It’s easier than you think to fix damaged furniture! Today we’re sharing how to fix chipped wood furniture, specifically, how to repair veneer before painting. But here’s a little secret, this trick works for SO MANY furniture repairs.
Discover more tutorials for repairing old furniture!
A lot of antique furniture was made with real wood that had blemishes on it. But it was made beautiful with a thin layer of expensive, pretty wood. That thin layer of wood is called veneer.
The veneer was glued onto the less-pretty wood to make the less-pretty wood look like it was made of expensive wood.
This practice continues today with manufactured furniture, but today the wood under the veneer is often a manufactured (low-quality) wood.
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Side Note: Wood veneer is different than laminate.
You can tell the difference between laminate and wood veneer by the sheen, texture and how they look. Laminate is very slick, shiny and has no natural wood grain (because it’s basically plastic that has been made to look like wood!) Wood veneer has texture, and it isn’t as slick or shiny as laminate is.
(Click here to see what you must do before you paint laminate furniture.)
Over time the wood veneer can get water damage, or the glue holding the veneer to the wood can become brittle, making the veneer loose.
When the veneer is loose, it starts to lift away from the wood, making it easy for the veneer to chip and break.
Here is a dresser that started to chip at the bottom. The veneer lifted and was easily broken off from the rest of the veneer.
I wanted to paint the dresser, but I didn’t want to leave the damage visible. This is such a common problem when painting or refinishing old furniture.
But the fix is really pretty simple!
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- Optional: Powder Sander / Disc Sandpaper
- Optional: Utility Knife
- Optional: Wood Filler
How to Fix Chipped Wood Furniture
- Glue down or remove all of the loose veneer.
- Mix up Bondo and QUICKLY spread it over the missing veneer.
- Let the Bondo dry for at least 30 minutes.
- Sand the Bondo down smooth.
- Apply a second coat of Bondo or fill in small imperfections with wood filler.
- Get ready for paint or refinishing.
What Is Bondo?
Bondo is well known in the auto repair industry (but it’s become very popular to use on wood!) It’s a two-part product that consists of the base and the hardener. Once mixed it dries very hard in less than an hour.
Basically, it’s perfect for furniture and home repairs. Bondo has actually come out with a wood filler version and a multi-purpose version because of how popular it has become! (Though I still like to stick with the good ole pink auto version of Bondo.)
Read through this post to learn more about the best wood filler for furniture.
How to use Bondo for Wood Repair
How to Mix Bondo
Simply mix a golf ball size of the base with about an inch-long amount of hardener.
Only mix it in small amounts or as much as you need though. About 5 minutes after it’s mixed, it becomes too hard to work with. And after about 30 minutes the Bondo is hard.
How Long Does it Take for Bondo to Dry?
It depends on the weather and how much hardener you mixed into the base, but it should be hardening enough that you can’t spread it after 5 minutes.
The back of the can says that it cures in 20 -30 minutes.
After it has cured, you can sand it down.
How to Sand Bondo
If you can, sand the Bondo down with a power sander and 220 grit sandpaper. The power sander works the very best on a flat surface like the side of this dresser.
*Update: I have since upgraded and tried out a few different power sanders that I love even more than when I did this project! Read more about which sanders I recommend for sanding furniture here!
If you are stuck sanding Bondo by hand, start with more coarse grit sandpaper like 100 grit or 120 grit to remove the most excess quickly.
Then work your way up to 220 grit sandpaper to get a really nice smooth repair.
For sanding by hand, this is my absolute favorite sandpaper to use. I find that other sandpaper tears and loses it’s grit way too fast.
How to Sand Bondo Faster
If you’re repairing wood with details that are hard to get into, or areas where a power sander can’t get, I have a little trick that saves so much time!
About 5 minutes after you have put the Bondo onto wood, use a utility knife to shave off the excess and shape the Bondo.
Once the Bondo is dry and hard (about 30 minutes later) you can sand the rest of the Bondo down so it’s smooth and seamless.
Best Sandpaper for Bondo
This sandpaper isn’t just for Bondo. These are my favorite sandpaper sheets to use, no matter the project. They are great for hand sanding, or if you have a sander that uses sheets of sandpaper.
The grit lasts much longer than other sandpaper, and it doesn’t tear easily like others do.
For my power sander, these are the sanding discs that I recommend. This brand is the best!
*Update: I have since upgraded my sander to this SurfPrep 3×4 vacuum-compatible sander and I love it!
Do I need to Apply a Second Coat of Bondo?
If there aren’t any imperfections, then you are just fine to move on to the next step.
But a lot of times the Bondo has air bubbles or small areas that need to be filled in to make the damage completely disappear.
You can either spread another thin coat of Bondo on, or you can put wood filler in those imperfections.
Once the Bondo or wood filler is dry, simply sand it down smooth again.
How to paint Bondo?
You can paint right over Bondo if you would like. But to combat bleed through or uneven coverage of paint, it’s best to prime the furniture in some way before painting.
I personally love to use clear shellac in the spray can to combat bleed through, and seal the Bondo. I love to use shellac because it’s clear and makes it easy to lightly distress the paint for a farmhouse look.
If you don’t want a farmhouse look, a white primer like BIN Shellac is perfect to get your furniture and Bondo repair ready for paint.
Note: If you are painting your furniture with powdered milk paint, I like to paint a coat of water-based poly over the Bondo. Shellac can make the powdered milk paint crackle, revealing the pink Bondo underneath, so water-based poly is the best option!
Read more about The Best Primer for Painting Furniture (and How to Choose the Right One) here!
Can you Stain Bondo?
Sadly, Bondo doesn’t take stain like wood does. Plus if you use the autobody kind (the pink stuff), it’s going to be even harder to make the Bondo look like wood.
Check out this wood stain repair tutorial to learn more.
But, Bondo has a wood filler version of Bondo that would be easier to stain. It still won’t take stain like wood does (no wood filler will stain like wood does though!).
Your best bet to stain Bondo is to use the Wood Filler Version and then stain it by painting on layers of Gel Stain.
Kwikwood is a thicker, clay like, wood filler that can be shaped easily. It also dries quickly (about an hour) and dries hard.
It’s not as easy to fill in a large area of missing veneer with Kwikwood though, so I like to stick to Bondo for repairs like this.
Click here to learn more about How to Use KwikWood.
Optional – Remove the Veneer
If your veneer is loose or pretty damaged, you might want to remove all of it instead of filling in the modding veneer. Here is our video and tutorial on the insanely easy way to remove veneer.
You’ve got this!!
- How to Repair Broken Trim
- How to Fix Old Dresser Drawers that Stick
- How to Fill Hardware Holes
- How to Fix Chipped Wood Corners
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