Crafting ideas

4 Defects of veneered furniture and their remedy

Much of the furniture we have at home is veneered. Veneered furniture is more vulnerable than solid wood when it comes to moisture resistance. And if the furniture is also old then it is even less resistant because the adhesives used in the past did not have increased moisture resistance. An environment with permanent high humidity or prolonged exposure to water can lead to defects. Sometimes these defects are not radical so remediation can be done at home. Find out how to recondition your furniture below.

Both chipboard or MDF and solid wood furniture can be veneered

I know, it seems unbelievable that wood is veneered with wood, but it is. There are situations when this happens. For example, you want a piece of oakbut not heavy. A furniture made of poplar wood veneered with technical oak veneer solves the problem. Not always solid wood furniture is the essence you see on the surface.

Most often it is veneered, but chipboard or MDF furniture. Veneering is done in presses with aesthetic veneer, i.e. less than 1 mm thick. Technical veneers (blind, as they are called) are thicker (2-3 mm) and are used mainly for solid wood furniture. The veneered panels are then used to make the furniture components.

When the defect occurs and what are the main defects that can occur

The main cause of defects is prolonged dampness, but defects can also occur due to knocks. Knocks to old furniture can destroy the adhesive film. If the knock is close to the edge, air and moisture enter under the veneer and destroy the glue inside.

veneered furniture
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Depending on how damaged the veneered surface is, there are several types of defects. The most important are:

  • swelling of the veneer
  • veneer peeling on edges
  • cracking and splitting of veneer
  • total destruction of the veneer

Let's take them one by one and see how they can be remedied.

1. Swelling of the veneer

It appears where the water has been standing for a longer period. It is most noticeable on table tops, but can appear on any surface affected by moisture.

If the swelling is very small you can try to fix it with heat and in most cases the problem is solved. That is, the surface is ironed with an iron. This softens the adhesive and the veneer sticks again.

AttentionNever step directly on furniture. First put waxed paper, then a piece of cardboard, over which you place a textile material that you normally use when ironing. The iron should not be heated to the maximum. After 2-3 minutes pick up the material and check the place. When the swelling is gone stop ironing, but leave the paper and cardboard in place until the next day, putting a weight on top.

If the bulge is larger and the veneer wavy, cut with a fine knife along the length of the defect along the grain. Carefully insert adhesive through the crack. Press the veneer in place taking care to match the cut edges. Immediately wipe off any excess adhesive very thoroughly. Place wax paper on top, over which put a weight which you leave until the next day.

furniture reconditioning
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2. Veneer detachment on edges

It happens mostly at corners, bottoms, edges or drawers. If the veneer is stripped but whole, carefully clean off the old adhesive by scraping thoroughly with a scraper or thin squeegee, then wipe with a cloth, put on adhesive and press. Wipe off the excess adhesive and proceed as above. If it is an edge that can be clamped with clamps, use this instead of weight as it is more effective.

If when cleaning the adhesive you see that the peel is advanced inwards, tear off the piece of veneer and clean down to the good adhesive film. Do not cut the veneer because when gluing the contact line will be more visible. Ripping will create a random glue line that will be easier to hide. After cleaning and removing the destroyed adhesive put adhesive on the clean surface and press the veneer putting the broken piece or pieces on as well. Attention how you fit them. Hold tightly until the adhesive sets so the pieces don't shift. Then clamp, placing a piece of board over the waxed paper to press evenly over the entire glued surface.

veneered furniture
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3. Cracking and tearing of veneer.

If the veneer is cracked and broken at the edges then the missing pieces must be replaced. Look for veneer at least as thick as the existing veneer. It will be very difficult to find the same design, but using the same essence the differences will be small. Remove the old glue and check in depth where the unaffected glue starts. Carefully cut away the loose veneer with a thin cutter. The cut should be made where the defect-free area begins. Using a piece of paper make a template of the affected area. You will cut out the added veneer so that it fits the affected spot perfectly.

veneered furniture
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Attention, the cut must be made in such a way that the grain of the added veneer is in the same direction as the existing one. In this way, even if there are differences in design, they will be less noticeable.

Glue the added veneer by holding it tightly until the glue sets so that it cannot move. Clamp it on as above and leave it until the next day. After removal sand off traces of hardened adhesive and sand to bring level if the added veneer was thicker. Then sand and finish (with varnish or wax).

veneered furniture
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4. Total destruction of the veneer

But there are situations where the veneer is totally compromised. Veneered furniture has cracks all over the surface, there are peels and tears of veneer everywhere. In this case the veneer needs to be completely replaced. If the surface is large, the tear is on the sides of the furniture or in hard-to-reach places, it is best to call in a specialist. But if it's a small table top or drawer front, you can try it yourself. But it's not easy.

a. Total removal of damaged veneer

First and foremost we must totally removed the destroyed veneer. Use a thin spatula and try to loosen the remaining pieces. To make it easier, iron 2-3 min with an iron or use a hair dryer to soften the glue.

