This blog post may contain affiliate links for your convenience.
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

How To Remove Damaged Veneer From Furniture

Have you ever passed up a piece of furniture because of damaged veneer?  These tips and tricks for removing stubborn veneer may make you think twice about passing up another great piece again. 

On Thursday evening's you'll likely find me at a local estate and consignment auction.   Mainly picking up small items for my shop and my own home and an occasional piece of furniture.  The furniture is usually not my style, but every once in a while I've been able to snag a great piece.  Just this past Thursday, I scored a cute little three drawer dresser that was begging for a makeover.  It had quite a bit of damage, including splitting wood, chipped and loose veneer and a few random holes and gashes.  It was the perfect project piece and the detail on the drawers was too good to pass up.  

damaged three drawer dresser before
I originally thought I could use wood glue to repair the damaged veneer, but once I got it home I realized the damage was far worse than I thought.  Wood glue wasn't going to cut it and instead I had to remove all the veneer.  It was definitely a learning project and a lot of work, but I'm happy with how it turned out.

(Affiliate links have been used)

- Metal Putty knife
- Sharp wood chisel
- Hammer
- Hair dryer
- Iron
- Hand towel
- Hot water
- Gorilla wood glue
- Wood putty
- Work gloves
- Dewalt orbital sander
- 120 grit sanding pads
- Bar clamps
- Sherwin-Williams Iron Ore (Emerald line)
- Old English Scratch Cover
- Purdy paintbrush

Damaged three drawers Mid century dresser before

I was so excited to start working on this piece that I didn't even take it off the truck before I started pulling off the veneer.  I used a putty knife to scrape off any loose pieces and was surprised at how easy it was peeling off.

Removing veneer from damaged dresser
After I got all the loose veneer removed I was left with some very stubborn areas that were glued on pretty well.  I should have known it wasn't going to be as easy as I anticipated.
scrapping off damaged veneer from a dresser
There are a few different tricks for removing veneer, but I decided to start with a hair dryer first.   The heat from the hairdryer is supposed to loosen the glue on the veneer, making it easier to scrap off.   I worked in small sections holding the hairdryer about 1-2 inches away from the wood.  After a small area was heated, I used a putty knife to scrape off the veneer.
Using a hairdryer to heat up and remove damaged veneer
The hair dryer worked well on one side of the dresser and I was able to remove the veneer with only minor damage.  At this point, I took a break and worked on cleaning up the other areas of the dresser.  I used wood filler to fill any holes and wood glue and clamps to tighten and secure any loose pieces of wood.
Veneer removed from a side of a dresser
I then went back to working on the other side of the dresser, which was a bit more of a challenge.  The hairdryer wasn't cutting it and a chisel was causing more damage than good, so I moved to another idea.
Using a chisel to scrape off and remove damaged veneer
I decided to try laying a damp hot towel over the veneer and let it sit a few hours.  Ideally, the heat and moisture are supposed to loosen the veneer making it easier to remove, but the only thing it did was set me back a few hours.  I'm pretty sure the wind and cooler air were working against me and I probably would have had better results in a warmer more humid environment.
Using a hot damp towel to help remove damaged veneer
At this point, I moved on to trying an iron.  I put on some gloves (because now a blister was forming) and I worked in small sections allowing the iron to heat up and loosen the veneer.   I still had to use a chisel, but I was finally able to get all the veneer removed from the stubborn side of the dresser.  Of course, I  was left with a fair amount of damage.
Using an iron to heat up and remove damaged veneer
It looks quite different from the other side, huh?
Damage from using a chisel to remove damaged veneer
Thankfully, wood glue is my best friend and I was able to fill and repair most of the holes and divets. I let the wood glue dry then gave the entire dresser a good sanding with my Dewalt orbital sander.  The dresser's not perfect, but it's much better than it was.
Using wood glue to repair damaged veneer
I gave the body and drawers 2 coats of Sherwin-Williams Iron Ore (Emerald line).  I love the look of two-tone pieces, so I used Old English to restore the wood on the only salvageable part of the dresser.
Repaired and painted 3 drawer mcm dresser

Painted and repaired dresser from damaged veneer

Painted and repaired mcm dresser

How to remove and repair damaged veneer

The dresser's not perfect and it definitely has some character, but I'm pretty certain it would have been trashed if I didn't bring it home.   It also taught me a lesson in removing damaged veneer, so for that, I'm calling this dresser a win. 

     Pin it for later
How to remove and repair damaged veneer

   You will also love

Don't forget to follow along
Click here to subscribe

Would you like to comment?

  1. So beautiful! I found your site on Pinterest last month and have been painting everything Iron Ore ever since! Haha! :)

  2. A lot of work on your part, but very beautiful after!

  3. Beautiful job. Good tips on removing the veneer. Love the dresser.

  4. Great tips on removing veneer and using wood glue as a filler. Thanks.

  5. Very nice! It looks great. Hard work pays off.

  6. thank you! I just bought the most beautiful vanity for next to nothing because of the terrible state of the top veneer. You just saved me countless hours of worry and work 🙂
    ☀️ ☀️