How To Install Wall Panels Without Adhesive: 3 Ways

Adhesive makes it very quick and easy to install wall panels, but it’s also notorious for making it difficult to remove them years later.

What if you’d prefer to avoid the adhesive? Can you effectively install wall panels without it?

You can install wall panels without adhesive by attaching them with panel nails, finish nails, or casing nails driven directly into the studs. Installing wall panels with nails makes them easy to remove later on, but the regular expansion and contraction of the panels over time may make it necessary to reattach them in the future. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the advantages and drawbacks of skipping the adhesive when installing wall paneling.

We’ll also talk about the right kinds of nails to use and cover the processes of installing paneling with nails, without nails, and without drywall.

Is It Necessary To Use Adhesive On Wall Paneling?

You do not have to use adhesive on wall paneling. Simply attach it with nails instead. The advantage to only using nails is that it will be very easy to remove the paneling later on.

This isn’t the case when panels are attached to the wall with adhesive; removing them is a huge undertaking that often requires substantial repairs to the wall underneath. 

However, there are benefits to using adhesive that you’ll miss out on if you only use nails. For instance, wood (like most other materials) is prone to expanding and contracting with fluctuating temperatures.

As it expands and contracts over time, it’s possible the nails could be loosened, and the paneling will need to be reattached to the wall.

What Nails Do You Use For Paneling?

When it comes to the right nails for paneling, you have three main choices. The first is panel nails, which are also sold as panel pins and paneling nails. 

The great thing about panel nails is that they come in numerous different colors. This makes it easy to find nails that match your paneling exactly, so that they won’t be as visible.

You could also use finish nails to attach paneling to the wall. An advantage to using finish nails is that they have rounded heads that can be driven all the way into the paneling so that you can’t see them.

Casing nails are another solid choice for paneling. They’re usually used for delicate carpentry projects like cabinetry and trim. 

How To Install Wall Paneling With Nails

Installing wall paneling with nails is an easy DIY project.

Below you’ll find a brief guide to the process, and you can also watch this short video for a visual overview.

1. Measure And Cut The Panels

Start by measuring the walls where you will be installing the paneling and cutting the panels to fit. Don’t forget to cut out the areas where outlets and piping will go.

2. Nail The Panels Into Place

Set your first panel in place and locate the studs. Nail the panel directly into the studs using panel nails that are similar in color to the paneling. You can do this with a hammer or a nail gun. Repeat this with each panel.

It’s best to nail into areas around the top and bottom that will be covered by the baseboard, chair rails, or trim. However, depending on the size of your paneling, you may also need to add nails in the middle.

How Do You Put Paneling On Walls Without Nails?

If you don’t want to use nails to attach your paneling to the wall, you can select a construction adhesive such as Liquid Nails Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive, Loctite Premium Construction Adhesive, or Gorilla Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive.

1. Clean The Walls

Thoroughly clean and dry the walls. They shouldn’t have any loose plaster, paint, or other debris on the surface.

You want to have a completely smooth and even surface for the paneling to adhere to.

2. Sand The Walls

If your walls have glossy paint, you’ll want to lightly sand them. When you’re done, wipe the walls clean using a damp rag. 

3. Apply Adhesive

Using your construction adhesive of choice, apply a quarter-inch continuous line across the back of the panel, starting about one inch from the edge.

Continue applying quarter-inch lines 10 inches to a foot apart.

4. Place The Panel

Push the panel into place.

Next, pull it away from the wall and wait for one to three minutes. This allows the adhesive to set and get stickier.

5. Secure The Panel

Once you’ve waited a few minutes, push the panel back into position.

You can secure it with nails at this point, or skip the nails if you’d prefer not to use them. The adhesive will be strong enough to secure the panel to the wall on its own.

How Do You Install Paneling Without Drywall?

Although it’s highly recommended to install paneling on top of drywall for fire safety reasons, you can install paneling without drywall. 

1. Attach Supports

You’ll want several 2x4s to serve as stabilizers for the paneling.

Attach them vertically to the wall every few feet or so using a nail gun. This step is optional, but it will result in a more professional finished product.

2. Add Insulation

Install batt and roll insulation in between the supports you attached in Step 1.

Although you could arguably skip this step as well, adding insulation blocks out noise and improves the room’s temperature regulation. 

3. Install The Paneling

Attach the paneling to the wall with a nail gun.

If you added 2x4s as supports, attach the panels to them. Otherwise, you’ll need to nail the paneling to the studs.

4. Attach Corner Pieces And Baseboards

For a more finished look, use your nail gun to attach corner pieces and baseboards to the wall.


It’s not necessary to use adhesive to install wall panels. You can simply attach them to the wall using panel nails, casing nails, or finish nails. Using a hammer or nail gun, drive the nails directly into the studs. 

The benefit of using only nails to install your wall panels is that it’ll be easy to remove the panels in the future. However, the panels will likely expand and contract over time due to temperature fluctuations, which can loosen the nails. This means you may need to reattach them later on.

Jessica Allen

Jessica is a freelance writer and editor who has years of experience writing about home improvement and interior design. When she’s not typing away in her office, you can find her doing yoga in her backyard or curling up with a good book.

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