How to Paint Veneer Furniture

How to Paint Veneer Furniture – Painting Wood Veneer Guide

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Many of us have some pieces of veneer furniture in our homes. This may be a cupboard in the kitchen or bathroom, a desk, a table, or even a countertop in your kitchen. However, it may eventually begin to look slightly scruffy with scratch marks or stains. This is no reason to discard it as veneered wood can be painted and your furniture can look as good as new again. In this article, we will be helping you by answering all your questions and giving you an in-depth tutorial on painting veneer furniture.



What Is Wood Veneer?  

Whenever you want to describe the wooden furniture in your home to friends, you need to tell them what type of wood finish it has, and then you are faced with three options, veneer, laminate, or solid wood. Many people today are not familiar with all three of these options, so we are going to guide you through all options to make it a lot easier for you to explain. 

Wood Veneer Applied to Base

What is wood veneer? The veneer is created when a thin layer of real wood (1/8 inch or less) is bonded or glued to a fiberboard or particleboard. This then gives the impression that it is real solid wood, however, the inexpensive or cheap particle board is hidden underneath. This process allows furniture manufacturers to make and design beautiful pieces of furniture with any type of wood but at a much lower cost. There are many different types of veneered wood, but we will be considering only the three basic kinds.

  • There is the raw veneer wood that has no backing to it and can be utilized on either side of the board.
  • The paper-backed veneer wood has paper attached to one side and can only be utilized on one side, and it also comes in larger sheets.
  • Lastly, there is the phenolic-backed veneer wood that uses artificial wood veneer backing, making it very popular these days as it is more environmentally friendly.

Veneered Engineered Wood

Many people have asked the question, how can you tell by just looking at the veneered furniture that it is veneer and not real solid wood. The first thing that gives you a clue is the price; solid wood furniture is a lot more expensive than veneer furniture. Secondly, you can tell by examining the end joints of the wood board or furniture, if you notice that the end grain is not solid wood, then the furniture is generally veneer. 


Advantages of Veneered Furniture

Veneered furniture offers many benefits, and the most important of these is that the veneer wood helps to increase the stability of the item. As real solid wood is prone to splitting and warping, the veneer, by using thin layers of real wood, helps reduce this from happening. The glue also helps to strengthen the item and without the veneer wood, certain projects would just not be possible.

Veneer Can Strengthen Wood

Since only a thin slice of real wood is used in creating veneer wood, it makes it more environmentally friendly as well as much cheaper than solid wood. Using a veneer on the wood, allows you to cover a much larger area than with solid wood, and it is also non-toxic.

Veneered Wood Cabinet

By using veneered wood, you are open to a much larger choice of wood finishes, as many types of solid wood are very expensive. Also, some woods are very rare and exotic and may even be on the endangered species list. However, by using a veneer, you can have whatever type of wood finish you desire without endangering the spices or breaking the bank. Veneered wood is also much lighter than solid wood, offering you a greater variety of designs that would not be possible if you were to use solid wood.


Where Can You Use Veneer Wood?

Veneer wood is very versatile and flexible and is used when making cabinets, doors, and furniture. Many designers and architects incorporate veneer wood into their designs. Many retailers use veneer in their displays, and lighting companies incorporate it into their products in the form of blades for ceiling fans.

Uses for Wood Veneer

Audio manufacturers use veneered wood for their speaker boxes, and musical instrument makers use it in designing and making musical instruments. Aircraft and boat manufacturers also make use of veneer wood in their designs, and so the list can go on and on.

Expensive Wood Veneer for Furniture

Some of the more unique uses of veneered wood are found today in cell phone manufacturing, jewelry, greeting cards, picture framing, wall art, and it has also found its way into certain eyewear or spectacle designs. 


How to Tell if Furniture Is Laminate or Veneer

A laminate wood finish is a lot different from a veneer wood finish. The laminated wood finish is made from synthetic materials, like thermofoil or melamine, and thin layers of this material are glued to particleboard or fiberboard. To make it look like wood grain, the plastic is printed with any pattern or wood grain you want. The laminated wood finish is shiny and non-porous and is used mainly for low-cost furniture, and furniture that requires a durable finished surface.

Wood Print Laminate Coating

The laminated wood finish is much cheaper than the solid wood or the veneer wood finish, but this finish is durable, easy to maintain and clean, and is resistant to stains, making it ideal for children’s rooms or where it will be subjected to a lot of wear and tear.

Laminate Banding for Chipboard

The laminated wood finish can also be painted, but because it is plastic and has no pores, there is no bond to let the paint stick, so the process for painting this type of wood finish will not be the same as for veneer wood finished surfaces.



