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I'm considering buying a home that needs a refresh. Among other things, I'd like to remove the wood paneling in the finished basement and family room.

is my best bet to simply cover the paneling with 1/4" dry wall? I plan to replace all the mouldings anyway, but would I run into any issues with electrical or door jams? It feels like taking it to the studs is the right thing to do, but I tend to go overboard with this stuff and don't want to waste a lot of money and time if there's no real upside.
 

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Upside is you get to see what is behind the walls if you rip it out. Can check easier for proper wiring, insulation, run new outlets if you want, etc. But if you drywall over, outlets will be easy. They sell extension rings. But doors and windows would have to be retrimmed with extensions. Without seeing pictures, I'd vote gut because I like demo. Lol.
 

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I agree with JB & TS. Take it out. Paneling is actually easy to remove. It's usually held in place by short, narrow gauge, ring shank nails that are easily removed. Sometimes it is GLUED onto the walls and that takes some of the "easy" out of the equation, but it is still doable. You won't regret removing it.
 

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Demo always risks opening a can of worms. I don't demo unless I have to. Pull trim, put on extensions, and throw up 1/4".
 

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By can of worms, you mean you would prefer to not know what's going on inside of your walls and hope for the best? I'm guessing he won't need to pull permits and have an inspection. To each his own, but I'd prefer to know all is well instead of putting time/money into a half reno and then discover years later something is wrong and have to rip it all out.

Now he doesn't even own this home yet so I'm sure there's things he can't answer just yet. But if the basement was finished by a homeowner and paneling was thrown up over the walls, I'd have concerns as far as how electrical was run, any signs of seepage, proper insulation, foundation issues. Was cheap paneling thrown up over the walls to conceal things such as this and hope for a quick sale? OP, just make sure you hire a qualified home inspector if you move closer to purchase to rule some of these things out.
 

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I don't see anyone doing demo to do lipstick - IMO scope creep is a kind of sickness. Whether a house is brand new or old, you can't tell if it has hidden problems unless it shows symptoms. Until then, there's no real reason to demo. If there is no problem, it's a waste of time and money, if there is a problem, you just blew the lipstick budget and timeline.

He could just skim coat the paneling and be good, for that matter -either way, it's a small, fast, inexpensive job.
 

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The only step you are adding is ripping off paneling unless I'm missing something? 1/4 to 1/2 drywall cost is negligible. So if he's screwing drywall over the paneling he still has to tape and mud. He's still pulling all the trim off and has to retrim. I don't really see where the extra money is involved other than disposal of the old panelling. Time I would imagine would only be a few hours to demo. So I don't know how taking off paneling is such a bigger ordeal than putting up the drywall. Skim coat paneling, I think that would be fairly disgusting looking. I don't think I would call doing a whole basement and family room a small inexpensive job. Granted we don't know the dimensions of the rooms or number of doors/windows involved, but this would not be a Saturday afternoon bang out job.

Also the whole point of doing more of a demo is to catch early symptoms before they show. So if he has mold growing on the inside of the walls that isn't showing yet, should he wait for himself and his family to exhibit symptoms before it's looked in to?
 

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I totally agree why half arse it when it would be such an easy demo. An other doomsday scenario. The paneling will not absorb water like drywall so a small leak could go for a LONG time before it shows, and this gives mold a long time to grow. Whereas drywall will show a leak pretty quick.
Sometimes it's a good thing to open a can of worms like this. You can find things like faulty wiring, termite damage, plumbing issues that need addressed, now is the time to find them, not after you remodel.
 

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And here's the optimistic side. You rip it out and everything is 100% up to code and bone dry, then you aren't left to wonder. You know there shouldn't be anything that will creep up on you. To each they're own, but when it comes to my house I'm not one to hope for the best, keep my fingers crossed and keep things covered up and believe what I don't know won't hurt me.
 

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I don't recommend doing a gut to inspect anything just to calm fears. If you want to make sure you don't have moisture issues, do a whole house inspection with a non-contact moisture meter periodically, and monitor the RH in problem areas - $50 for a base station and sending units, a few hundred of the NC moisture meter. Gutting the basement will do nothing about the mold growing in the bathroom walls.

Gutting the basement isn't going to do anything about the nail in the wire in the bedroom wall that's going to burn your house down. Finding those isn't cheap or easy, but an AFCI breaker upgrade reduces the risk. Thermal imaging with loads on all devices for a few hours can find things like tape splices in the walls and poor device connections / faulty devices, but it's a little pricey - it can make sense if you're checking insulation in the whole house.

Gutting is a silly way to inspect a house, even if it's easy to gut. If you're doing a lipstick, do a lipstick, if you're doing energy upgrades, do energy upgrades, if you're doing moisture control, do moisture control, and so on. Personally, I check for wet areas, air leaks, and insulation problems (beyond the obvious roof / attic inspection). Moisture control takes periodic checking over multiple seasons. It isn't something you can always just look at and tell there's an issue you need to fix, it's frequently a combination of weather conditions and home use / water vapor load that creates recurring invisible problems, until you;re 5 years down the line and have to do a gut to correct mold problems.
 

