How to Repair Damaged Veneer

How many times have you passed on buying a piece of furniture, or worse, thrown away a piece because it had missing or damaged veneer? Maybe you have a damaged piece covered or stored away. I’m here to tell you there is hope for those pieces! Here’s the low down I’ve been promising!

Let me say up front, there are many ways to address the issue. I’ve probably tried them all and had success with each…well, except for patching with more veneer! That stinks! For this post, I chose my go-to route for repairing missing and damaged veneer on a bed and a chest. Before we jump into the pic heavy post, let me answer the most asked question about damaged veneer.

Remove or not remove?

If the veneer is still in tact and I can’t slide something under it, I leave it alone! Even if the areas around it are missing, it will serve as a guide for my filler depth later on!

Repairing Damaged Veneer

If it can be raised with a razor blade or my finger, it has to go!

Repairing Damaged Veneer

Why? Well, first of all, those raised areas will draw the eye right to them! We want even the damaged parts to be pretty and you just can’t do much to pretty that up! The dry, brittle wood will also absorb the paint and topcoat differently, leaving a blotchy area. It will often conjure up the paint monster too! Oh, you haven’t heard of Beast Bleed-Thru? Trust me, he exists! He rears his ugly head often when you sand into dry, old wood! Often times you won’t even know he’s there until you seal your paint!! It’s then you see the trail of odd shaped colors he left behind! Finally, that tiny amount of veneer poking out will eventually get caught on everything that dares brush by it! One mesh backpack encounter {mom of five speaking} and it’s over! Much uglier and harder to correct later down the road!

With the bed, I could see a little missing veneer at the bottom.

damaged veneer on bed

Upon closer inspection, the veneer that still remained was loose and peeling.

damaged veneer on bedTo remove the loose veneer, you’ll need a razor blade or thin flat putty knife. As I told Shannon during our lesson, resist the urge to use your fingernails!! If you’ve ever had a splinter under your nail, you just cringed!! Veneer under your nail is even worse! I got a piece under my middle finger once and just wanted to cut my finger off to relieve the pain! My clumsy, left handed attempt at removing it with tweezers led to breaking the brittle wood off. Only a tiny bit remained but I swear it felt like a tree under there!! Not cool!

Ok, gory shop story over :) 

That said, use the tool of your choice check the veneer. If it lifts, grab it and lift upward until you feel the resistance.  That resistance means the veneer is still bonded to that area. Hold down the stable part of the veneer with your free hand then snap the loose veneer to that point. It will be jagged but we’ll fix all that in a bit! As you can see, we ended up removing a large portion of veneer along the bottom of the footboard!

damaged veneer on bed

damaged veneer on bedWater damaged veneer is also very common. The chest had a large area on top. Even though it was in tact, it had separated from the piece. You don’t want to paint over that!

damaged veneer on dresserI used a razor blade to cut a slit in the raised veneer then carefully peeled it back until I reached a point of stability. That left me with a sizable whole.

damaged veneer on dresser topOnce all the veneer is stable, clean the dust and debris and get ready to reconstruct! I should add, I don’t always fill missing veneer. Take the drawers on this piece for instance. I knew the chips would look great distressed so I left them alone!

chipped veneer on drawers

You have several filling options for the reconstruction stage . Minwax sells a good, two-step wood filler. It is paintable and claims to be stainable but I’ve never really thought it looked right when stained. It also absorbs the paint and topcoat differently so I don’t use it for large areas or pieces I want a uniform finish on. For those areas, I prefer Bondo.

Bondo for veneer repairMy husband, who is an auto painter, introduced me to bondo. It’s used in collision repair for dents and such. It’s very strong and easy to work with. I love to use it for rebuilding carved areas because it sands down so smoothly. Now, the can above is a gallon of premium stuff and a bit pricey but you can get a cheaper alternative at your local automotive store or online. 3M All Purpose Filler is basically bondo too and can be purchased at home improvement stores. It works well but it’s a little more finicky. There is not much play time with it I always seem to waste more than I use!

