How to Remove Wood Veneer from Furniture

Today I have a very informative post for all you furniture lovers out there. It’s how to remove wood veneer from furniture. I’ve found the perfect solution to get that fixer upper dresser or table looking like new in no time.

How to Remove Wood Veneer from Furniture

I got this small dresser a few months ago for about $40 which is more than I usually spend but the thrift store it was from is a nonprofit that supports veteran’s programs, a good cause. Here it is in the intake department – my garage.  Half the knobs were missing, the drawers need some fixing but it was the perfect shape I was looking for.

How to Remove Wood Veneer from Furniture

The top was quite beat up and although the piece is solid wood, most of the top thin layer was bubbled up and separated from the top of the dresser. The veneer definitely needed to come off, the rest of the dresser was fine – even that piece missing on the top left drawer was OK by me because of what I have planned for this piece.

How to Remove Wood Veneer from Furniture

I scraped off as much of the veneer as I could which ended up being less than half of what was on the top. The outer parts here was the veneer that was still glued on. Can you see the difference?

See the notes below, this was after I had mistakenly primed and then sanded the piece in order to remove the bad wood.

How to Remove Wood Veneer from Furniture

I tried to scrape it off and use a chisel, but nothing worked, it was glued on for good.

How to Remove Wood Veneer from Furniture

So I called on google reinforcements and found some discussion boards on what to do to get the rest off. This is what I came up with.

My iron.

Yes, you can iron wood off furniture. You need an old rag or towel, preferably something that holds water well, and you need water. You also need some gloves – the good work kind, not the thin plastic ones used for painting – and a putty knife. A firm one is best, you’ll need some muscle behind this job.

How to Remove Wood Veneer from Furniture

First step, wet the wood. I just poured water over the top of the dresser and smoothed it into the wood. The gloves come in handy, let it soak in. Then I wet the towel, not so it is soaking, but pretty damp is good, lay the towel over the veneer you want to remove, working in small sections, and you simply lay the iron on the towel for a bit.

How to Remove Wood Veneer from Furniture

A bit is about 20-30 seconds. I checked under the towel pretty often to see what was going on also making sure I wasn’t about to burn my house down. I’ve never ironed wood before, it’s not the most safe of DIY projects. Hot electricity, water and a combustible material when you think about it. But the fire extinguisher was close by, I’m not kidding.

Back to ironing. Check under the towel to see what is going on. What you want to happen is for the water on the wood and towel to soak into the layer of veneer to make it softer and loosen the glue underneath so the wood will peel off. Trust me it will. If it doesn’t seem to be getting wet, add more water and check often. Sometimes the iron will actually dry up the water you put there, add more. You need to wood to be wet and for the steam to soften the wood.

Soon enough you’ll be able to get your putty knife under the veneer and it will scrape off.

How to Remove Wood Veneer from Furniture

This will happen a little at a time depending on your piece, do be patient. It took me about 45 minutes to get veneer off half the top of this dresser which is 22 x 38 inches. Wet the wood, iron it, wait and scrape.

How to Remove Wood Veneer from Furniture

It will work. Your iron on the other hand might not look so hot. Hee hee, a iron pun :-)

How to Remove Wood Veneer from Furniture

No worries! That burned stuff came right off mine with some steel wool, really, the iron is as good as new, it’s not ruined forever. Tell your hubs when he complains you are using the “good iron” on furniture.

And just like that you’ll have all your veneer removed and your dresser top (or whichever parts you do) will be ready to paint.

How to Remove Wood Veneer from Furniture

Well almost. Mine needed a bunch of wood fill and some sanding of course.

How to Remove Wood Veneer from Furniture

How to Remove Wood Veneer from Furniture

Then you are ready for primer! So let me know if this is something you have done to a piece or have to.

If you have small piece of wood veneer that is bubbled, you can do the same technique on a smaller scale. Put some wood glue underneath the bubble, put down a damp towel and iron that for a few seconds. Remove the iron, put some weight on it, and the bubble should flatten right out. I just did this to another piece and it worked.

Some tips for removing veneer:

  • Wear eye protection – you are scraping wood and don’t want any to hit you in the face or eye. I actually wore a respirator too because of the odor. Since you are loosening glue and chemicals, it is a good precaution.
  • My iron was on hot – for cottons. A lower heat might work too, try it out on your piece.
  • Remove any paint – Your piece needs to be bare wood in order to do this since water won’t penetrate the paint. As you can see in the pictures I had already primed this dresser including the top when I saw the veneer was beyond repair.  I had to sand off the primer I already put on the top in order to remove the wood.

This is just a project that worked for me so if you have a different kind of problem with a piece, try to get some advice on what to do. There are tons of videos on fixing furniture online and even more web sites with info to help. I’ve also never done this before but if you have feel free to leave a link or advice in the comments.  Good luck! I plan to do a metallic industrial look on this piece, come back to see how it’s coming along.

Here is now the dresser turned out. What do you think?

How to Remove Wood Veneer from Furniture

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Jessica
Hi, I'm Jessica, a grad student by day and project queen by night. Decor Adventures is my way of creating a beautiful home while having a great time along the way.
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Comments

  1. good to know! I often see pretty old pieces that have veneer (that’s messed up) and I walk on buy, now i’ll think again :)

  2. Excellent idea! Thank goodness for Google huh?! :)

  3. WOW!!…great tips….and I’m loving that dresser!…fun project.

  4. Thank you! I have tried sanding back veneer on a couple of tables and it is such hard work!! Looking forward to trying this :)

  5. Nicely done! But it’s P U T T Y knife. As in spreading putty. Not puddy (pronounced differently – like pudding only puddy). Puddy is usually an endearing word for a favorite cat…

  6. This one is definitely an involved project. I love the shape of the dresser, and can see why you are giving it a new life… is it for you or will it be for sale? I can’t wait to see what you do with it! You are such an inspiration, Jessica. Seriously, a PhD full time, working full time, and projecting too. Where did find the 48-hour day? I need one!!!

