Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How to Remove Veneer or Laminate from Furniture

Recently I shared with you my plans for my craft room.  Part of those plans included refinishing a buffet/sideboard/whatever you want to call it.  Part of refinishing that buffet included figuring out a way to remove peeling veneer from the sides.

How to Remove Veneer or Laminate from Furniture

This beauty was hanging out in the garage of one of my co-workers.  Her husband wanted garage space. I wanted a buffet.  Win. Win.  This buffet and I were destined to be together.  Unfortunately, we didn’t meet before this beauty suffered some damage.  The veneer on both sides was peeling and the entire buffet was quite scratched.  The scratches didn’t concern me.  Most could easily be fixed by some light sanding.  The veneer was a new territory for me. 

Removing Wood Veneer 1

Nate tried sanding and scraping but he could only get part of it off.  The rest was not going anywhere.

After some Googling, I pieced together a few tips to try and tackle the veneer on my buffet.  Here are my tips if you have a beautiful piece of furniture needing some TLC in the veneer department.


  • A metal putty knife
  • An old rag/towel
  • An old iron
    • I bought one at the Salvation Army for $1.50.  This process will make your iron disgusting.
  • A hammer
  • A bucket of water
  • Patience
  • A radio station with today’s greatest hits.  (Justin Timberlake and Ke$ha really speed this process along.)


  • Get your rag fairly wet.  You want it to be slightly dripping but not sopping wet.
  • Place the wet rag on the area you want to remove. 
    • It’s best to avoid any exposed wood so you do not damage that part of the furniture.
    • Also be careful around areas where you do not want the veneer removed.  I learned this lesson the hard way near the sides.  The steam is not forgiving.  I would suggest protecting those areas with dry rag.
  • Place your iron on top of the wet rag.  Be very careful during this step.  The steam is obviously hot.  Consider this your warning.  It’s like those warnings on coffee cups that tell you that your coffee may burn you.  Same thing.   Use your noggin. (I’m usually really good at injuring myself and surprisingly had no problems doing this but just be careful!!!)

Removing Wood Veneer 2


  • Let the iron sit for a few minutes.  I used this time to rock out to Rhianna and also do a little sanding on the rest of the buffet.
  • Remove the iron and the rag carefully.  Both are  hot.  Again.  Be careful.  Pretend your mom is watching you during this whole process.
  • The veneer will turn a different color.  I found that when it looks like the photo below, it is ready to remove.


  • Use your putty knife to scrape the veneer off.  It will come off pretty easily.  I occasionally used a hammer to lightly tap the putty knife.  If you let the iron sit long enough, you probably won’t need the hammer.  Don’t try to dig at the veneer too much.  You will risk damaging the wood underneath if you are not careful.
  • While you are scraping one area, give your rag a quick dunk in some water.  Place it on the next area and let it do it’s thing.  I’m all about time savings.
  • Don’t rush the iron step.  The longer you let the iron sit, the less work you have to do scraping.
    • Once you find that you can no longer easily remove the veneer, stick the wet rag and iron back on it.
  • Repeat until all veneer is removed.

Removing Veneer from Furniture


I forgot to take great after photos because I was too excited to start priming and painting.  As you can sort of see above, all of the veneer came off and I was left with nice wood underneath.

This was not a quick process. I think it took me at least an hour for each side.  One side was easier than the other.  There is probably some more expensive faster version out there but this process worked well for my cheap self.

Let me know if you have any questions.  I’ll answer them in the comment section.

Have you tried to remove veneer or laminate?  Any successes or failures?  Any furniture make-overs in the works?

Linking up to: Home Stories A to Z


  1. Thanks, good to know! MIght come in handy down the road for me :)

  2. I've never even painted a piece of furniture before, but I can't wait to see how yours turns out. What a beautiful piece!!!

  3. Ive said 'no' to so many pieces of furniture before it had veneer. However Ill think twice before skipping it again if all I need to get rid of the veneer is a grungy iron! Besides I always appreciate a craft that Ke$ha can help out with.

  4. Interesting! I always shy away from veneer furniture because I never really thought it could be removed. I'll have to remember this!

  5. You know this means I'm going to bring home way too much furniture that needs some TLC, right?
    PS - I love that buffet!

  6. Thanks for the tips!!! I'm pinning this for future reference. So you left the veneer on the rest of it??? I can't wait to see the finished product!!!

    1. The rest of the veneer was in great shape so I just lightly sanded it to prepare it for paint!

  7. Yay for cheap solutions! And an excuse to have a dance party while you wait. :)

  8. Oh wow, this sounds terrible. :) Note to self: no veneer furniture.

  9. What a great solution and that cabinet rocks!! I would be excited to get to priming :) Can't wait to see what color you paint it!

  10. Oooooh I'm really excited to see how this bad girl turns out.

  11. Wow this is such a great tip! I can't wait to see the final buffet! Tell your coworker that if she has another beautiful buffet hanging around that I will take it! ;)

  12. i've tried the iron before, but now i just use water and let it get in there... when it's summer and humid, all i have to do is let it sit outside! :)

  13. This is such an awesome tip! I always see gross veneer stuff at Good Will but pass it up because I don't know how to get the veneer off! Now I can be fearless!

  14. Wow, that looks challenging! It's going to look great!

  15. oh wow that looks like hard work...i am not a hard worker when it comes to crap like this. i heard of someone using a gel that you leave on for like 4 hours and then it comes off easier....that would be me route!!

  16. That buffet is gorgeous! My question is why do they cover beautiful wood with veneer in the first place?!? I can't wait to see how your piece turns out! Thanks for the tips!

  17. Great work! I have made a similar work last year, not whit the iron (my work was to easy to remove... too much!) if you whant look here:
    second step here:
    Sorry, is in italian language but photo are international, right? XD
    And sorry for my english (I dont know if my english is all right but I've try ^^;)
    I love your blog! Very much!
    Kiss from Italy ^*^
    Baci dall'Italia ^*^

  18. You have way more patience than me, this looks a bit tedius. Great work. You are a master refinisher b

  19. I'm dying to see how this turns out. Usually beneath the veneer is yucky particle board that doesn't look good even with tons of paint. But this piece looks like it was actually well-made beneath the veneer!

    I'd love if you'd come join my How To Tuesday link party, too.

  20. most old veneir is put onwith animalglue....vinegar is a great way to loossen it comes right off !

  21. Thanks for the great tips! I'm pinning this since I'm sure I'll need it in the future! :) Newest follower!

  22. m doing this right now! Ive got a shark steam iron thing, not an actual iron. Its huge and Ill use my small iron for the smaller pieces.. It puts out mega steam. Ill post before and after pics!!!I found a vintage desk/vanity at goodwill today, 7 bucks! Im using Benjamin Moore Charcoal paint and Im painting the drawer pulls a metallic silver, almost chrome. Cant wait! Thank you for the iron advice!!

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