Once you have removed most of the veneer, the remaining traces of adhesive and veneer can be removed if you place a wet towel over the entire surface and leave for a few hours. When you remove the towel you will find that the residue has softened and is much easier to remove. Finally wipe the surface thoroughly with solvent.

veneered furniture
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b. Preparing the veneer and applying it to the cleaned surface

Carefully measure the area and buy a larger piece of veneer so that it goes over the edges. If the surface is larger than a sheet of veneer, glue the sheets together with pieces of sticky paper. The resulting veneer sheet will be glued to the cleaned surface with the paper side up.

veneered furniture
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Apply glue to both the countertop and the veneer and carefully place the veneer on the countertop. With a smooth-surfaced trowel go over the veneer to remove air and lay it down perfectly. Use an aracite glue. Protect the veneer as in step 1 and iron with a heated iron (not very hot) to speed up the gluing. Put a piece of wood all over the surface so that the pressure is evenly distributed and clamp until the next day.

After removing the clamps, carefully cut away the veneer overhanging the edge, sand off with coarse paper the traces of hardened adhesive and the paper with which the veneer was glued, then sand with 150-180 grit paper to prepare the surface for finishing. Bathe and then varnish, oil or wax.

If you have veneered furniture, or if you're passionate about refurbishing furniture and want to get your hands on some weathered veneer, I hope these tips will help. Good luck!



About the author

Mihaela Radu

Mihaela Radu is a chemical engineer but has a great passion for wood. She has been working in the field for more than 20 years, wood finishing being what defined her during this period. She gained experience working in a research institute, in her own company, as well as in a multinational. She wants to continuously share her experience with those who have the same passion - and more.


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  • Hello,
    I return with a question and to this article. The oak desk has a broken piece of veneer. I found the veneer shell at a hobby shop but it is beech and mahogany. The beech one is closer in shade. I also got a special wood glue. In this case can I still give the desk just wax and varnish or does it necessarily need to be painted because it will be too visible the difference in design and color? I really like the colour and natural look of the oak, especially as this desk is old and gives it an authentic feel.
    Thank you!

    • Hello.
      It will be visible mainly because the beech is different in design and structure, the pores are small and arranged differently. If it is not a large piece only the colour difference will be visible. Try to darken the colour a little with tea. Dab the spot with a cloth soaked in tea and let it dry. Repeat if necessary. After complete drying you can apply wax. Wax sits better on wood with a coat of varnish, but you can do it this way. For better protection you can apply oil (linseed oil, Danish oil, tung oil) before the wax. It protects better against moisture. Let it soak for 10-15 minutes and then wipe off the excess. Let dry until the next day and apply wax.
      Good luck!

  • Hello please help me with some advice I have a very old chest of drawers veneered with rosewood and it is in need of reconditioning how can I do it at home? Thank you.

    • Good evening.
      You've given me too little information, but I'll try to manage.
      There are 3 variants:
      1. The furniture is in good condition, but the gloss of the varnish has been lost. In this case the furniture should be washed with water and detergent, dried thoroughly and left to rust. Afterwards, if the varnish layer is thick enough you can polish it. If not, you will have to sand the varnish lightly with fine abrasive sponges or 320-400 gloss sandpaper and apply a layer of varnish with the desired gloss. I recommend water-based varnishes because they are compatible with almost all varnishes.
      2. The lake is scratched. Sand the varnish more vigorously with coarser paper (180-220) to remove the scratched varnish layer. Then apply 2-3 coats of varnish, drying and sanding between coats with fine paper (320-400).
      3. Discoloration, veneer stripping, peeling. In this case the lake must be cleaned down to the veneer and the veneer sanded to remove the colour completely. Repairs are done first: the elements are glued, the veneer is glued. Remove any traces of adhesive and sand for a smooth surface. Apply the desired colour of the veneer. Allow to dry and apply the first coat of varnish. Allow to dry and sand for a nice cough. Then apply another 2-3 coats of varnish, depending on how covered you want the veneer to be.
      I have told you the options to see what the workload is. It is not easy to recondition a piece of furniture, especially if it is of high quality and this quality is to be preserved.
      All the best!

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      • Hello,
        I would like to paint a piece of furniture that is veneered.
        How do you advise me to proceed so that the paint will catch?
        Thank you!

        • Hello!
          If the veneer has no finish on top (varnish, primer, paint, filler) you should sand the surface with a medium abrasive sponge or 180 or 220 grit sandpaper. Sanding will ensure even absorption and good adhesion of the paint to the wood. After sanding, sand off and then apply 2 coats of paint, drying and sanding in between. Sanding between coats is done with a fine abrasive sponge or with 280 or 320 grit sandpaper. Sanding between coats increases adhesion and gives a pleasant surface to the touch. I advise you to use a solvent-based paint. Water-based products penetrate deeper into the wood and can damage the glue used to glue the veneer.
          If there is an older finish on the surface of the veneer, wash the surface of the furniture with soap and water or dishwashing detergent (with a wet cloth, without using excess water), wipe well and let it rinse. Then sand gently with a fine abrasive sponge, dust and apply paint. Use water-based paint as it is compatible with most finishes. However, check the compatibility of the old finish with the paint on a hidden section beforehand. If they do not separate, do not slide on each other, do not crack or crack, they are compatible.
          All the best!

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  • Hello, I have an old piece of furniture, lacquered with serlac. Can a modern lacquer be applied over the serlac or should the old lacquer be removed first? Thanks


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