Is Painting Paneling a Crime?

No shortage of emotion surrounds the do's and don'ts of treating Eichler interior walls
Is Painting Paneling a Crime?
It's a happy moment above, in the 1950s, as new interior wall paneling is installed. Over the decades that followed lots of homeowners will change their minds and bring out the white paint. A recent survey of the archive of the
Eichler Network's Chatterbox Lounge forum from over the years revealed no shortage of passion surrounding the do's and don'ts of treating Eichler interior walls.
Is Painting Paneling a Crime?
Argument #1: "There's nothing like the glow of Eichler's original mahogany paneling. Leave it that way." Photo: courtesy Modern Homes Realty
Is Painting Paneling a Crime?
Argument #2: "It's time to brighten things up. Paint that paneling white—and even replace it with sheetrock."

While seeking out the ultimate 'third rail' topic of discussion among Eichler owners and fans, one would be hard pressed to find a subject more controversial than interior paneling.

Opinions vary considerably, and a survey of the archive of our Eichler Network Chatterbox Lounge forum from over the years reveals no shortage of passion surrounding the do's and don'ts of treating Eichler interior walls.

"Regarding Eichlers, few things are more upsetting than hearing that another one was ruined by destroying the paneling. It's like cutting the mahogany tree down all over again," fumed a member named Dave. "When searching for an Eichler of our own, it made me furious each time we saw a house that was original, but [paneling] was painted on the recommendation of the stupid real estate agent. It's too bad this isn't a felony."

While not everyone would criminalize the issue, Dave is far from the only observer who considers painting the wall panels inside an Eichler to be a major mistake. Joe Eichler used Philippine mahogany, now called lauan paneling, in the interior of his houses, especially the early ones. The panels were coated with an oil-based stain made by Cabot that, unfortunately, is no longer available. This presents a dilemma that has sent many homeowners to the Chatterbox for answers.

"I was wondering if there is anyone else who has gray paneling in their Eichler home and what they have done to restore it," queried a member with the name Omnispace. "I've tried talking to Cabot Stains, but they don't recommend using their exterior products on interior surfaces. Their stains made for interiors don't come in the color I need."

"Since Cabot no longer makes the original 'stain/wax' solution for the [cleaning of] lauan paneling, over the past few years I have heard a lot of conflicting solutions for re-invigorating and restoring the lauan paneling," commented a member called wbisset. "Would love to hear what others have tried successfully and unsuccessfully."