Filler for veneer damageBoth products require you to mix in a hardener. I suggest mixing small batches until you get the hang of it. There’s nothing worse than your filler hardening up right in the middle of a project!

I mix a golf ball amount of bondo with about an inch long line of cream hardener. I used Evercoat Red Cream Hardener but they all serve the same purpose. Some products come with a hardener. Others will instruct you on the product to use. I like the colored hardeners because I can tell when they are mixed well. I’m not real fancy so I just use a paper plate or cardboard to mix the bondo on. :) Works fine!

  Mixing Bondo Mixing Bondo

Mix it until the color is uniform and the consistency is that of melted silly putty.

Mixing BondoBegin applying the filler in the middle of your area and spread out. You don’t have to be smooth at this point, you are just trying to cover the area. I use a slight pressure to work the bondo into the wood. You also want to make sure your filler stays above the existing veneer. You want to have room to sand it down smooth and level. If you don’t put enough filler on, you will be sanding into the existing veneer later.

APPLYING FILLER 1There are spreaders designed for part but I am cheap so I use my trusty paint stick :) 

APPLYING FILLER 2

APPLYING FILLER 3

applied filler

smoothing fillerOnce the entire area is covered, give it a final smoothing  and allow it to set! I usually allow it to sit for at least an hour.  To test, stick your finger nail in it. It should not be soft and pliable. If your sandpaper produces soft balls, stop and allow it to dry longer.

The bed looked very similar…

applying filler 1

applying filler 2

applying filler 3

Sometimes, a finger works best for those hard to reach areas!

applying filler with fingerWhen all is dry, it’s time to sand! I use an orbital sander with 180 grit paper to knock down the high spots then a fine grit (220) to finish the area out. 

sanding down filler

sanding down fillerThat’s it folks! Once you smooth out your filler, you are free to paint!!

These were the other two pieces that went along with my Private Lesson, so we painted them in my favorite neutral shade by Benjamin Moore, Weimaraner, and Webster’s Chalk Paint Powder. We used Royal Stencil Creme to accent the details and finished with my custom clear.

repaired veneer chest 1

repaired veneer chest 2

See how awesome that chipped veneer looks painted?

repaired veneer chest 3

repaired veneer chest 5

repaired veneer chest 10

repaired veneer chest7

repaired veneer chest 8

repaired veneer chest 6

repaired veneer chest 6

repaired veneer chest 4

And the bed…

veneer repaired bed 1

veneer repaired bed 2 veneer repaired bed3

veneer repaired bed 4

veneer repaired bed5

veneer repaired bed8

Carvings can be rebuilt with bondo too! See more here or watch a video tutorial here!

veneer repaired bed7

veneer repaired bed6

IMG_4591 copy

veneer repaired bed9

So, whatcha think? Are you ready to try your hand at repairing veneer? It’s really not hard! Remember, filler is just like paint, it can be removed! I’d love to hear all about your veneer adventures!

UPDATE! I’VE POSTED A 3 PART VIDEO SERIES ON REPAIRING VENEER DAMAGE! START THE SERIES HERE

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Comments

  1. I have an antique dresser in my attic with these exact “issues” and had no idea how to fix it. Thanks so much!!!!!!!!!!!! Looks fantastic!

    • You are so welcome Karen! I’d love to see your finished project!

    • I have a table with a veneer top that someone tried to sand and it must have been too thin of veneer and now I have to (about the size of a quarter) dark brown spots on the top of the table. The table other than these spots is absolutely beautiful. The veneer on top is oak and is a golden oak color. Is the only way to repair to put a whole new veneer top on?

      • Hi Laurie! There are several wood fillers on the market that claim to be stainable but I’ve not found one that accepts the stain evenly or looks like the rest of the piece. :( If your area isn’t large, it may not make much difference. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help!

