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Options available to attain even surface over paneling

QuestionWhat kind of primer do you recommend for painting over vinyl-clad wallboard in an older mobile home? Also, is there a spackle-type product that can be used to fill the grooves or would it be better to apply drywall over the panels to get a smooth finish surface for painting?

AnswerYou've posed some challenging questions and the answers will help many manufactured/mobile homeowners.

However, when you asked about applying drywall over the paneling, red flags went up. A mobile home is not like a home built on a foundation. For alterations and repairs, mobile homes in my state (Washington) require a permit issued by the Department of Labor and Industries; however it is the building department that oversees the home's setup at the site and any additions to it. Most minor repairs do not require an inspection.

Labor and Industries describes alterations as follows: "The replacement, addition, modification or removal of any piece of equipment or installation that affects the construction, planning considerations and fire safety, or the plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems."

Adding the weight of drywall over the paneling could alter the structure and weight of the mobile home beyond what it was designed to handle. To add drywall requires a field inspection and a plan review of the home to see whether or not it will be allowed.

For example, let's say that L&I allows adding quarter-inch thick drywall but only after the existing paneling has been removed. It sounds doable, but consider this: The paneling was most likely glued to the studs and stapled, making it difficult to remove, and the quarter-inch drywall will be very flexible between the studs compared to half-inch drywall. I would leave the paneling and consider the options I describe later on. The strength of the exterior walls sometimes relies on the fact that the paneling was glued to the studs.

For those who are considering doing any work to their manufactured/mobile home, go to: www.lni.wa.gov/TradesLicensing/FAS/Types/default.asp and click on "Manufactured/Mobile Homes." This document contains information that both homeowners and contractors should know when altering a manufactured or mobile home, including an extensive list of those alteration, repairs, and replacements that will require a permit. Your own city or municipality should also be able to provide guidance in this area.

Ruling out drywall installation, let's discuss painting the paneling as an alternative. Before you paint, it would be best to use the proper primer, and I have a few to recommend.

If your paneling is free of water or nicotine stains, then I recommend "Bulls Eye 1-2-3" from Zinsser. A 100 percent acrylic primer sealer, it is inherently more flexible than oil-based products and that could make a difference in a structure such as your mobile home.

Stains, however, require special treatment. I recommend that you first spot-prime water-stained areas with Zinsser's B-I-N, a shellac-based product created to prevent stains from bleeding through. After it dries, prime the entire surface with Bulls Eye 1-2-3.

If you have nicotine stains, then prime the full surface with Zinsser's Cover-Stain, an alkyd/oil-based product. While this and the other two recommended products are primer sealers and stain-killers, Cover-Stain is also a bond coat. Its unique formula allows it to dry in about an hour and yet remain flexible and durable enough for priming a variety of interior/exterior surfaces.

I have used most of Zinsser's product line over 20 years and I believe in them, but I have not yet tried Cover-Stain.

I also find that if you sand surface imperfections after the primer dries, you will achieve a better finish. To learn more about Zinsser products, go to www.zinsser.com.

As for the V-grooves in the paneling, there's not much you can do to cover them up. The time involved would be considerable and there is no guarantee that whatever product you use will provide a permanent solution. If you still want to achieve a standard wallboard surface, then I recommend that you research a couple of products by Flexi-Wall Systems. In general, applying a Flexi-Wall finish is similar to installing conventional wall covering material.

Plaster In A Roll is a one-step, crack-proof wall covering available in three decorative textured weaves. It covers walls and ceilings in one easy step with little or no preparation and can bring a sound-absorbing atmosphere to interior spaces.

The second product, Faster Plaster, is a two-step upgrade to most finishes. Install this versatile underliner on walls or ceiling, then apply your preferred final finish: paint, vinyl, plaster or paper. This product also allows you to upgrade cinder blocks, wallboard, paneling, or tile for a fresh, modern look. Both could be used in your situation.

To learn more, call (800) 843-5394 or visit Flexiwall at www.flexiwall.com.

Copyright © 2004, 2006, & 2007 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.
Question answered by Leon A. Frechette.

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