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Fit Tongue and Groove Wooden Cladding

Skill Level: Intermediate


Wooden panelling is still an attractive and hardwearing feature to many homes; not only in the retro, polished pine fashion of yesteryear. Tongue and groove wood cladding looks equally stylish when painted in colours that contrast and compliment the rest of the décor and fittings. Wood cladding is relatively easy, and quick to install; and does not require a lot of specialist tools in order to achieve a first class result.

Wood panelling can cover as much, or as little of a room as you want, depending upon your preference. Some prefer to have it about dado rail height, roughly a third of the room height; others prefer the whole of the room covered. The type of room you’re considering panelling may have a bearing on your choice.


Planning and Preparation.

Decide on the height of the panelling. From this determine both cost and quantities required.


Where there are skirting boards, leave them in place; even if you are going to replace them with new afterwards. However, if you are going to replace skirting boards with a bead, remove the skirting boards before you start.


Take a long straight length of timber, to act as a straight-edge, or a long spirit level; and check the walls! You are looking for uneven surfaces, where you may need to pack out the battens that will be fixed to the walls, and upon which the cladding is attached.


Where the floor is uneven (depending upon the floor covering) it may be better to remove the skirting altogether; beading is flexible and will adapt to the contour of the floor, disguising uneven floors quite well.


Sockets and switches will have to be brought forward and remounted. The amount will depend on whether they are wall mounted, or flush fitting.


When you have cut the battens and panelling to length, give the cut ends a quick rub down with abrasive paper.



The panelling is fixed to timber, not to the walls directly.
The grooved cladding will be attached to a series of horizontal timber battens, which are fixed securely to the wall by means of plugged screws.
Where the panelling extends to only dado rail height, then three horizontal battens will suffice; one batten near the bottom, one batten at the top level of the panelling, with the third approximately in the middle. If there is skirting, the bottom batten should be positioned just above it. Where there is no skirting, set the batten about 50mm from the floor; this allows for air circulation.
If the panelling is to extend to full room height then more battens should be used; continue to fix horizontal battens up to approximately 50mm below ceiling height.

Using a Spirit level or Straight Edge.

The first thing we shall do is markwhere the battens will be fixed to the wall. Using a spirit level (or some other form of straight edge) and a pencil, mark horizontal lines on the wall at the batten levels.
The top most horizontal line will be the top of the panelling; which will also be the length that the vertical panels should be cut. Use the straight edge to join up these markers, so the line extends around the whole of the room, or walls to be covered.

Fixing the Battens .

We need the battens securely fixed to the wall to give the panelling a good, solid base. Having cut the battens to length; this will be a combination of using full lengths, and shorter cut pieces to tie into, and around corners.
Drill the screw fixing holes through the battening at about 400mm intervals. Start at the ends; about 50mm in. We don’t have to be so precise here. It is important, before drilling and fixing screws into the walls, to make sure there are no hidden pipes or cabling! Once confirmed, offer up the pre-drilled battens to wall, and using a bradawl, mark the drill hole positions. The type of background you are fixing to will determine the size screws and plugs to use. Once the battening is fixed securely; we are ready to start fitting the panels.

Fixing the Wooden Panels.

The steps to follow for panelling are relatively simple and quick;
Start fitting the wooden panels from a left hand corner, and work from left to right.
Butt the grooved side to the wall, allowing about a 5mm gap.
Nail a pin into the top left corner of the panel, and through into the battening. Hammer another pin (keep it to the left side of the panel) through the next batten down; and finally the one at the bottom.
Before fixing any further panels, check this first panel is vertically plumb, using a spirit level. When satisfied, “secret nail” the tongue side of the panel-to all three battens (or all battens, if the panelling reaches the ceiling). This is achieved by hammering the pin into and through the tongue, on an angle – into the batten.
When you are happy the panel is plumb; fix the panel with another couple of pins to each horizontal batten. This is now fixed.
Proceed to fit the rest of the panels, but check the level every couple of panels or so. Check and make sure the panels remain flush with the top batten as you fit them.
Nailing the pins on an angle through the tongue means there will be no unsightly indentations on the surface of the wooden panels. However, where panels are fixed through the face, it’s not such a big problem to correct; simply take engineers punch, knock the nail head below the surface, and fill with a drop of wood filler. Sand down smooth when dry.

Surface mounted Fittings.

Sockets and switches can be either surface mounted, or flush fitting. A surface mounted socket or switch is attached to the panelled surface; the flush fittings sits in a cut-out section of panelling.
With surface mounted fittings it will be necessary to fix short lengths of batten to the wall; behind the panelling where the fitting will be attached.
Before working on electrical fittings, make sure you have switched off the electricity at the mains. Then, determine where the cable should pass through the panel; drill a hole that is big enough, pull the cable through, and pin down the panel fully.
Next, we must attach the fitting box to, and through the panelling, and into the battening, using screws of a suitable length. 
Once secure, fit the face plate.

Flush Fittings.

Temporarily fix the panels immediatelyover the fitting, and calculate where the cut-out must be. Then, remove temporary fixing pins and carefully cut out the section of timber required to house the fitting. If the original electrical fitting was flush mounted to the wall, then you will need to purchase a wider mounting box which will extend to the surface of the panelling, or move the box forward by packing it out with timber of a suitable thickness. Once the fitting is connected up and secured, fit the panel (s) around the fitting and pin as before.


The fitting of capping along the top of the wooden cladding (panelling) is the icing on the cake so to speak. It hides the cut ends of each panel; and finishes off the job.
Use a hand saw, and cut the capping to length. Around corners you will need to cut the ends on a 45 degree angle to give a nice, neat mitred corner. The capping is fixed by the use of adhesive; no pins or nails are needed here. When in place, leave the capping to dry before completing any minor filling or rubbing down to joint areas.
Finally, stand back and have a good look at the finished job; knock down and fill any indentations to the cladding surface; rub down smooth any sharp or rough corners.

Coating wooden cladding.

This really is a matter of choice.
Wooden cladding is either stained or painted. Whichever your preference; simply follow the instructions provided by the coating manufacturer. Cover everything in close proximity to the cladding in order to avoid spillage and subsequent damage. Use a quality brush; you will notice the difference when using it, and the finish will be generally better; and the brush should last longer.
Where paint is your coating of choice, you will need to give your cladding a coat of primer, followed by an undercoat, and finally a top coat. Alternatively, if staining is your preference, then there is a wide range of natural stains and preservatives to choose from.

Tools you will need:
Faithfull 16oz Fibreglass Handled Claw Hammer
Faithfull 16oz Fibreglass Handled Claw Hammer
- Faithfull 100mm Engineers Square
Faithfull 100mm Engineers Square
- Ral-Craft 200mm Heavy Duty Long Nose Pliers
Ral-Craft 200mm Heavy Duty Long Nose Pliers

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