        • Angela, I agree with you whole-heartedly. I have tried several, been broken-hearted, as the piece would be beautiful, then I would try one of these products, and it failed to take the stain, no matter what I did. This is a serious problem. I only found results when I was willing out of desperation to actually change the entire piece’s coloration. Again, NOTHING ELSE WORKED. Thanks! And be careful before jumping into the middle of one those projects.

  2. Looks GREAT!!! ;)

  3. What a great tutorial!! Great pics to go along. Thank you for taking the time to do this.

  4. Awesome job. Thanks for the great tutorial! I needed it! Love the bed and the dresser.

  5. Janie Carey says:

    I have hope for some newly acquired furniture. Thank you so much for so much great imformation!!

  6. Michelle says:

    Thank you for this! What color is the Royal Stencil Cream used for detailing? It looks metallic. Nice job on all these projects.

  7. Thanks for the great tutorial! I have a piece with bad veneer and thought I was destined to have to strip it all off. Now I have the courage to give repairing a try.

    • Thank you Tammy! Wishing you the best on your project!

      • I have a side table with heavy damaged veneer, but I would like to stain mine not paint. The grain underneath isnt that appealing, any ideas of how I can improve this table. Oh, by the way, great job on the bed and dresser. Very neat and effective. Well done.

  8. Ausilia Pidborochynski says:

    Loved your tutorial. I have dresser with the same type of issues you’ve shown.How do you keep the look of the original mahogany? I don’tt want to paint the wood, just repair it. Anysuggestions?

    • Hi Ausilia, thank you for your compliments! You would have to replace the veneer to keep the stained finish. If your damage is as extensive as this one was, the filler required would be too large and would look totally different if stained. I sure hope that helps! All the best on your dresser!!

  9. Thanks so much! We have to do this to our kitchen cabinets for a quick fix before we try to sell. Hope it works. Much cheaper than replacing them!

  10. Great instructions, thanks so much for all the details you put into your post. This is a big help. I do painted funky furniture, and have several pieces in my garage I just have not wanted to tackle, but no I will! Carolyn

  11. Sheila Falcuci says:

    This is a very useful tip for all of us chalk painters out there who have passed by chipped pieces from time to time. Thank you very much for sharing this. ; )

  12. Angela,
    This is a great tutorial- thank you! One question though- I am trying to locate the filler material that you are using and am having trouble even finding it online. Any guidance? Thanks!

    • Thank you Matt! You should be able to find Bondo at any auto repair store. Home Depot also carries an all purpose filler that is pretty much the same thing. Hope that helps!

  13. Just read your tutorial on repairing veneer and painting. This was very well done; I think even I can do it. Thanks.

  14. Thank you so much for the tutorial. I have a hope chest
    That I didn’t know what to do with and now I do!
    I love the paint color you used for the furniture. Do you know
    The name? I would love to paint it in a neutral color
    And I think that color would be perfect. Thanks again! :)

    • Hi Anne! I’m so glad you found the post helpful! The color is Wiemaranar by Benjamin Moore…it is the PERFECT neutral shade!!! All the best!

  15. Jennifer Greenberg says:

    Beautiful!

  16. Thanks so much for this. I have a beautiful dresser with some major veneer issues. Now I think I can fix them.

  17. How do you repair it if you.arent going to paint it? I have my mothers cedar chest that is 80 years old and the veneer on the top is all cracked and peeling. The bottom is fine. I dont want to paint it but it definitly needa repaired.

    • Theresa, if the area is small, you can use stainable wood filler. If the area is large, you will likely need to remove the veneer and either stain the wood underneath or apply another layer of veneer. You can get sheets of veneer at your local home improvement store. Hope that helps!

  18. Great tutorial! i have a piece of furniture with the same problem and i was wondering if there is a way to fix it :)

  19. Kris Lee says:

    This is a great tutorial. I have been wondering about how to do this. However, the piece I am redoing is a table and I am painting the bottom and restaining the top because the wood is beautiful. I also have the bleed through, so will go back and read your info on that.
    My major question is the floor w/the words on it. How? I love it.
    Thanks,

    • Thanks Kris! Those tannins can be a real challenge! Feel free to email me if you have any additional questions! As for the floor, it’s a bamboo rug :) I have several of them and I ADORE them!

