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How to Remove Veneer From Your Furniture Projects

Veneer. Let's be honest. There's many a DIYer that have passed up a project piece because the Veneer is in horrible shape. Sometimes it can be repaired. And sometimes, it all needs to come off.

For those of you that are new to repurposing or painting furniture, Veneer is a thin sheet of finished wood that is glued to a secondary wood. It was, and still is, an inexpensive way to build furniture. Artisans would use a strong, but less visually appealing wood to build a piece of furniture, then trim it out with veneer (which is a craft all in and of itself).

The problem with Veneer is that is susceptible to temperature and moisture, which can make it buckle and peel. Sometimes you can add some wood glue under a loose piece and clamp it down until it dries. And other times, you'll find a piece like this.

Looks scary, right? BUT, we got it for an amazing deal and the Veneer was really only bad on the top.

Luckily for us, the Veneer on this project was in such bad shape, that most of it came off relatively easy.

There are two ways to remove Veneer from furniture.

Remove Veneer by Scraping & Sanding

The first method requires scraping and sanding. (Make sure you wear gloves and eye protection.) We used large Putty Knives to get under the loosened Veneer. We scraped and lifted the Veneer until it came off.

(By the way, if you'll bear with me through this article, I promise there's a video at the end that will show you another amazing method for removing Veneer.)

We were able to remove a majority of the Veneer by scraping. This was the only real stubborn spot. It took some muscle, but we eventually succeeded. Yeah us!

You can see the Secondary Wood under the Veneer. Does it surprise you that it's not one solid piece of wood? That's how furniture Artisans used to build furniture.

You can still see remnants of the Veneer above. We planed some high spots in the wood. The reason it had to be planed, was because we wanted to cover the top with a piece of birch plywood. The top had to be completely flat, otherwise the plywood would buckle, too.

Then we sanded the entire piece. (Remember to use eye and ear protection.)

Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of us attaching the new top. It was a high end piece of Birch Plywood. It was cut to size and glued down with Wood Glue. The Hubs put sand bags on the top overnight to apply enough pressure for a good seal.

Then I worked my painting magic. It took about 7 steps of paint and faux techniques to get this finish.

  • Amy Howard in Linen

  • Amy Howard Toscana in Noir (2 coats)

  • Antiquing Glaze for distressing

  • Amy Howard Light Antiquing Wax

  • Amy Howard Dark Antiquing Wax

  • Amy Howard Dust of Ages

The new owners loved the finished piece. It was a labor of love that brought it back to life.

I love to see the potential in a discarded project. We took off the Veneer and now she shines!

Now that you've been patient, I'd like to show you another way to take off Veneer that's just as effective, especially on those really stubborn spots where the Veneer won't release.

Removing Veneer with an Iron

Use an old iron and a very wet rag. Please, please, please use an old iron. You'll ruin a new one. Trust me. Ugh.

Place a very damp rag on the area where you want to remove the Veneer. The rag shouldn't be dripping wet, just really damp. Place a hot iron on top of the area and let it sit for a moment. Don't move it around too much. After a few minutes, remove the iron and the damp cloth. Then use your putty knife to scrape off the Veneer.

The heat from the iron allows the glue holding the Veneer to release. It's genius. Really!

I show you how to use this technique in the video below.

If you take the time to see past the flaws, you can definitely turn a piece from an eye sore to a Gem.

We opted not to recover the top of this buffet with plywood. The secondary wood was clean enough to paint over. I only had to fill a few spots with wood putty, then sand before painting.

Now you can tackle you're own Veneer project. I'd love to hear your feedback and see your successes, too.



P.S. If you're just starting to work on lots of DIY projects, make sure to check out our article where we share the Top 5 Power Tools Every DIYer Needs.

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