  7. Wow, well done, your amazing tip makes me want to visit the thrift store NOW! Do hope you will share a photo of the finished dresser!

  8. Fantastic tip!

  9. Hi Jessica-

    This is the best furniture refinishing tip I think I have ever came upon. I have a piece I that I need to remove the veneer from and was just going to Spackle it smooth. Can’t wait to try this – and I even have an old iron. :)

  10. Anxious to see the finished project!

  11. Ps magic eraser takes the burn stuff off of your iron too without scratching it! :) best when iron is still warm. Be safe.

  12. Great tips. Saw you over at MMS and pinned this for when I finally get to one of the million and two projects in my “intake area” (aka, garage) :0

    Happy refinishing!
    Bernadette @ http://www.b3hd.blogspot.com

  13. I pulled on old dresser (even though it seems to be very short) out of the old garage. Not quite as I remembered it when purchased for $10 in 2003, but I’m eager to make it work. All of the perimeter veneer was loose and easy to pry off, but the center is not budging. I knew there was some sort of heat tool , but I think the iron covers more surface space at one time. Thanks for the pics and instructions. I’m going to give it a try. Lesa

  14. Thank you! I just finished using your technique and it worked wonderfully!

  15. Where is the final product/dresser picture?! Curious to how it turned out! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Hi Sara,

    The finial product is the seven layer silver dresser found here: http://www.decoradventures.com/2012/02/seven-layer-silver-dresser.html

    Thanks for visiting :-)

  17. I’ve spent more time pondering an easier way than actually working. I thought about using an iron, but dismissed it and decided to Google for a solution. And the best solution appears to be the iron along with the wet towel that I hadn’t thought of. Thanks, Rob

  18. Hey thanks so much for this tip…I had been struggling for hours on a beautiful old sideboard cabinet with some terrible water damage i bought for $50 at a thrift store. I had been picking away oak veneer in centimeter bits and was about ready to quit. Since reading your idea I’ve just finished two full drawer surfaces and two door surfaces (this morning) and I’m about to tackle the sides now. First time for a coffee break and a quick note to say IT WORKS!! Thanks…JoAnne

  19. just did a small dresser top using an iron. only took me about 30 minutes. i tried a heat gun at first but it only burned the veneer and didn’t soften the glue. i would venture to say that one needs water along with heat and an iron works best wih water. i have a spot in an antique mall and i sell a lot of old furniture out of my space at the mall.

  20. Hi Carnegieron,

    Yes I used a very wet rag under the iron to soak the wood and loosen it. It will become more pliable and is more likely to come off.

    Good luck with your furntire makeovers!

  21. Brilliant! Thanks for the tip, this is very helpful. I found a bow legged dresser on the side of the road (us Brits aren’t as sophisticated as you might think!) and brought it home. I’ve sanded it down and it looks lovely except for the cracked and warped veneer on the doors. Tomorrow, I will be ironing them :-)

  22. erictmuller says:

    I found the same dresser on the side of the road too! This will be my first project. I don’t have the same problem as yours with the vaneer, but mine is with two of the drawers which need to be re-boxed.

  23. Marsha Crom says:

    I am glad you posted this. I got a dresser for next to nothing at an auction, and took the veneer off the old fashioned way, scraping, sanding etc, I finally did get it done, but it took days! Next time I will know. Thanks!

  24. Jessica, so glad to have come across your project. I’ve had my mother’s old hosier cabinet bottom, the top is long gone :( and have just not known what to do with it. a fair amount of the veneer has lifted on both sides. I think I’ll try using glue/iron/weight first. I’d love to use it but it needs help.

    nice job on the dresser. I love the old furniture that other people think of as ‘useless’.

    • Hi Debbie,

      Thanks for leaving a comment.Yes I’ve seen info on how you can re-glue the veneer back on. You might want to get it a little damp, so that it’s pliable, and easy to glue on. That might prevent any breaking too. I hope it works!

  25. I bought a used nightstand that had been painted over one of those pieces that are made out a good quality plywood. The paint is sticky but dry to the touch. Underneath the paint is a soft layer that is painted to look like wood. How do I remove this so I can paint the piece properly?

    • Hi Shirley,

      You can use any kind of paint stripper to get it off of the nightstand. I use CitriStrip, it’s a non toxic paint stripper that you can use inside. I like it because it’s much less harsh than some other products, but feel free to use what you like. Put it on, wait, scrape it off, and then you should be able to sand off the residue after it dries. I hope this helps and good luck with your project.

  26. I tried your tip for removing the veneer off an old dresser I found, it worked great! Thank you!

  27. How often do you try something and it just plain works? This was brilliant! The precise tip we needed to prep a small good-looking but distressed end table. And so much fun for me and my kids to do together. What could be better than sopping wet towels on wood, hot irons, electricity and putty knives on a hot summer’s day? Truly, thank you so much!

Trackbacks

  1. […] while back, I had found this link on Pinterest to DecorAdventures showing how to easily remove veneer. I read thru it, pinned it, and made a mental note for later. […]

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