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Can You Put Paneling Over Insulation? Full How To Guide

Dark wall paneling with raised vertical rectangles, with gold cage lights, a cluster of white vases, and a clear vase with plants in it in the foreground.

There is very little more inviting than entering a warm and cozy home when it is cold and raining outside. If you spend some time planning the house insulation and optimal sourcing products which cater to your needs, it will enhance the value and desirability of the house.

You can install paneling directly over insulation; however, the final result will be determined by the insulation materials you use and the type of paneling that you install on top. Some insulation materials need fire hazard safety guards, and some paneling must be protected from moisture.

Installing sufficient sized insulation and suitable heat resistance will save significantly on heating costs. An enthusiastic DIYer can install most insulation materials, here’s what you need to be prepared to do the job thoroughly.

Can You Install Panelling Over Insulation?

Whether you install wood paneling directly over the insulation will depend on the paneling and insulation material used. There are a few risks and other factors which need to be managed.

#1: Water Damage

When exposed to moisture, some paneling material like real wood is vulnerable to:

  • warping
  • shrinking
  • swelling

Insulation material that does not have an impermeable layer must be covered with a polyethylene film vapor barrier, like this sold on Amazon, stapled to the studs covering the insulation. Read this article to learn everything you need to know about waterproofing a wall from the inside.

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#2: Risk of fire

Fiberglass batt, found on Amazon, is used as an insulation material. If it is faced with Kraft paper or some other vapor retarder facings, it may present a fire hazard, and it should be covered with a protective barrier such as a gypsum board.

If the insulation material is foam, it must first be covered with  ½ inch gypsum board or interior paneling before adding the layer of wood paneling.

#3: The Level Of Insulation Needed

Depending on the climate, varying levels of insulation are needed.

The insulation levels are categorized by the material’s “R” value, which measures its ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the heat-resistant qualities of the material are per inch of thickness.

Different materials have varying R-values, and while the width of the studs limits insulation, you can improve this by:

  • increasing the stud width
  • using different materials

Varying R-Values are recommended depending on:

  • where you are situated
  • average temperatures
  • what walls in the home need insulating

NOTE: Typical recommendations for exterior walls are a rating of R-13 to R-23.

The Department of Energy (DOE) recommends the following levels of insulation:

  1. Warm to temperate climates R-13 to R-15.
  2. Colder to frigid climates R-19 to R-21.

#3.1: Wall Insulation With A Value Of R-11 To R-14

If you intend to use wood paneling attached directly to the wall studs against the insulation, it is easiest first to frame the walls with 2×4-inch studs and insulate with fiberglass batts.

It will provide an R12 to R14 level of insulation.

#3.2: Wall Insulation With A Value Of R-14 To R15

Increasing the stud sizes from 2×4-inch to 2×6-inch studs will raise the level of insulation to R14 – R15, depending on the insulation material you use. Be aware, however, that this will reduce the interior space in the room.

Instead of increasing the stud sizes, different-density fiberglass batts for standard 2×4 walls are now available. Fiberglass batts are sold in low, medium, and high-density variants that provide insulation ranging from R-11 to R-15 per inch of thickness.

#3.3: Wall Insulation With A Value Of R16 – R28

If you need even higher insulation levels, replace the fiberglass batt sheets with blown-in cellulose or spray foam insulation, sold on Amazon.

It is easier to fill all of the difficult-to-reach areas and those with complex shapes with blown-in insulation products, and therefore a more effective seal is made.

Blown-in cellulose or spray foam insulation will increase the R-value to between R-14 and R-28, depending on the insulation material used.

Wood paneling on a wall in a lined natural wood diamond shape.
There are varying types of insulation to put under wall panels

Fibreglass Batt Insulation

Batt insulation is made from fiberglass or mineral wool and was traditionally manufactured in rolls but now is usually manufactured and pre-cut into industry-standard sizes. Batt insulation is a low-cost method of insulating the home.

Batt insulation is installed without or with facing called Kraft-faced batts, that consist of Kraft paper coated with asphalt that creates a waterproof barrier.

The Kraft paper or foil vapor retarder facings on many blanket insulation products must be covered with gypsum or interior paneling to reduce fire risk.

If the batt insulation sheets are installed without facing, a polyethylene film vapor barrier, found on Amazon, needs to be stapled to the insulation studs.

It forms a waterproof barrier which is very important if you intend to install real wood paneling, which will prevent the wood from:

  • warping
  • shrinking
  • swelling

Blown-In Cellulose Or Spray Foam Insulation

Both cellulose and spray foam insulation effectively prevent heat loss in the home.

They are particularly suitable for covering the space around wires and other obstructions. It is also easier to fill an oddly shaped area with cellulose or spray foam insulation.

NOTE: Netting is normally used to restrain the cellulose covering until the paneling drywall is installed.

It is important that spray foam is finished off neatly and that the outside layer is in line with the back of the paneling or the drywall. If it isn’t, you will constantly need to adjust it to fit the wall panel.

How To Prepare Natural Woods Environment

If the wood is being installed over insulated brick walls, follow these steps.

#1: Acclimatize The Wood

Wood is a hygroscopic medium that constantly releases and absorbs moisture until it eventually reaches equilibrium with its immediate environment.

Stack the wood paneling in the room in which they will be installed. Place separators between every two layers for better air circulation.

Acclimating wood paneling gives it time to get used to the room’s normal temperature and humidity levels, so it will stop expanding or contracting once it’s installed.

#2: Waterproof The Brick Walls

Waterproof the brick walls with a good quality sealer, sold on Amazon, to prevent water leaks and moisture from permeating through the bricks.

#3: Prepare The Wood

Consider applying a waterproof polyurethane, from Amazon, coating on both sides of the wood before installing it.

A bathroom with a blue wall that has white wood paneling halfway up the wall, a black counter, white cabinets, a gold mirror frame, and blue and white retro tile floor.
Consider all of the necessary choices for project safety and success


It is possible to install paneling onto insulation. However, the type of paneling and insulation will determine the measures needed to ensure the success and safety of the project.

The choice regarding the type of insulation you use and the materials you install on top of it will be informed by the:

  • climate you live in
  • materials the home is built with
  • design elements you choose

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