  20. Straykitten says:

    At last!!!!! A tutorial for painting veneer. I have searched and search and only ever found wordy, technical articles that put me to sleep or scare the socks off me! Thank you so much for such an accessible article. Thank you, thank, thank you! (Now I’m off to paint my broke-down veneer bedside lockers!)

    • That tickled me straykitten! I’m so glad you made it through and I am even more happy to hear you’re ready to tackle a project! I would LOVE to see it! Thanks for taking the time to leave such awesome feedback! Xo

  21. Straykitten says:

    Quick question: how did you prepare the rest of the veneer for painting? Did you just sand it to get enough key for the paint? Ta :)

    • I used Websters Chalk Paint Powder which eliminates the need for sanding and priming :) I just blended my bondo repaired areas and painted!

  22. Hi,

    I’m a total new comer to painting furniture and just so happen that one of my free Craigslist piece to paint is veneer and it’s missing or peeling! I’m frightened! Lol I hope I am even judging correctly that this is veneer. Would you mind helping me with some tips if I sent you a picture? I just don’t know where to start….. : (
    Thank a million! Aloha from Hawaii!!

  23. I have a chunk of wood missing from a drawer front. Will this work to rebuild that missing piece?

    • Absolutely! I actually have a video that shows this process. You can find it on the “Tutorials” page in one of the Veneer Repair Series.

  24. I can not wait to try this. I just acquired a beautiful dresser I want to redo and it has missing vaneer, thank you for the great tip..

  25. Jennifer Jones says:

    What a great tutorial! Thank you for posting it (over a year ago, hahah). I recently bought an old elementary school desk and the wooden seat has some sizable hunks of the veneer missing – I almost passed on it but hoped I could find instructions to fix it. I hope the bondo can hold up okay for a seating surface but then again it IS designed for cars so… fingers crossed.

  26. OMG what great information. I have a LANE 100 year old cedar chest that I am looking to repaint and glaze for my sister as a surprise. As I was sanding I notice the veneer on the top was split and it was along almost the entire back side of the cover. I decided to start using a chisle to remove the veneer OMG what a nightmare. I’m going to lightly sand down what I’ve already removed and I’m going to try your suggestion. I was researching if I could sandpaper veneer and then your website popped up. Wish I had seen your website last night would have saved me a lot of trouble. The top looks like a mess but if I sand it lightly then add the filler I think I should be okay.

    Thank you,
    Diane

  27. Loved you step by step instructions. What if I don’t have an electric sander? Can I do it by hand? My repair is the side bottom of a china hutch. Thanks!

  28. Melvin Hogge says:

    I have a veneered dining table that is chipped as well as the leafs and Bondo seems like a good repair material, but I do not want to paint? I would like to sand the whole table top and re stain, I’m guessing that is not going to work using Bondo as a filler. Is there another filler that will stain well?

    Thanks Mel

    • Hi Melvin.

      There are many wood fillers on the market that claim to be stainable. I have yet to find one that absorbs the stain like the wood around it though. I wish I could offer you better advise! If you are determined to stain it, you could remove the veneer completely. A quick search for “Metallic Cupcake” in my sidebar will lead you to a post where I did just that! All the best!

  29. good morning, Thinking of repainting kitchen cuboards, however the hinges are the type that are recessed into the door frame. Will this fill in that sawed in area of door

  30. how did you get the black color on your edges to make it look more vintage? was that the royal stencil creme? I have been trying to learn how to do all of this and I can’t quite figure out the aging process after you paint. People say to use the dark wax but I dont really like what that looks like. I love yours. Its so beautiful.

    • Hi Kristi!

