I never thought I’d write a tutorial for “how to install tongue and groove paneling on kitchen cabinets”. What happened to me (lol)?
Remember right after we bought the lakehouse, how quickly I painted over that pine paneling flanking the fireplace? We had barely taken possession before I was elbows deep in charcoal grey paint (#noregrets)! Granted, we did install tongue and groove look paneling in the kitchen – but that was a cheap and easy way to hide the mess I made taking down the cabinets and tile. That doesn’t count. But I tell ya, living rural has changed me. A few years after the fireplace makeover, I found myself deciding to KEEP the natural knotty pine in the bunkie bedroom and bathroom. Now that could be chalked up to both laziness and penny pinching, because painting that entire space would require a lot of paint and sweatequity. But then I added tongue and groove pine paneling to the very recent fireplace hack – although you could argue that I was just adding the pine paneling to match the existing wood. But here we are today and I decided to add pine paneling to the backs of the kitchen cabinets. I have no excuse or reason, other than I thought it would look good (and it does!) Worse, I caught myself thinking it would look even better left natural – if only my floors were knotty pine too. There must be something in the water. If you’re nodding your head, loving the idea of installing paneling, keep reading to find out how to install tongue and groove paneling on kitchen cabinets.
I’d been wanting to make some changes in the kitchen because it was always supposed to be temporary, but a sailboat, a Camaro, and many exterior projects later we keep draining the kitchen reno savings account. I’ll be honest, we’re broke! It’s been five years since we painted the cabinets turquoise, replaced awkward cabinets with simple open shelving and made solid maple counters. I just wanted to freshen it up while we work on saving again.
I originally thought about tile or wallpaper to jazz up the backs of the cabinets but after finding a very thin tongue and groove paneling for the TV hack, I thought that would be a great choice on the cabinets too. It helps create cohesion between the open concept kitchen/living/dining space, but also adds some texture and visual interest.
How to Install Tongue and Groove Paneling on Kitchen Cabinets
- Tongue and groove paneling
- 1″ air nails
- Air nailer/compressor
- Corner trim
- Primer/paint (optional)
- Corner trim (optional)
- Wood glue (optional)
Steps for How to Install Tongue and Groove Paneling on Kitchen Cabinets:
The first step was to let the wood acclimatize a little, like you would for hardwood floors. Wood really shrinks in our dry home so if I install paneling right away and paint, it contracts and reveals little unpainted edges. After a few days we were ready! We measured the cabinet space and cut the ends to length with a miter saw. Then we started installing the paneling at the bottom, so you’d only see full widths (the last piece, cut to fit, is under the counter – you’ll never see it). We used 1″ air nails along the top, bottom and ends to hold that first piece in place. We also installed with the tongue upwards for a nicer look.
With that first board installed (use a level if you’re worried about it being straight), we just worked our way up one board at a time, putting it onto the tongue and affixing with a few nails at the ends and some along the tongue. We did not use any construction adhesive for this.
The last and top board needed to be trimmed to fit but you’ll never see it. For the corner, we couldn’t use the old corner piece because we added to much thickness. So we made corner trim by gluing together 2 1/2″ pieces of wood, sanding the corner a bit round to remove any sharpness.
Learning how to install tongue and groove paneling on kitchen cabinets is super easy! It was a quick project too. Am I weird to think the pine looked good natural? I kept it like that for a few days, contemplating the meaning of my life. If I’m not on this planet to paint things teal…?
I decided to paint it. I originally wanted to paint the entire kitchen but I still looooove the aqua. Plus the paint has held up so well! It seems a shame to sand, prime and repaint – knowing my luck the new coat would chip. Instead, I decided to keep the cheery turquoise and just paint the new paneling. I was torn between dusty grey blues (airy and beachy) and deep teals (moody and earthy). I bought a can of light blue and then went back and bought a can of teal! Then I decided that by painting just the backs of the cabinets, I can change it up every season if I want – it took me half an hour, no taping or tarping, so why struggle choosing just one color?
When I tire of this teal, I’ll try the light blue. And then maybe a moss green? A charcoal grey? This will be such a fun way to wait out the time it takes to save up for the real deal reno again. The new color makes such an impact and the turquoise stools really pop now. The one thing I can’t decide is if I should wrap the paint around the side of the cabinets too? Or just keep it on the paneling… hmmmm.
I’m currently working on one more DIY project to revive this hardworking kitchen – follow me on Instagram for some sneak peeks in my stories and be sure to sign up for the newsletter, below, so you don’t miss it! I’ll be sharing some better photos, too – this day was soooo gray, but I wanted a photo before I tore stuff out…