Is it possible to remove wood Veneer from particle board?

We have all seen videos about the different methods of removing wood veneer. Usually, the substrate is plywood or even a lesser-quality solid wood. But what about particle board? Can you remove the wood veneer from the particle board?

 

Particle board is an incredibly popular substrate for veneer furniture. It’s a cheap material to which veneer can be adhered. However, it has a bad rap for being easily water-damaged, splitting, and flaking apart.

 

Most refinishers run when they see particle board furniture with veneer. There is the belief that particle board furniture is a lost cause and unrepairable.  

 

But is that actually the case?

Table of Contents

What is Particle Board?

Particle board is made by pressing wood chips and saw dust with glue. It's a cheap substrate for veneer furniture
Particle Board

Particle board is made from wood chips, sawdust, and glue compressed into wooden boards. While inexpensive, particle boards can crumble or gouge when subjected to scraping, heat, or moisture.

 

Due to its low cost, it is a very popular substrate for veneer furniture. Furthermore, the veneer covering the particle board protects it from potential damage.

 

But what should you do when the veneer starts to fail?

Damaged or Failing Veneer

Chipped birds eye veneer on stonehill drinks cabinet
Chipped Veneer (this was plywood substrate)

Over the years, as veneers become damaged, they can fail. This can take the form of lifting veneer, bubbling veneer, or even chipping and missing veneer. Each problem is easily fixable; in the worst-case scenario, you can remove and replace the remaining veneer. Surprisingly, it’s Easy Peasy!

 

As the veneer fails, it can expose the particle board, allowing damage to occur. This should be avoided, and veneer repairs should be made when needed.  

 

To make the necessary repairs, you may have to remove small or even large portions of veneer to expose the particle board substrate. 

How to Remove Wood Veneer from Particle Board

There are three different techniques for removing veneer in general. Each method has its benefits, and for best results, you may even require using all three methods on a single piece of old furniture. I recently 

Remove wood Veneer from particle board
Using Heat to remove Wood Veneer from Particle Board

Heat Method

I recommend removing any veneer from the particle board using the heat method. This method uses a heat gun (or hair dryer) to heat the adhesive glue between the substrate and the wood veneer. Then, using a putty knife or paint scraper, work away from yourself and slip the putty knife between the two layers.

 

It is easiest to start where there are already damaged areas. Work to separate the two layers from each other and lift the veneer off. 

 

You want to minimise any gouges into the particle board as you work. It will be slow going, and this method depends on the glue being a type that heat will affect. 

 

Read more on the Heat Method. 

Wet Towel Method

Wet towel remove veneer method. Using an iron and damp cloth
Removing Veneer with damp cloth and Iron

The next method is the wet towel method. This method typically involves placing a wet towel on the veneer and then a hot iron. The steam and heat work into the veneer, loosening and softening the glue. Refinishers prefer This method as it’s usually faster than the heat-only method. 

 

As particle boards can be damaged by heat and moisture, you want to work carefully and quickly with this method. I recommend only using a damp towel or a smaller cloth. The cloth should only touch the veneer and not be placed on uncovered particle board. Furthermore, you want the fabric damp but not sopping wet. 

 

Leave the cloth and iron on for a few minutes at a time and then both. The goal is to ensure the veneer and glue layer are affected, not the particle board. If a wet spot develops on the particle board, allow it to dry completely before continuing.

 

Read more on the Wet Towel Method.

Sanding Method

The next method is sanding. It takes time and requires low-grit sandpaper and a sander that can be switched to coarse sanding, such as the Festool RO 90. I swear by this machine for its coarse and delicate sanding features.

 

Sand the veneer using a low grit, like 60 or 80, until you burn through it completely. That’s it! Why do I not recommend using this method in the first place? It isn’t a handy method for smaller veneer removals. It is more suited to remove a large surface of veneer. 

 

Do not follow any of my recommendations on how to sand veneer!

Remove veneer from particle board by sanding it off
Sanding through the Remaining Veneer

Assess The Particle Board for Potential Damage

Once you have removed wood veneer from the particle board; carefully inspect the edges. You want to verify if the particle board is still in good condition or requires repairs. 

 

Look for gouges or chipped edges. These can be fixed with epoxy or wood filler and light sanding. If the area is dry and flaking, consider first covering it entirely with wood glue, covering it with wax paper, and pressing it back into shape with clamps. 

 

The goal is to ensure the particle board is in good shape before reapplying the new wood veneer. It must be smooth and free of gouges that can prevent the new veneer from adhering smoothly. 

 

Use an electric sander to sand the entire surface of the particle board. Start with 150 or 180 grit to smooth out rough edges that could disturb the veneer’s ability to lay flat. You also want to ensure that any leftover glue is removed.

 

What if you discover the substrate is actually plywood or real wood? Solid wood and plywood can be sanded to remove any glue residue. 

You can sand through veneer with a good electric sander
Sanding Particle board smoother for new Veneer Application

Apply New Veneer

At this stage, you can apply your new veneer of choice. Consider how you want to adhere the veneer, whether using contact cement, clamps, ironing, or another method. Each has benefits and suitabilities and works better for one type of repair than another.

 

It may seem like a big job if you replaced all the veneer, but it’s an opportunity. You can transform your piece of furniture and give it a new life. You could replace maple veneer with dark and moody maple or add beautiful figure veneer for a wow effect. Invest in beautiful wood veneer to elevate the furniture piece. 

Applying Glue for new Veneer
Applying Glue for new Veneer

Final Thoughts

Removing Wood Veneer from Particle Board requires patience. The goal is to limit damage to the surface so that it can be successfully re-veneered. I use these three methods to carefully remove the existing veneer. When I first started, removing veneer was a daunting task. As with any new skill, you need to jump in and try. It takes a little practice.  

 

When you realise how easy removing veneer can be, you can make larger repairs and even fix particle furniture you thought was landfill material. Saving those furniture pieces from the garbage is sustainability at its best.

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Hey, I'm Sarah, the owner of Bold Wallflowers.

I'm on a self-taught journey through furniture refinishing and restoration, loving every experiment in my workshop.

Join me as I share my discoveries and gained knowledge with our vibrant community of fellow refinishers!

This post may contain amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, if you decide to make a purchase through the provided links, at no additional cost to you.

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