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We bought the Eichler

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Joined: Apr 7 2004

Thanks for all of the suggestions on the "buying an Eichler" thread.


The house seems to have all of the original Luan panelling. My wife and daughter want to paint. Any suggestions? (They say any and all panelling is Old Fashioned.)

The panels are mostly scratched or faded. What do I do?



Joined: Mar 24 2003


You're on the cusp of an irreversible decision here. Once you paint it's virtually impossible to go back. If the panelling is worn and tired there are many techniques, some more work, some less, which can revive it.

As to the allegation that panelling is "old fashioned"--- well that's beside the point. Eichlers are unique houses and the paneling is integral to their uniqueness. You really shouldn't mess with such an important part of the house until you've lived in it for a while and you understand why the paneling is where it is. It's not just a question of whether paneling is currently trendy in "mainstream" houses.

Anyway, my 2 cents.


Joined: Mar 20 2003

It is a good idea to wait until you have developed a good idea of what works or doesn't work in your home for your needs. I decided to wait when I moved into my home in 2002 mostly because I was an eichler newbie and I wanted a better sense of the eichler esthetic. I purchased the books mentioned on the eichler network (modern book nook) and visited my neighbors to see what they were doing.

On the topic of original or painted luan it is very clear to me (now as compared to when I moved in 1 1/2 yrs ago) that certain rooms in my house would loose their eichler edge without the wood look. Bathrooms are not one of those rooms.

Have fun!

Joined: Apr 7 2004

As I stated, the panelling is faded and scarred. How can we make it look good?


Joined: Mar 24 2003

For paneling that's moderately worn my favorite technique is this. Get some Watco Danish oil finish (natural) and pour it on some ultrafine steel wool. Rub lightly, harder to remove small scratches, but never let the steel wool get dry. Leave for a while and rub off the excess oil with a soft cloth.

For seriously scratched paneling you've got to replace it. Take the time to find a source of good Lauan paneling. I've found good stuff at Minton's and Southern Lumber-- last I looked the Lauan at Home Depot was garbage, but others have found differently. Buy an extra panel and start experimenting with different stains to match the existing panel color. I used Watco Danish Oil again as a stain base, and added universal tinting colors in gold, brown, and red to get an amazingly good match. When you've found the right recipe, write it down.

Hope that helps.

Joined: Mar 20 2003

An other well-proven technique is to sand it using a sheet sander and 120 grain paper. The sanding has to be done real thouroughly but don't sand all the way through the veneer. Then it can be refinished with Watco Satin wax or with Howard feed'n'wax. This will leave the paneling in a very beautiful, rich lustre. It will remain rather dark though. My advise is to settle in first and get used to everything before you decide. The sanding is not very messy if you connect a shop vac to the sander in order to suck up all the dust.

Some people think they have to get a paint job really quickly after buying before they move in. Those are invariably ill-advised, not because it is generally a wrong thing to paint, but because those kind of 'quick' jobs have a tendency to look cheap. Even if painted, the Eichler paneling will never quite look like the off-white structured drywall you saw at Home Depot :-)

Joined: Apr 2 2003

I wish I had your problem ;-) I just spent the last several years replacing the ugly painted panelling with a combination of original and newly stained. (BTW, don't mix original and new, it's rare to get that to work well.)

One thing I can say is "don't paint the panelling". Painting the panelling is "cheap"--it reduces the value of your house forever and doesn't give you much benefit in return. If you don't like the look, then offer the panelling to others who do.

Here are your real options as I see them, starting with the best (IMHO). Good news, you can use this as a 3 stage approach. Start with the first and only move on to the next if the previous stage didn't meet your needs.

- Keep the panelling. Try to rejuvenate it using methods described by other owners or hire someone else to do it. (I think Renman knows someone who is capable of refinishing the walls.)

- Remove SOME of the panelling*. If you find the all-over wood claustrophobic and hard to decorate then you might consider doing some non-public rooms in drywall. Bedrooms and bathrooms are likely candidates. KEEP THE BASEBOARDS AND CEILING TRIM TO REAPPLY. There is upside to balance the downside if you drywall some rooms . Benefits include: greater safety, opportunity to update electrical to grounded 3-prong, replace old insulation, and possibly update plumbing. And, because you keep the public areas in original panelling you still keep most of the value (my opinion).

- Remove all the panelling*. This is extreme from any aspect I can think of: impact on your lifestyle during construction, impact on your wallet, etc. However, still better than painting though.

