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Q.We recently completed the remodel of a 1970s relic complete with dark paneling and shag carpet. In some areas, the homeowner acquiesced and allowed us to apply new 1/2-inch drywall over the old paneling, while in other areas we simply painted over it. But is there a simpler approach that doesn't involve removing and reinstalling all the trim, or being left with those telltale vertical grooves?

A.Tish Iorio, a member of the National Guild of Professional Paperhangers and the owner of Creative Endeavors in Annapolis, Md., responds: As you learned, the fastest and most economical approach to dealing with old paneling is simply to paint it.

When clients just want to lighten up a paneled room, I suggest cleaning the walls well and painting the sections between the grooves two or more very subtle colors that are only two or three tones apart.

Another technique is to paint everything one color and then use a clear polyurethane over every other section, which provides a little variation and — thanks to the reflection the poly provides — better light in the room.

Yet another approach that will give you the look of new drywall — while sparing you the job of redoing the trim — is to use a bridging liner. These products are made of thick, usually nonwoven materials, so they can span minor imperfections; they can be used over paneling and other textured surfaces, including brick and block. Although several different companies make them, I have had good luck with material from Cavalier Wall Liner (800/221-5798,

As with any wallcovering, proper prep work is key.

First, you have to be completely sure that there is no Murphy's oil soap, wax, nicotine, or other contaminants on the paneling, because nothing will stick permanently if there is. Washing with TSP (trisodium phosphate) is the best start; I like to use Dirtex (Savogran, 800/225-9872, because it leaves a little tooth.

Next, prime with a wallcovering primer and hang the bridging liner horizontally so that the seams don't fall on the paneling seams. When the walls are dry (typically after 24 hours), check for any voids or dips in the liner and fill them with joint compound where necessary. After a light sanding, you'll be ready to prime and top-coat.