I was at the thrift store last week right before it closed. The store was empty besides a few employees- it was heaven (this store is usually packed). I grabbed a few things and then decided to walk through the furniture section and spotted the cutest little French Country end table. It was only $15 so I impulsed shopped it. I didn’t give it a full inspection, but later realized that it’s made with wood veneer. I thought I’d share some tips for how to paint veneer furniture.
what is wood veneer furniture?
It’s when a paper thin layer of hardwood is glued to a strong surface. The base can be anything from MDF to plywood to a hardwood like oak. This is a technique that has been used in millwork for hundreds of years. The bonding of the solid core to the thin veneer creates a product that is stronger than the natural wood.
what is laminate furniture?
Laminate is made with sealed plastics. It will have a shiny surface and is resistant to scratches and stains- most IKEA furniture is laminate. Laminate furniture can look like wood grain, but that is just printed on. You can’t stain it, but you can paint it. This is a very affordable way to create furniture. The laminate on furniture is applied over MDF or another type of composite base.
How can I tell if my furniture is veneer not laminate?
I’ll be honest, when I first bought my furniture, I couldn’t tell it was veneer because it was in really good shape! Sometimes you see flaking veneer and that’ll be a quick giveaway.
If you’re looking at furniture and wondering if it’s veneer of laminate, look at it from the side or the bottom. With veneer, you’ll be able to see thin lines that show where the sheet of veneer attaches to the front of the piece. And like I said, a dead giveaway is chipping veneer.
With laminate, the quickest way to tell is feeling the surface with your hand. Does it feel like plastic? You can also look at the back and bottom- with laminate furniture it’ll usually have the same finish on all surfaces.
why does wood veneer crack and become loose?
Around the edges and seams of wood veneer furniture, the thin layers are susceptible to damage- especially from water. If moisture seeps under the veneer, it can loosen the top layer which can cause it to peel and crack. Remember, veneer is paper thin layers of wood glued to a surface. Over time that bond can get compromised which can result in damage.
what to do about cracked veneer?
Option one is to replace the damaged veneer with new veneer. You can buy veneer online. Remove the the old veneer with a putty knife. Then sand to remove the glue residue. Last, glue on the new laminate.
Tip- the older the furniture, the easier it’ll be to remove the veneer. Furniture made in the last 50 years usually uses glue that is heat-resistant, making it tricky to take off.
Option three is to remove the veneer from the furniture. This option is a bit of a gamble because who knows what the wood will look like underneath?! But it’ll give the furniture a smooth surface which can easily be painted or stained. Remove the the old veneer with a putty knife. If there are curved edges, use an exact-o knife to score those edges so the veneer can break off cleanly.
Then sand with a fine grit sandpaper to remove the glue residue.
can you chalk paint veneer furniture?
Yes! You can chalk paint over veneer furniture. But you need to make sure to prime. Veneer can be a very smooth surface, so chalk paint alone will probably scratch off. Make sure the veneer doesn’t have cracks.
If needed, remove any sections of peeling veneer. Clean the piece well, prime, and then apply a few coats of chalk paint to the veneer furniture. It’ll look brand new!
how to paint veneer furniture
As you can see above, I removed the loose veneer with a putty knife on the top and the sides. Then I sanded. Here’s how I painted the rest of the veneer-
step 1- prep
- Clean the furniture. Mix 2 Tablespoons of White Lightning or TSP in 1 gallon of hot water. Use a rag dipped in the solution to clean the entire surface of the furniture you’ll be painting. Wipe the piece clean with a damp rag to remove any White Lightning residue. Let dry prior to painting.
- Lay a drop cloth on the floor. Put a towel or drop cloth or piece of cardboard on the floor underneath the furniture you’re about paint. This will protect your flooring from paint drips.
- Since the finish was slick, I primed. I used one coat of Slick Stick to prime the piece. I let that dry throughly before continuing to paint.
step 2- paint
- Spritz your brush. With chalk paint, you always want to start with a damp brush. Continue to spray the brush and furniture piece with water while painting.
- Start painting. Dip the paintbrush in the chalk paint and apply it thinly on the furniture. Brush in the direction on the wood grain until you’ve covered the entire piece. Note, you WON’T get full coverage with the first coat. If it’s streaky, don’t panic! I used Dixie Belle’s Sea Glass for this project.
- Let the paint dry. Usually you only need to wait 20 minutes between coats. While it’s drying, wrap your paint brush in a wet rag or plastic bag so the brush won’t dry out between coats. If you’re painting a big piece, you might be able to begin the second coat immediately without waiting since it’s probably been 20 minutes since you first started painting.
- Paint a second coat. Repeat the instructions for the first coat of paint. This time though, you should get full coverage. If you don’t (which can happen if you’re covering dark wood with a light cover) continue with a 3rd coat of chalk paint.
- Wash out the paint brush. Usually tap water will remove all wet paint. If needed, also use mild soap. Rinse the brush until the water runs clear.
- Seal the furniture. If you’re using a clear coat, apply it with a paint brush thinly to all surfaces. If you’re using wax, apply it with a lint free rag or applicator pad all over the furniture. Buff it in with the rag after. I like to use Easy Peasy Wax Spray for sealing furniture.
bonus step- line the drawer
For this project, I thought it’d be fun to line the drawer with wallpaper! So I measured the inside of the drawer. Then I marked that on the wallpaper making sure to select the cutest part of the wallpaper. I cut it out and used wallpaper paste to glue it into the drawer. It adds a cute surprise when opening the drawer!
Here’s how the little end table turned out. I love, love it! I still own the glass that came with the top and might use it to show off cute photos or maybe dried flowers on top! But I will be honest, I think that this table in this place might not be the best fit. It’s more of a night stand and looks a little small. I mostly wanted it for the drawer for my office supplies (I work on the sofa).
My other confession is that I don’t really like the side not painted. But that’s a 15 minute fix! What do you think? I’d love to hear in the comments!
In conclusion, I’m happy with how it turned out. The top is really pretty and I’m so glad that I went the route of removing the veneer and sanding- the wood is gorgeous! And will be much easier to keep clean than a painted surface.
I hope this tutorial on how to paint veneer furniture was helpful. Let me know if you have any questions.
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