How to Remove Wood Veneer

If you have a piece of veneered wood furniture, and the veneer is lifting, chipping or in otherwise poor condition, you can always replace it. Removing the old veneer can be fairly easy or more challenging, depending on the type of glue holding it down. If the piece is older than about 50 years, there's a good chance that the furniture maker used hide glue, which is sensitive to heat and moisture. On a newer piece, however, the glue may be a type that's more resistant. Start by assuming the former, but be prepared for some serious scraping.

Restoring antique dressers often involves replacing lifting veneers.

Step 1

Slip a metal paint scraper under a loose edge and try to work the veneer up. You might get lucky, and the veneer may separate easily. This is possible if the piece is old and has been exposed to enough moisture or sunlight to break the glue bond.

Step 2

Heat the surface with a heat gun as you scrape if the veneer doesn't come off easily. Heat may soften the adhesive. If you don't have a heat gun, use a hair dryer on its highest setting.

Step 3

Lay a towel across the veneered surface and run a steam iron over the towel. Makes sure the iron is set to high heat and full steam. The combination of moisture and heat may loosen an adhesive that isn't responsive to heat alone.

Step 4

Soak the furniture surface with a 1-to-1 solution of vinegar and water if heat and moisture don't work. If that doesn't loosen the adhesive, try painting a coat of lacquer thinner onto the veneer. Vinegar and lacquer thinner are solvents that may dissolve the adhesive.

Step 5

Chisel the veneer with a stiff 1-inch putty knife and a hammer if all else fails. After scraping off as much as you can, use a belt sander and a 120-grit sanding belt to sand off the rest.

Things You Will Need

  • Gloves
  • Respirator
  • Metal paint scraper
  • Heat gun or hair dryer
  • Towel
  • Steam iron
  • Vinegar
  • Lacquer thinner
  • 1-inch putty knife
  • Hammer
  • Belt sander
  • 120-grit belt


  • If the veneer is very difficult to remove, none of it is lifting and it has no large voids, you can lay a new veneer directly over it. Fill small voids and depressions with wood filler before laying the new veneer.


  • It's easy to get splinters when scraping off old veneer. Be sure to wear protective gloves.
  • Wear a respirator when heating old glue or using lacquer thinner to protect your lungs from noxious fumes.

About the Author

Chris Deziel has a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.

Photo Credits

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