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Wood Paneling Wall Repair

How to repair holes in your wood paneling using simple materials.

Over the years, the cabin walls have accumulated quite a collection of holes. From electrical box cut-outs to old heating system vents, there is ten cut outs of various sizes throughout our cabin interior cedar walls.

This article documents how I patched the various holes and defects in our cedar wood wall paneling at our cabin.

Fix a hole in the wall with a patch and filler DIY.
How to fix a hole in the wall with a material patch and filler.

Wall Repair with patch and filler

The original owners used a variety of patches over the years to cover the deficits, but it was time to pull off the patches and fix them all for good. This discussion walks through a step by step approach to repairing holes in interior wood-paneled walls.

For the cabin walls, I was lucky to have a stock of the original cedar paneling boards to use as patch material. Finding a patch material that matches the thickness of the existing wall material is key, and what could be better than having spare stock of the original paneling?

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My basic strategy for repairing the panel holes is to mount a slightly under-sized patch within the defect and then fill in any remaining deficit with a solvent-based wood filler. For the wood filler, I like Plastic Wood® brand. I tried many types of wood filler and found the durability and short drying time of Plastic Wood hard to beat.

To finish the repair, I used an orbital sander, once the wood filler was cured, to level. Finally, the repair was finished to match the existing walls – in my case latex paint.

This technique of repairing a wall with a braced patch plus sanded filler can be used to repair a variety of deficits in wall constructed from many different materials. Dry wall or other building materials can be repaired using the same process, just substitute a sheet rock patch or patch of whatever material you are repairing and a suitable filler.

OVERVIEW | Wood Paneling Wall Repair

Difficulty: Simple
Time: 2 Hours
  • 1 Hour prep
  • 1 Hour finish
Cost: $20
  • 20 for filler, screws

SUPPLIES LIST | Wood Paneling Wall Repair

TOOLS LIST | Wood Paneling Wall Repair

STEPS | Wood Paneling Wall Repair

  1. Gather materials and tools
  2. Wall repair tools and supplies for wall patching - drill, driver, screws, plywood brace, material patch, filler, putty knife and orbital sander (not shown).
    Wall repair supplies and tools (sander not shown)

    Gather tools – a cordless drill or screwdriver, orbital sander, a vacuum, and a putty knife. For materials you will need a brace to place inside the wall and a piece of patch material (usually the same material used to build the wall), a few wood deck screws, and a wood filler or plaster if repairing drywall.

  3. Place brace and secure to wall
  4. Remove any loose material from hole and hole edges. Drill pilot holes on two or more sides of the wall deficit to use to attach the bracing material placed behind the deficit.

    Next, pass bracing material through the deficit and position it flat against the back of the wall. The material should overlap the hole behind the wall enough to allow passing screws through the previously drilled holes into the brace – typically 1 -2 inches of overlap on both sides of the deficit is enough.

    After the plywood brace is in place, drill through the existing pilot holes to extend the pilot holes into the brace material (this will make passing the screws into the brace much easier).

    Then drive drywall screws through the pilot holes into the brace material to secure the brace. Overdrive the screws into the wall face by 1/8 – 1/4 inch to allow wood filler to cover the screw heads.

  5. Cut patch material and secure to brace
  6. Using a material of the same thickness (ideally, the same material) cut a patch to fill in most of the deficit. I was able to use the same cedar boards for the patches as I had a stock of several old boards removed in other parts of the house. The patch need not fit perfectly in the wall deficit, but should be flush with the wall surface.

    Once the wall patch is in place, secure this patch by screwing it to the previously placed brace by drilling a pilot hole and then passing a screw. Again, countersink this screw head to allow for wood filler coverage.

  7. Add filler material
  8. Clean patched hole with vacuum or duster to prepare for the filler material.  Using a putty knife or similar, apply the filler and smooth with larger flat knife (I used a drywall joint knife). For wood paneling repairs use a wood filler, for drywall repairs use a drywall compound like plaster of paris.

  9. Allow filler material to dry, then sand wall repair flat
  10. Allow the filler to dry completely (check specific recommendations of the product you are using for drying times) before sanding. I used Plastic Wood® by DAP, which is a solvent based filler that dries very quickly — a few hours. Avoid using premixed water-based fillers intended for small holes repairs (Elmers®, ZAR® wood patch, etc.) as they intended for very small holes and tend to crumble in this type of application.

    Once the filler is completely dry, sand the surface of the filler smooth to match the surface of the existing wall. I used a 4″ orbital disk sander with 120 grit paper. To help keep dust down, I attached a vacuum to the orbital sander. The vacuum attachment works great and helps hold the sander to the surface of the repair.

  11. Clean sanded repair and apply finish.
  12. After sanding, clean the repair thoroughly. Next, finish with paint or a finish to match that of the existing wall. If painting, use the same applicator (brush, roller, specific roller cover, etc.) to match the existing finish.

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  1. Hi, I was just wondering if you remember how many gallons of the BIN you needed?
    I’m painting over cedar and was told I will need a lot of BIN to cover over cedar. Are your walls/ceilings cedar?
    Was there a sheen on the wood before you started priming or was it bare?

    Thanks for your help!!

    • The amount you will need depends on the condition of the cedar you are priming. If there is an existing finish on the cedar (like ours), the amount of primer needed will be much less. In our case, I would guess we used 2 – 3 gallons of the Zinsser B_I-N. If the wood is unfinished, you will need more – likely at least twice as much.

      I wouldn’t let a few extra gallons change your decision on using the primer – it’s a great product and you will need a similar amount of anything you plan to use as a primer.


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