How to Remove Veneer – 4 Different Ways

How to remove veneer the easy way.
How to Remove Veneer - 4 Different Ways

Veneer damage is every furniture painter’s nightmare. Learning how to remove veneer the easy way wasn’t easy at all. It took years to figure out that every piece was not made the same and because they were different, it took other methods to repair them. Today I would like to share a few ways that I use to remove that pesky stuff.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

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How to Remove Veneer The Easy Way

The biggest challenge of removing the veneer is the glue that binds it to the wood. The older the piece, the easier it is to remove. But then again, some furniture manufacturers, I swear, must use elephant glue.

Tools Needed To Remove Veneer

How to remove veneer the easy way with these tools.

The first thing you will need is COFFEE and a lot of it! Just kidding, of course, but you will need your strength. You can expect your arms to be sore, as well as a few blisters on your hands if you don’t use gloves. I had to learn the hard way.

Method #1 Using A Paint Scraper

I always start off lifting the veneer at the corners, especially on the tops. This will be the most likely area to raise first because of exposure to rubbing, air, and moisture. There have been times that a paint scraper was all that I needed to remove the veneer. It’s a rare occurrence, but it does happen.

How to remove veneer with a paint scraper.

Method #2 How To Remove Veneer With Heat

Sometimes it’s necessary to get more aggressive. I have found that extreme heat will cause the glue to melt and make it easier to remove the veneer. I use a heat gun while prying the wood veneer up with the paint scraper at the same time.

How to remove veneer with a heat gun.

Method #3 The Wet Towel Method

If the other methods fail, I use the wet towel method by placing a wet (saturated) towel on top of the veneer and leaving it overnight. The glue will start to break down because most adhesives used back in the day were water-based. Also, try using steam from an iron (find one at Goodwill) on top of the wet towel to speed up this process if you don’t want to wait overnight. Heat and water will help remove the most stubborn glue.

How to remove veneer with a steam iron and wet towel.

Method #4 The Last Resort

Don’t do this! I know it’s tempting to try and sand the veneer off, but I promise you it won’t be pretty the next day when you feel like your arms are falling off. How do I know? Because I’ll try anything once. 

How to remove veneer with an orbital sander.

Painting or Refinishing After Removing Veneer

Once the veneer has been removed, use a good quality sander to smooth out any leftover glue that may have been left behind on the surface. Most of the time, it is impossible not to have some wood damage from some of the more aggressive veneer removal methods. But if that happens, paint is always a great choice. Hopefully, you’ll have great success with minimal damage, and you’ll be able to stain the wood and add beauty once again.  

How to remove veneer for furniture makeovers.

Thanks for joining me today, and I hope one of these 4 veneer removal methods helps to resolve your wood veneer issue.

Got a question, or have a comment about this post? Leave me a comment below and I’ll answer them. I’d love to help you!

Until the next project… xo, Do 

Dixie Nightstand – Painted Furniture Makeover

Look What Removing Veneer Did To This Wood Dresser

How To Use Wood Filler To Repair Veneer Damage

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14 Comments

  • Hi, I am thinking of trying the raw wood look for a vanity I just picked up with peeling veneer. I noticed in one case you used Modern Masters Clear Coat Satin and in another case used Dixie Bell Gator Hide. Which did you like the best for the raw wood after removing veneer? Thanks!

  • Hey Jill!
    That depends on the look you’re wanting. Each one has a different sheen. Gator Hide is water repellent and gives a satin finish look. So for a top that gets high traffic, this would be my choice on raw wood. Plus it’s water base. πŸ™‚

    xo, Do

  • Hi, I have an old claw foot kitchen table my mom got from estate sale. Veneer on top all cut n peeling. Upon removing the veneer i noticed on original wood it has little holes seems as if whonever b4 me, that they put some type of wood glue etc but it is powdery and didnt do the trick and maybe why the veneer cane into play. I dont know how to continue. My 1st veneer piecr. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I have pics if you need. I am a fan of your site btw.
    All my best Tricia

  • Hi Tricia! Thanks for reaching out to me. I guess it depends on how you want to refinish the top. After removing the veneer, always sand it back to the raw wood. If you are painting it, you can use a wood filler to repair any holes before painting. If the wood underneath is in good condition you can proceed with stain and a top coat. Be patient with yourself if this is your first time. Removing veneer is tricky but it just might amaze you what beauty lies beneath.

    xo, Do

  • Hi! Love your posts! I have a cabinet I am upcycling to use as bathroom linen storage. I already redid a sink vanity in raw wood. The cabinet has a few places where veneer is damaged/missing. I’m afraid if I remove veneer, wood may be ugly? If it is, paint? I’m afraid to mess this piece up, as it took me forever to find something that will work in the small space. And I’m torn between another raw piece and paint…..if paint, have to fix veneer? Sorry for the ramble!!

  • Becky,

    Your project sounds lovely! The truth is that you just don’t know what the wood looks like under the veneer. Good news is… you can always paint the wood if it’s not what you want. This has happened to me a few times, but the risk of removing is so worth it when it’s beautiful Hope this helps. I would love if you would share the finished project. I love a good makeover!

    xo, Do πŸ™‚

  • How do you tell if a piece is veneer or not? I have a set of old dressers that look to be a painted wood finish, which leads me to think it is veneer, but there is no peeling that I can see. Just worn down spots where you can see the wood underneath. Thanks so much!

  • Hi Lindsay,

    It’s common on particleboard and plywood furniture. But it was also used on a lot of antiques that have perfectly good wood underneath. If there is a veneer, you will be able to look at it from the side and see where the sheet of veneer attaches to the front of the piece. Also, if you see unfinished wood underneath the furniture, it’s probably wood and not laminate which tends to cover the furniture from top to bottom. Hope this helps.

    Do πŸ™‚

  • I have an Ethan Allen bedroom set I purchased to paint and flip. However I come to find out it has veneer on top. The veneer is not lining up in some places because the particle board underneath has swelled. So I indeed need to remove the veneer … but can you tell me how I would go about putting NEW wood on top of the particle board? I know I can’t sand and paint particle board but I’m super new to this and want to add new wood

  • Hmmm, you may be better off repairing the holes and damaged areas with a filler instead and painting. It’s possible to use a liquid nail to secure them. I would do a search on google and Pinterest to see if anyone else has suggestions on how to proceed. Furniture repair is tricky and I’d love to say “one fix for all” but that doesn’t work because every piece is different. Some of the same rules apply but it’s very individual. I hope this helps. Good luck with your project. πŸ™‚ xo, Do

  • I have an old vanity that has severe veneeer damage Unfortunately after using the wet towel method the wood beneath the veneer warped. What to do? Help!

  • Oh, bummer, Teresa. I guess that depends on how warped it is. I would try setting it in the sun. A lot of times, once it dries out, it will regain its shape. I hope this helps. πŸ™‚

  • Hi, I’m in the process of removing veneer from a chest I decided to tackle, but what about the wood work around the mirror, how can I tackle that part? I’m planning on using Annie Sloan chalk paint on this piece. Thanks!

  • Hi Harriette, Can you email me at [email protected] and send a picture? I have no way of knowing without seeing what you are working on. I’m happy to help. πŸ™‚

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