Type of Paint Best Suited for Veneer Furniture

If you are in a situation where you want to refurbish your veneer furniture, but you are not too sure what type of paint you need to use, then we are here to help you and give you all the necessary information for a successful project.

Revitalize Veneer Furniture with Paint

When choosing the right paint for this type of project, you need to go for opaque colored paint and not transparent paint. Transparent paints may be acceptable even when applied unevenly, however, solid or opaque paints can hide any blemishes your furniture may have. Any type of paint that can work on a wood surface can also be used on a veneer finish as it is also wood.

Acrylic Paint for Veneer Furniture

If you opt to use oil-based or hi-gloss enamel, varnish, or stain, you need to take all the necessary safety precautions due to the fumes that could cause harm to your health. These paints also require extra effort for clean-up afterward. Whereas, water-based, acrylic, latex, chalk, and milk paints are much safer to use, cleaning up afterward is a lot easier. Most of the preparation for all surfaces includes repairing any damage and sanding lightly. We have compiled a short table below for your easy reference, leaving the choice up to you as to what type of paint will suit your project.

Type of Paint or FinishDries QuicklyPrimerGloss or Matte Finish
Oil-Based EnamelGloss and semi-gloss
Water-Based EnamelGloss and semi-gloss
Hi-Gloss EnamelGlossy
AcrylicNaturally glossy
LatexSeveral finishes
StainMostly satin Finish
VarnishMatte, gloss or satin
Chalk PaintOptional, but recommendedMatte
Milk PaintBest to prime finished woodMatte



How to Paint Veneered Furniture

Over time all furniture including veneer furniture can suffer scratching, stains, chipping, or scuffing. There is a great danger that due to the damage, moisture can find its way underneath the veneer and cause swelling to the particleboard. Instead of throwing the piece of furniture out, why not paint it, which will help save money. You also have the opportunity to add your personal touch by painting the color you choose to fit into your décor.

Paint Roller for Veneer Furniture

Veneered wood is only a decorative layer of wood glued to particleboard, so painting veneer furniture is the same as painting over any piece of solid wood, which is not very hard to do at all. However, preparation is vital, and you need to ensure the veneer finish is properly clean. You also need to repair all damaged sections. Sand the surface, being careful not to sand too much as it is only a thin layer of wood.

Sand Veneer for Painting

Priming the surface is essential and you need to make sure you use the right primer that is compatible with your paint. Always remember that a good paint job requires time, as you need to allow each paint application to dry properly before applying the next layer. So, for the very best results take your time. 


Supplies and Equipment Required

It is important that before you begin with any work, you make sure you have all the necessary equipment and supplies ready and near at hand. Not preparing could be frustrating and could result in your painting project failing if you start with the work and have to leave everything and go in search of some supplies or equipment. Here is the list required for the job.

  • Fine-grit sandpaper or block
  • Newspaper or plastic sheeting
  • Soft rags or tack cloth
  • Masking tape
  • Paint
  • Primer compatible with paint
  • Paintbrush or roller
  • Paint tray
  • Putty knife
  • Putty or wood filler
  • Contact adhesive

Equipment for Painting Veneer Furniture


Preparing Your Workspace

Sanding can be a pretty messy job, so if the item is small, take it outside or into the garage to avoid any dust or fumes affecting your family or pets. Ensure you have proper ventilation by opening windows and switching on the fan to help circulate some fresh air, and be sure to wear the proper safety gear.

Safety Gear for Painting Veneer

Protect the floor where you are working by laying down some newspapers or plastic sheeting so that it can catch any paint spills. If the veneer furniture item you are going to paint is a cupboard or desk and it has handles and hinges, you need to remove these things before painting to protect them from being painted.

Remove Hardware from Veneer Furniture

On many items, the veneer wood surfaces are attached to other surfaces that you do not want to paint, like a desk where you do not want to paint the legs or sections of the desktop. Use some masking tape to seal off those surfaces, and if necessary, some plastic sheeting if the surface is fairly large.

Mask Off Areas Not to Be Painted


Repair Damage

Before you start to paint your veneer wood surface, you need to repair any chipped, cracked, or scratched sections of the particleboard by removing the damaged pieces and filling the area with some wood putty. Ensure that the hole is filled with the wood putty and use a putty knife to smooth out the putty and the surrounding area. Then use some fine-grit sandpaper to ensure the area is smooth. Leave the putty to dry overnight, as it needs to be dry before you can carry on.

Repair Veneer with Filler for Painting

It often happens that the veneer layer can chip, crack, or pull away from the substrate. If the veneer has pulled away from the particleboard, especially at the edges, use some contact adhesive to glue it back into place. Apply a thin layer of glue to both sides, leave it for about 15 minutes, then press the veneer down onto the board and hold it in place until the veneer is securely attached.

