Home Theater Paneling Construction Approach
|Step 1: Cut the panel frames out of plywood.
Step 2: Apply Liquid Nails or other panel adhesive to the birch
door skin veneers.
Step 3: Position the veneers and nail them to the studs, putting
the nails at the top of the door skin where they'll be covered by the
panels. Be sure to align the veneers so that they cover the full width of
the panel-frame cutout.
Step 4. Nail the frames over the veneers, being sure to nail
into the studs. I nailed at the very top of the board, where the nails
would be covered by the crown molding, and right next to the cutouts on
the frame, where the nails would be covered by the panel molding.
The pictures at left show what the panels look like after these first
||Step 5. Attach crown molding and chair rail. On many
projects, the crown molding would be a big part of the project. I
deliberately designed my room to minimize the amount of crown molding work
I had to do. I ran the corner columns all the way to the ceiling so that I
could just butt the long runs of crown molding into the sides of the
column. I didn't have any inside corners. The only outer corners I had
were at the tops of the columns, and those pieces are only about 14"
long, so I could easily recover from any mistakes I made. Nonetheless, I
still learned a few things about working with crown molding, so here are
some tips on using
||Step 6. Install the panel molding. This was the
longest part of my project and took almost 3 full weekends. Here
are some tips for
|Step 7. Install the baseboards. There are several
routes you can go with baseboards. The purist route would be to take
dimensional lumber and use a router to get the contour you want for the
top edge. I felt that my level of skill with the router would lead to
bumpy looking edges. The easiest route (I suppose) would be to buy pre-made baseboards and
then cut them to the right lengths, but I couldn't find a source for
those. Finally, my father-in-law suggested that I
cut the flat part of the baseboard out of birch plywood and then top that
with 3/4" base cap molding. This turned out to be both easy and
inexpensive. It was inexpensive because I spent about $0.60/foot on the
base cap molding rather than $1.50+/foot for stain-grade baseboard. I had
a lot of leftover 3/4" plywood from the middle parts of all the
frames I cut out, so that was essentially free.
It was easy because I just ripped a bunch of the
leftover plywood to make up the lower part of the baseboard. I nailed that
onto the bottom part of the panels, leaving room to tuck the carpet in
under the baseboard. Then I cut the base cap molding
and glued it on top of the plywood. I didn't stress about cutting the
plywood because I had so much left over from the panel frame cutouts that
it didn't really matter if I wasted some of it. The gluing was easy
because I just set the base cap on top of the baseboard. After all the
fitting and balancing and propping I did with the panel molding, being
able to put glue on something and just lay it into place was a nice
When finished, the stain goes into the crevice
between the plywood and the base cap molding and looks really dark, so you
can't tell those are two separate pieces of wood. The overall effect is
that the baseboard looks just like all the other stain-grade baseboard in
One issue that I would consider next time is
that, because I was using leftover pieces of wood, some of the grain on
the baseboards was vertically oriented instead of horizontal. It turned
out OK, but it would have been easier to sand if I had been sure to cut
the boards so the grain went horizontally.
||Step 8: Sanding. The sanding and staining steps were the
most physically demanding part of this project. I didn't have any tools
that would help with this, so I ended up doing all the sanding by hand.
But a good sanding job is incredibly important to the quality of the
finished product, so I had to do this part well.
One issue I ran into is that the moldings, which
are hemlock, and the paneling, which is birch, take stain differently. In
addition, the moldings will look blotchy if they're not sanded well before
staining. After sanding and staining some test boards, I concluded that I
had to sand the molding as smooth as possible, i.e., finishing with 400
grit sandpaper, and sand the birch with 240 grit.
I should have sanded the plywood back after Stage
1. I thought that when I sanded wouldn't much matter, but considering my
panel design approach, it turned out to be kind of a pain to sand the
"runners" with the grain oriented vertically on narrow stretches
of board that have panel molding on each side. These sections would have
been easier to get a sanding block into before putting on the panel
molding, and I wouldn't have had to be so careful not to scratch the panel
molding. It also would have turned out better.
||Step 9: Staining. The staining turned out to be almost as
much work as the sanding. It took quite a lot of effort to work the stain
into all the crevices in the panel molding, and then I had to remove it,
which required a lot of rubbing. I tried several different methods of
applying the gel stain. I tried using cloths at first, but it took
forever. Brushing it on worked OK, but it was a lot of work to do the
large flat surfaces. I ended up using a sponge for the flat surfaces and a
brush to work the stain into the crevices.
||Step 10: Polyurethane coat. I tried several varnish-type
products before settling on Minwax oil-based polyurethane. It gave me
reasonably good coverage after two coats. Most products I tried had too
much gloss, and reflected light was something I was trying to avoid. I
ended up putting two coats on most of the paneling, with 3-4 coats on the
higher-use areas (i.e., on baseboards, chair rail, and around the light
||Step 11. All done!
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