      I used a wet distressing technique on this piece. The dark areas you see are the original stain color coming through. There are many ways to achieve the look your speaking of. I use ink pads, stain and even a darker color paint sometimes instead of distressing back the paint. If you are interested in learning the techniques, my ebook is loaded with video tutorials! There’s a link in the sidebar on the right side of the page ;) All the best!

  31. Love your tutorials, Angela! I’ve been searching for a post/instruction like this for awhile! I do have a few questions though…have you ever tried re-gluing loose/lifting veneer that isn’t damaged or chipped? I have some on the front of dresser drawers that I’ve considered squeezing wood glue down into via syringe and then clamping with wood and clamps, what do ya think? Second, do you distress/sand by hand or sander? Third, what base is your “custom” clear; oil or water based? And how many coats do you normally apply? Spray on? I too have not had much luck with filling and staining and it looking/acting the same, even trying different brands. Thanks so much for your inspiration and instruction. I can’t wait to tackle my next project with this info in my back pocket!

    • Thank you Corrie! Yes! You can glue down veneer that is loose by doing exactly what you described! I hand distress everything! It’s how I connect with my piece, really. There are so many perfect imperfections that can’t even be seen but using my hands, I can highlight them. My custom clear is water based and can be applied with a brush, roller or sprayer. It’s effortless- no brush strokes and can be “touched up” if you miss a spot. I usually give all my pieces at three coats but at least 2. I’d love to have you join my “Creative Community”! There are several levels with something for everyone! The ebook (that comes with all levels) is loaded with video tutorials ;) You can find more about it in the right side bar of my page. Thanks again for adding to the discussion. Be sure to show off your creation! xo- Angela

  32. Hi. I RECENTLY OBTAINED A SMALL ANTIQUE BUFFET TABLE. IT HAS GOOD BONES BUT TOP IS COMPLETELY MESSED UP AND COMING OFF. I HAVE NEVER REFURBISHED ANYTHING BUT HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO. ANY IDEAS WHERE TO START. I APPRECIATE ANY INPUT. ; )

    • Hi Paula! You’d need to start by removing any loose veneer and sanding your surface until it’s smooth. Once all traces of glue from the veneer are gone you are free to stain or paint! Have fun with it!

  33. The bondo brand you have listed in the tutorial is discontinued. Is there something else you would recommend?

  34. Kelly Gervais says:

    What if I don’t want to paint can I stain or varnish over the bondo, I would like to attempt to match the veneer…

  35. Suzanne says:

    I have a dining table that has gotten sort of sticky on one leaf over the years. The more I tried to clean it the worse it got. I think it is just because it is old. There are no bumps, cracks, or any missing pieces. Can I sand the whole table down, restrain and seal with varnish or something?

    • Hi Suzanne! Thanks for adding to the discussion with your question. That sticky feeling is your top coat breaking down. It can happen for several reasons and can be repaired. I’d start by wiping the surface with mineral spirits. You’ll need to remove that “gummy” feeling before you sand. Otherwise, you’ll gum up your sandpaper and cause imperfections in the wood. Once you’ve sanded your surface, you should be good to restain and seal. Hope that helps!! All the best, Angela

  36. Thanks for the post, simply genious idea! I have a similar problem with a formica cabinet in my bathroom. Any idea if this could work on formica?

  37. Angela this is absolutely gorgeous!! I am so glad I just happened onto this website. I actually just bought a hutch for the dining room with veneer problems. I will certainly be using bondo to fix it. I used bondo many years ago on an old classic car that we were redoing. Never wold have thought of using it on furniture. Not only that but I absolutely love your paint colors!! I have a bedroom set in the attic that has a small bit of peeling veneer on it as well and since I love your paint colors so much and I am going to be pulling it down soon to put in my guest room, I WILL be repairing and painting it with these colors!! You do fantastic work and thank you so much for sharing this project!!

  38. I now have some questions after going back over the pics. Did you paint the trim with silver? If not how did you get that color on the trim? Also what is your finish that you used? Thanks!

