stile pieces to create a boarder

    Top tip: Don’t forget to use your spirit level before you secure anything with adhesive and follow the guidelines for drying time.

  8. Create your panels

    Using your rails as column spacers, fix the rest of your stiles on the wall one by one until you’ve got neatly divided columns all the way along.

    Top tip: To make this overall process easier, you could sketch out the panel design on your wall, using your spirit level and the assistance of your second person. 

  9. Fix your rails

    Now it’s time to add your smaller MDF pieces to wall to finish off the design.

  10. Caulking time

    Once everything is secure, caulk around each square. This will help give it a better-quality finish. If any parts of the wall aren’t straight, use the filler to close any gaps between the wall and your boards.

    Top tip: We recommend you now leave everything to set and dry properly before moving onto the next step.

  11. Prime your wood

    To ensure your paint sticks, cover your panels in water-based MDF wood primer and let it dry following the recommended time.

    Top tip: Watch out for any paint drips around the edges.

  12. Painting time

    Once your primer has dried, it’s time to get painting. With hundreds of paint shades on offer, pick a colour for your panel wall the matches your interiors. And don’t forget to put your dust sheet down and cover any furniture before you start.

    That’s your Wood Wall Panelling Guide with MDF complete.

    Don’t forget to upload an image of your new wall panelling to social media, tag and follow us @Homebase_uk 



Writer and expert