Just my 2 cents. Good luck.

* Remove the old panelling *carefully* yourself or have the person who wants it do it. Do not let contractors tear it off--to do it correctly takes time (money) which is really not well spent paying someone to do it.

eichfan at rawbw dot com

Joined: Mar 2 2004

Congratulations. You have joined a wonderful group of homeowners. What you really need is Marty Arbunich's great book on Eichlers. You can't really know what you have in an Eichler without it. We are giving away 100 autographed copies of this big book this Spring to new customers and old customers that re-coat their foam roofs. It sounds like you need the book. We'll give you a copy. No strings attached. It really helps with decorating, remodeling choices. Go to our website and leave us your contact information on the Free Estimates, I Need a New Roof page. Under comments, type in 'Randy says I really need the Eichler book '. While you are there, check your neighborhood for the red dots that show our customers on your street.

Joined: Oct 10 2003

Just my 2C, but you have to live with your wife and daughter in this house, not we the Eichler chatterboxers. So, like the recent scientific study said, the safest move would be to say "yes dears" and paint the walls ;)

During our house search, I saw a wide range of conditions of panelling. In some houses it was very very dark, claustrophobically so. In some, it was relatively light, but still made the house look darker inside that I would like. We like houses that bathe the interiors with light, which Eichler plans can do, but we didnt like the light-sucking darkness of (most of) the panelling we did see.

That being said, it IS rather rare to have the original panelling in unpainted condition (as you can see by the drool marks throughout this thread) and therefore what you have is valuable, and painting it would instantly and irreversably take that away. (kind of like on Antiques Roadshow when they say "oh, you painted that 18th century chair so you could actually use it? oh, that's baaaad. you're not supposed to USE it, you silly goose!")

My house was 'white bombed' before we moved in so there was no choice, but my wife didnt like the look of panelling either. If we were in your position it would be a tough choice, so I feel for you, man.

Finally, It is an Eichler, but it's YOUR eichler, and of course more importantly its your HOME. I would do whatever makes it feel like home to all the family members. As long as its not putting a 2nd story on -there are limits to everyone's tolerance after all.

Joined: Mar 20 2003

I had a similar problem with my Eicher - as far as the other people inhabiting the house goes. I replaced the paneling with drywall and found someone who wanted my paneling to restore his Penninsula Eichler.

We were very careful with the contruction details and checked lots of late Eichlers that had original drywall to get the correct look.

I have seen lots of Eichlers with original paneling and I prefer the look of my house to most of them. If the paneling is in poor shape it can look really bad. The look of painted paneling is even worse.

Bottom line - if you are carefull with the details (no crown molding, no baseboards and the look of the door jambs) you can have a great looking house is very true to the original spirit. I vote drywall over painting the paneling.

Joined: Mar 20 2003

We also felt the urge to paint when we first moved in. Now we (including my wife) are glad we didn't. Our house still has all of the original paneling with the exeption of one small wall in the bathroom.

Again, don't let people talk you out of doing what you want to your home. I just suggest you make really sure of what you want and don't hasten the job.

Joined: Mar 20 2003

Eichlers are special homes, full of design details that no longer exist. Changing those details only changes the context of your home.

It sounds like you are new to Eichlers. Do this: live in your home for a year before making changes or remodeling. Learn how your home functions before making changes. Do some research and learn why your home is so special. Learn about the architect and his philosophies.

Joined: Apr 12 2003

I understand your concern about the way your paneling looks. We had a similar problem.
However, we chose to replace the worn-beyond-repair lauan wood panels with new birch wood paneling, which is has much lighter color. It looks great.
Painted drywall looks better than painted wood paneling - so giving out the panels and installing drywall would be a good solution.
Remember that this architecture deals mostly with geometry and natural material textures, hence the original stained ceilings, the wood paneling, the closet doors, etc.
And, by the way, open any architecture magazine and will see lots os examples of wood paneling - Metropolitan, Dwell, Western Interiors, etc.
So, no, wood paneling isn't "old fashioned". Quite the contrary.

- antenor

Joined: Oct 10 2003

Hey I just thought of an idea: can you guys with the unpainted walls post or link to some pics? I'm really curious how they look in a well-cared-for home. I've got some pics of my white-bombed place over in the snapshot showroom. These are exterior shots but you can see the white walls pretty good.

Of the 4 albums currently in the snapshot showroom, 2 have painted walls, one looks to be original, and one loks to have light-colored panels.

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