If sections of the veneer are missing or cracked, then remove those damaged sections and replace them with a new piece of veneer and glue it down as described above. If the veneer is too badly damaged and cannot be repaired, then you need to remove the entire veneer surface and replace it with a new veneer.


Sanding the Veneer Surface

Now that you have successfully repaired any damage to the veneer surface, it is time to start the sanding process. This process is vital to the success of your project as it will give the paint the surface it requires to adhere properly. If you do not sand the surface, you may find that the new coat of paint you applied will start to chip and peel off within days.

Using Sanding Block on Veneer Furniture

Take some fine sandpaper, about a 220-grit, or a sanding block and sand the veneer surface to remove any old finish it may have or to remove the gloss. You need to take care of this process and only use light pressure to avoid sanding right through the veneer to the particleboard. Only scuff the surface to give the paint something to adhere to. If you have a very large area to sand, it may be advisable to use an orbital sander to finish the job quicker. 

Orbital Sander for Large Veneered Surface


Cleaning the Veneer Surface

After you have finished sanding the veneer surface, you need to clean the surface to make sure all the dust has been removed before you start to paint. To start, you can use a vacuum cleaner to get rid of the dust. Then take a tack cloth or clean rag and wet it slightly and wipe the entire surface until it is completely clean and free from any dust. Now leave the veneer surface until it is completely dry.

Remove Debris from Veneer


Applying the Primer

Before applying the primer, you need to make sure you have selected the right type of primer for the job. When using an oil-based paint, then you can use an oil-based primer, or if you apply water-based paint, then you can apply an oil-based primer as the oil-based primer seals the grain of the wood surface. You need to use a gray primer if the surface is dark or a white primer if the surface is light.

How to Prime Veneer Furniture

Make sure you stir your primer first and then pour the primer into your paint tray. Start with your paintbrush and apply the primer to all the hard-to-reach areas first, like corners, cracks, and edges. Then you can start with the roller and apply a thin layer to the whole surface area. Then leave at least 24 hours to dry thoroughly.

Priming Veneer Furniture for Painting

After you have finished applying the primer, you can give the surface area a light sanding to ensure that the paint you are about to apply will adhere properly to the veneer.  Ensure you clean the surface again, making sure all the dust has been removed. 


Applying the Paint

How to paint veneer furniture? As soon as the primer has dried properly, you are ready to start applying your first coat of paint. Stir the paint well before you start and then pour some of the paint into your paint tray. Use the same process as you did with applying the primer, by first using a paintbrush to get into all of those hard-to-reach areas. Then you can switch to the roller and paint the surface with an even and thin coat of paint. Allow the paint to dry properly, which can take up to 48 hours.

Renew Veneer Furniture with Paint

Depending on what type of paint you are using, you can then decide if you need to apply a second coat of paint, but for best results, it is advisable to apply a second and even sometimes a third coat of paint. If you have chosen light color paint, then two coats will suffice, or if you are using dark color paint, then you can go up to four coats to get the desired effect.  It is always advisable to lightly sand the surface between the coats of paint to allow for better adhesion.

Sanding Veneer by Hand


Applying the Sealing or Topcoat

Applying a top coat to your veneer wood-painted surface is important, as it will protect the paint from chips, scratches, scuffs, stains, and water damage. Also, it is easy to keep clean. The topcoat needs to be transparent and can be varnish, shellac, or polycyclic, and you need to ensure it is compatible with your paint. When is it necessary to apply a top or sealing coat to your newly painted veneer surface?

  • When you have applied chalk paint, then you need to use a sealing coat every time.
  • If your furniture piece is used often, then it needs to be protected by applying a sealing coat.
  • When using latex paint, then you need to use a sealing coat every time.
  • If you have just painted your desk, kitchen cupboards, shelves, and veneer tabletops, you need to apply a sealing coat as these items are all high traffic areas.

Sealer for Painted Wood

You can apply the sealing coat by using a paintbrush, a roller, or even a sponge. You need to follow the instructions on the container carefully as to what application is suited for your project. Apply at least two thin and even coats of sealer. However, for high traffic pieces, then three to four coats are recommended. Wait for about 48 hours before using the specific item of furniture.



How to Repair Sanded-Through Veneer

When you are sanding your veneered furniture, you need to do it with great care as the veneer is very thin and you can easily sand through the veneer to reveal the substrate underneath. If you are sanding by hand, it will require a great deal of effort to sand through the veneer. However, when using an electric sander, it is very quick and easy to sand right through the veneer to the substrate.

