Trained Eye


Wood Panelling


I read your article in the Sunday Winnipeg Free Press homes section.  Let me say it is very informative.  Now I have a question regarding paneling.  I have a seasonal cottage past grand beach, which is very rarely used in the winter.  We are re-doing a back bedroom that has two exterior walls.  Currently it has 2x4 construction walls with batting insulation and vapour barrier.  When we first built the cottage in 1988 we used a very cheap panelling, just to get by with. The surface of the panels is like paper.  We now want to replace it. 

I have looked around but have not found what you call wood panelling.  I was hoping to find something that looks like bead board or wainscoting, but in the full sheet.  The only thing I have found is a paintable paneling at a local Home Centre, but it does not look like "wood" paneling.

Can you direct me where to find wood panelling in  Winnipeg ?  Any help would be appreciated. 


When talking about wood paneling, there are two types that I would have referred to in a previous article. Both types should be readily available to you at most building supply stores and Home Centres. I will try to help you with the differentiation between these and pros and cons of use.

The first style of wood paneling is exactly what it sounds like. True wood paneling are individual wooden boards, which fit together to create a solid wall covering. They often join together with a tongue and groove, or overlap to cover the joints between the panels. Some styles may be installed horizontally, but most styles were originally designed for vertical installation. When used as exterior wall coverings, the vertical design and grooves allow for quick drainage of rainwater. Older styles of wood paneling were used mainly for exterior siding, but were commonly used for inside sheathing in cottages and finished basements.

This type of true wood paneling is ideal for use in seasonal homes and cottages because of its good resistance to changes in moisture and temperature. These changes can be quite dramatic when buildings are left unheated for the winter months. Panels made from wood with natural moisture resistance, like cedar, fare especially well over time. Treating interior wooden paneling made from lower cost woods, such as spruce and pine, will help prevent deterioration over time. Danish or Swedish oils help reduce shrinkage and checking as the wood dries out as well as protecting the surface of the wood from dirt and moisture.

The style of paneling you desire should be available in natural wood panels in a tongue and groove profile with a beaded surface. When joined together, this material gives a continuous looking wainscot appearance. For vertical installation, especially on exterior insulated walls, a backing of horizontal wooden strapping or plywood will be required on the wall. This requires a fair amount of work, for installation, but will provide an excellent, long lasting wall finish.

If the added expense and installation time of real wood is not what you are looking for, solid sheet paneling may fit your bill. In this instance my reference to wooden paneling would mean panels made of plywood. The surface of these panels may be a print or imitation wood, but the core of the panels should be plywood. Real plywood panels resist moisture and temperature changes, often as well or better than solid wood.

Because of the large size of the sheets, often 4 feet by 8 feet, lower quality material has a tendency to warp and bow over time. Lower priced panels with a core of fibreboard or particleboard may buckle substantially, even after one year of temperature fluctuations. Plywood paneling resists this buckling due to its construction, which alternates the direction of the individual plies. Changing the direction of the wood grains with each layer, gives plywood its unique strength.

Often plywood panelling available is very thin, with a printed surface, and may not have sufficient strength to resist bowing from the insulation in an exterior wall. In this case, strapping or backing will be needed for added strength on outside walls. These styles normally mimic real wood effectively in the prints, but may not look like wainscoting. Plywood panels with a real veneer surface will give more of the look you desire, and can often be found with vertical grooves spaced at odd intervals to mimic individual boards. These panels are more costly and may require similar finishing or oiling like real wood, but will give a more authentic look. They are normally thicker, as well, eliminating the need for backing.

If a real rustic look is desired, pre-finished exterior plywood sheathing could be used, and it is readily available. It normally has a lower quality wood surface and may not be what you are looking for, but is usually thicker and more durable than most interior paneling. You may be able to find it in a beaded or grooved design and it can be stained or painted to improve the appearance, if desired.




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