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I think the point is still being missed here. How is pulling paneling off a wall that big of a deal when you're going to be drywalling anyway? We never said it was to do a full house inspection, but on how to do things right.
 

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For what it's worth I do lean toward JB's way of thinking and am happier to rip out anything I did not install, start fresh and rebuild it right. Even if it may have been built right to begin with. Add to that the opportunity to run outlets, speaker wire and lights, which I hadn't thought of, weighted against the minimal extra effort and cost and I will rip/replace.

I definitely appreciate the counterpoint but I think that's the way to go for me.
 

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RT, keep us updated and post before and afters if you are able to. Yup, being able to run/adjust placement of outlets/wall switches is huge. Like you said run speaker wire, HDMI for TV's, put up extra blocking in the wall if you'll be mounting a TV. In the end you'll have less to fight with and have it set up your way. Some guys I think we're almost viewing this like you were doing it for a "flip". You weren't looking to put lipstick on a pig and try to turn a quick buck. This is the house you want to live in and have been nice for you and family.
 

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I think the point is still being missed here. How is pulling paneling off a wall that big of a deal when you're going to be drywalling anyway? We never said it was to do a full house inspection, but on how to do things right.
If you've been around, you know there are multiple "right" ways. I certainly know professionals that would give the advice you gave, but then you have to boost your budget and schedule for the unknowns. Worst case he winds up tearing out everything, reinsulates, etc. You don't know how easy it's going to be.

If this is unpermitted, then he can get by with any number of things, but I don't recommend this at all. I'd automatically take on added liability if I took the paneling off - this may also be true for the HO doing it. There is also the often overlooked factor that the insurance value in event of a claim is higher for having drywall over paneling than it is for just drywall.

More importantly, visually inspecting two areas in a house doesn't guarantee the house doesn't / won't have mold, electrical problems, plumbing problems, etc.

Basically, this all boils down to a judgement call for the HO - how much time and money he has available, and what he's willing to do. I don't think there in any sense sinking time and money down a path if you aren't willing or able to see it out. Make the decision up front, and then you live with it / see it through. The time/budgets for putting up some sheet rock vs tear out, perimeter drain, air seal, insulate, structural framing repairs, foundation repairs, frame, wire, plumbing replacement, drywall, etc are vastly different. It all boils down to what he's prepared to do.
 

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OK I tried to stay out of this. First there are not multiple ways to do it right. There are multiple ways to do it, but really only one way to do it right. Please explain how him doing it himself would boost my budget. As far as not knowing how hard it's going to be- no harder than trying to cover it up. Please explain your added liability for doing something the right way. What insurance do you have that prefers formaldehyde soaked paneling over clean updated drywall. Who said doing an inspection in this area would insure anything about the whole house. And your last 2 sentences say a lot. IF you find ANY of those things wrong It's your experience it's better to hide them than fix them. Kind of a hear no evil, see no evil.
Since he was not just going in and tear open the walls to look, he was actually going to do something anyway I personally feel it would be irresponsible to tell him don't look, something may need fixed.
Good Lord any contractor on here could write a book about what they have found in walls that HO have done thinking it's all right. Did all of them cause problems NO. Does that mean they never would NO.
 

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ToolSeeker, you are dead right on. I'm just a DIY'er, but am very avid, am constantly learning, and want to do it the right way every time. I'm very good at construction, finish carpentry and painting. Do I claim to be as proficient as a professional finish carpenter, absolutely not. But can I make trim, etc. look better in my house than 90% of new homes being thrown up in my current houses price range and the carpenters being used there are not professionals, but paid to do the work fast and bang out work, absolutely I do better work. It's my house, I have time to take pride and what might take someone 1 hour to do, I have the luxury to spend 4 hours. I might spend the time to get something "perfect" when someone else hired would say "close enough". Now this does NOT apply to well skilled and trained professionals. I very much respect their work and abilities, but often times this would exceed my budget. I think this sums it up:

Don't assume every homeowner is an idiot and every contractor is a genius. If a homeowner has skill and ability, there's no reason for him not to take a project as far as he/she can go within their skill level. But depending upon the scope of the project, yes money should be set aside in case a Pro needs to come in.

Let's say I'm drywalling my garage and it takes me 2 weeks to hang, mud and sand. Who cares, it's only the inside of a garage as long as I did everything up to code. Now I get a brilliant idea to put a skylight in, cut a hole and now I go "what the hell did I do", time to call in a Pro OR did the right thing and have one from the start.
 

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Excellent post I think you hit the nail squarely on the head.
Never stop learning
Know your limits.
Even as a contractor and I will admit I'm 69 years old and still doing it, why because I enjoy it.
Admittedly not as much as I used to. But I still take pride in my work when I can stand back and say "I did that". I hope you get that same feeling when you complete a project.
Good Luck on your project and keep us posted on how it's going.
 
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