Sanding New Wood Veneer Top

When do you know that you have sanded through the veneer? You will know when you notice the figure and grain of the wood disappear. It is vital that when you notice this happening, you stop sanding when the area is still small, and you can fix it. When the area becomes too large, it is impossible to fix it.

Sanded-Through Veneer

If you are going to paint over the veneer, then all you need to do is simply paint over the sanded-through area and the problem is solved. However, if you intend to keep the beautiful wood finish and only use a stain, then the problem becomes more difficult, but it can be repaired.

Craftsman Repairing Veneer

Apply your stain as if there was no problem and wait for the stain coat to dry. Now take a soft artist-colored pencil that is the closest match to your wood grain finish, and simply draw the damaged grain and figure back on the exact spot on the veneer that you sanded through. Next, you need to use your finger to smudge the pencil marks so that they blend in with the grain of the original veneer finish, and then apply the sealer coat.

How to Restore Damaged Veneer

Allow the sealer coat to dry properly for about 25 to 30 minutes and then take some fine-grit sandpaper and lightly sand the sealer coat off until you reach your colored pencil marks. Now select another colored pencil that matches the color of the stain as you see it in the wood grain. You need to draw the grain wood lines so that they connect with the pattern on the veneer, then smudge again, but this time not as hard, as you do not want the lines to be too sharp. Then you can apply the next sealer coat.

Now sand the area down as before and select a colored pencil that matches the color of the open grain of the wood. Draw in the lines again, smudge lightly again and apply the next sealer coat. Continue this process until you are completely satisfied with the result and then apply your topcoat.



How to Repair Peeling Veneer

Peeling veneer is a very common problem with older furniture or antiques and is caused when the veneer is exposed to humidity, heat, or water then the glue starts to release, and the veneer starts to peel off from the substrate. This is not the time for you to discard your favorite piece of furniture, as it is not all that difficult to repair.

Repairing Chipped and Peeling Veneer

Before you start, you need to examine the peeled-off section to see how far it has gone. If the veneer is too badly damaged, then you may have to remove that section and replace it with a new piece of veneer. Take some good-quality wood glue or contact adhesive and apply a generous amount on both the veneer and the substrate. Wipe off any excess glue, press down the veneer with your fingers and clamp it down or use a weight to hold it down until it dries.  



Can You Stain Veneer?

Most of the veneer finishes on furniture are thick enough to stain and give your dresser top, veneer tabletop, or any other furniture that has a veneer finish a brand-new look. So, the answer to the question of can you stain veneer is yes, you can, and we will now show you how.

How to stain veneer furniture? The very first thing you need to do is remove the old coats of sealer by using a paint stripper. Apply the stripper to the surface, leave it for about 15 minutes, then start to scrape it off with a scraper. Remember to always go with the grain of the wood. Then take fine-grit sandpaper of 150-grit and sand again, going with the wood grain, until there are no more scratches.

Scrape Varnish from Veneer

Now take the stain, and using a clean lint-free cloth, apply the stain in the direction of the wood grain, and allow it to dry slightly according to the instructions on the tin. Be careful not to allow it to dry too much, as it will be very difficult to remove. Take another clean cloth and remove the stain, again moving with the wood grain.

How to Stain Veneer Furniture

After you have finished staining the veneer, you need to protect it. You can use a wipe-on polyurethane finish for this purpose. Simply apply with a clean cloth, again wiping along with the wood grain. This product is durable but does have a strong smell, so you need to take the necessary precautions when using it.



If you have read this article, you probably have some piece of wood furniture that has a veneer finish to it, but the veneer has been damaged by chipping, scratching, or water damage. There is no need to discard this piece of furniture, simply follow the steps above and your furniture piece can be as new again. All it will take is some time and effort to finish the project.


View our Painting Veneer Furniture web story here.



Frequently Asked Questions


Can You Paint Over Veneer?

Veneered furniture is the same as ordinary wood, but only in thin layers or sheets. So, just like the wood, you clean the surface, prime it, paint or stain it, and then seal it. This can bring new life to an old furniture piece, or you can paint it to match your room’s décor.


Can You Paint Over Veneer That Has Not Been Sanded?

There are many ways to do this, like using chalk paint or milk paint, which does not require sanding or a primer. You can also use a bonding primer or use a liquid sander or glosser. All of these methods can work, but for the best results, it is always better to sand the veneer surface first. If you do sand, use fine-grit 220-grit sandpaper, you will not have a problem with sanded-through veneer.


How Can You Tell if Furniture Is Laminate or Veneer?

How to tell if furniture is laminate or veneer? Veneered wood is a thin piece of natural wood, so you will easily notice the distinct wood grain, but with laminate, the wood grain does not follow through the whole piece or sheet. Of course, the veneer is also much more expensive than laminate.

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