    • Hi Shirley! I used Royal Stencil Creme on the trim :) I believe it was Antique Silver. The finish is my custom clear. It’s a top secret recipe but you can get it by joining the Creative Community at the God Level…just click the book in the right side bar of the page ;) All the best!

  39. Hi Angela,

    This was a great post and I also signed up for your newsletter. Thank you for the information and the pictures that accompany the article.

    I won an old table at an auction that my boyfriend decided he wanted to make it his project. He sanded the table top and saw dark stained wood so I left him alone and later he came in to tell me that it’s no good because it’s veneer and he claimed “has a hole in the middle”. Very disheartened I went outside to look at it and “the hole” he was referencing was where the veneer was coming up due to his sanding. Now, mind you the top was now chipping or peeling before he stated this:( I still want to save the table even though I know it will require more work.

    The wood that is showing now (that was under the veneer) looks dry and crackly. Should I do anything with that part before I try to put Bondo over it? If it’s easier I can send you some photos, just let me know if that would be helpful. Also, I am slightly confused as the product is called Bondo but I didn’t see Bondo on any of the products shown above. Can you please clarify the difference in the verbal and written name?

    Thank you for taking the time to read this and I look forward to reading your response.

    Huge Fan,
    Corrin (Corry)

    • Hi Corrin! Thank you for your kind words! The dry cracked part is most likely just the cheap wood underlayment. No worries. You can apply the bondo directly over top of it. The term “bondo” is not a brand name. It can be found in auto stores or home improvement stores. Hope that helps! I’d LOVE to see your finished project! XO, huge fan!

  40. Really well done tutorial. Thank you for your great primer.

  41. I thought it was interesting that you suggest filling in the gaps in the wood before continuing to finish the fixing process. This was strange to me because I would have though you would need to sand it down first to create the even surface. I can also see how sanding down the plaster can help, too. If my veneer ever broke I would probably have to take it to a professional to fix, just to make sure that I wouldn’t break the furniture even further. Thanks for the tips!

  42. Natalie Weems says:

    Hi
    I just recently acquired an antique makeup vanity. It had some water damage to the tome of the right side and needs some type of repair to the veneer. I am having issues deciding on what do to with this piece. Paint or try to match and find the veneer. I really liked the piece you did in this article with a little peek of the old coming through. How would you redo this piece. I really could use a little vision I am having crafter block…lol
    Ps. Is there any way I can post a pic to show you the piece?
    Thanks
    NatalieW.

  43. Nikki Tucker says:

    Was wondering how i was going to fix a chipped corner….now i know, Thanks!!

  44. Kelly Reser says:

    So glad to see this technique! I’m trying to repair some places on an antique Singer sewing machine and this is just what I needed!

  45. Thanks for the post

  46. I do have a suggestion for people that are finding they are getting bleed through. Use spray shellac! Minwax makes one. Spray over the entire surface and paint again! Yipee! Works great.

  47. Yes! Thanks for adding to the post, Karen!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Well, maybe nothing David! Sometimes, no matter what brand of paint you use, tannins from the existing finish will rise up! I call it “Beast Bleed Thru” and you can read more about him here! […]

  2. […] post on How To Repair Damaged Veneer should tell you all you need to know, Olivia! Don’t be afraid! It’s not nearly as hard […]

  3. […] no expectation of selling it and I choose colors I’d be happy to have in my own home! So, I patched up a few spots of missing veneer then gave this guy two coats of Benjamin Moore’s Adriatic Sea, […]

  4. […] cases, missing completely! I took care of all that with Bondo. You can see a full tutorial on that here. The entire piece was dry and thirsty and in no condition to be showcased! Painting it makes more […]

  5. […] Tore up from the floor up, but still FULL of life!!! There’s nothing a little tlc and bondo can’t fix! I shared a full tutorial on repairing damaged veneer here. […]

  6. […]  For those of you who prefer written instructions, I have a detailed post on repairing veneer damage with lots of pictures here. […]

  7. […] of filling the dents and repairing the veneer, I highlighted each and every “flaw” I could […]

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