How to Fix Damaged Wood Furniture Before Painting

We bought this run-down dresser from the thrift store for $40…. I don’t like buying painted pieces, but I could tell that the paint job was good enough that it didn’t have to be removed. And since it had some damage, I figured it would be a great dresser to show how to fix damaged wood furniture before painting.

Find more of our DIY Dresser Makeovers here!

Beat up old white dresser with veneer chipping off.

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Supplies Used:

How to Fix Damaged Wood Furniture

  1. Remove Hardware/Clean
  2. Fix Chipped Wood Veneer
  3. Fill in Chipped Veneer
  4. Sand
  5. Prep for Paint
  6. Paint

Step 1: Remove the Hardware/Clean

Right off the bat though, the knobs were a pain to remove.

The middle piece in the knob wasn’t secured to the knob, so when I tried to twist off the nut, the metal piece turned too.

So I ended up busting the knob so I could get a hold of the metal piece and unscrew the nut.

Then I cleaned the dresser with Krud Kutter to remove all of the dirt and grime.

Read this post to learn more about How to Clean Furniture Before Painting.

Cleaning an old white dresser with Krud Kutter and a damp rag.

Step 2: Fix Chipped Wood Veneer

Remove the Loose Veneer

And then I removed the loose wood veneer, starting with the bottom skirt.

I used a putty knife thing to get under all of it and pry it off.

Then I worked on the sides. Only a little bit was loose.

And then the top… most of the top layer came off easily, and some of the bottom layer came off

Using a putty knife to pry off old damaged veneer on the top of a dresser.

And then it got hard.

So I sprayed some water on the top, to try to moisten the wood and get it to come off easier.

And then I moved on to the drawers.

Glue the Veneer Back On

I LOVE the detail on the drawers, but the veneer was loose and chipping off on them too. I thought about making a mold of the design and removing all of the veneer…

But I kept running into roadblocks. So I decided to glue it back on the best that I could.

I used a glue syringe to put glue between the drawer and the veneer, and then I clamped a piece of wood on, to hold the veneer in place as the glue dried overnight.

Using a glue syringe to glue peeling veneer back onto the drawers.

Gluing was definitely easier than pulling up stubborn veneer!

The Easiest Way to Remove Wood Veneer

The next day, I placed a wet towel on the top of the dresser, and I used a cheap old iron, that I use only for stuff like this, to loosen up the glue and basically soak the veneer so it would come off easier.

I’m not going to lie, it still took me over an hour to take all of the veneer off the top. But it’s so much easier with the wet towel and iron.

Click over to this post on the easiest way to remove wood veneer to learn more about the process.

Using a wet towel and an iron to loosen up the veneer on the dresser top.

Remove Casters

After all the veneer was off on the top, I flipped it over and popped off the old, broken casters.

Step 3: The Best Wood Fillers for Veneer Repair


And then we took the dresser out to the garage and I filled the sides of the dresser with Bondo.

Bondo is my go-to filler for large areas of chipped veneer because it spreads easily, dries quickly, and hard. Way better than regular wood filler.

Filling missing veneer areas with Bondo on the side of the dresser.

It does stink though. So I only use it outside. And you have to work really quickly because it sets up fast once you mix the 2 parts together.

Click here to learn more about how to Fix Chipped Wood Furniture with Bondo.


On the drawers, I used KwikWood to fill the chips, because I can mold the KwikWood to the right shape that I need.

Just like Bondo, it dries quickly, and it dries hard.

But it doesn’t stink like Bondo does! And you can work with it a little longer than Bondo… oh and it’s not as messy.

It’s awesome! Learn more about how to use KwikWood to repair furniture here!

You can also read through this post to learn more about the best wood filler for furniture.

Using KwikWood to repair the chipped veneer on the drawers.

Step 4: Sand Everything

I came back a couple of hours later and sanded everything down, flush with the wood, and had to fill a couple of small spots with wood filler.

I sanded the top of the dresser smooth and I even sanded all of the paint off the edge too.

Check out the best sander to remove paint and the best tools for removing paint from wood.

In the crevices, I used a flathead screwdriver to chip the paint off, and then I sanded by hand where the sander didn’t reach.

And then I sanded everything else to just make it all feel smooth.

Sanding the Bondo and wood filler smooth after it was dry on the dresser.

There was a lot of sanding.

Learn more about the importance of sanding before painting furniture here.

Check out our SurfPrep VS Festool Sander Reviews to help you if you’re deciding to get a sander.

Step 5: Prep For Paint

OK with all of that out of the way I moved on to cleaning the piece so then we could paint everything.

I vacuumed up all of the dust and then I used a tack cloth to wipe off any remaining dust.

Learn more about How to Prepare Furniture For Painting in this post!

I covered the top of the dresser and then I sprayed 2 coats of clear shellac.

Spraying clear shellac on a white dresser before painting.

The clear shellac acts kind of like my primer. It helps the paint stick.

And it prevents bleedthrough stains from coming through my paint, especially where I sanded down to bare wood.

Learn more about the best primer for painting furniture here.

Step 6: Painting

And then I was ready to paint. So for this project, I mixed up a custom color with Melange’s all in ONE paint line.

I mixed up basically a 50/50 ratio of Basilisk Black and Jacob’s Well with probably a little bit more of the black than the green.

And then I poured it into my paint sprayer, mixed in some water, and I sprayed on two coats of paint letting the paint dry for a couple of hours between each coat. 

Learn how easy it is to use this Wagner FLEXiO Paint Sprayer here.

Spraying the first coat of Melange green paint on the dresser with a paint sprayer.

After that coat of paint was dry I could see some spots where you could see the white paint in the texture of the wood grain so I filled all of that stuff in with wood filler, let that dry and then I sanded the wood filler down.

Sanding off a few areas that had to be wood filled after 2 coats of paint.

I cleaned off all of the dust again and then I sprayed my third coat of paint.

The Top of the Dresser

That was the ticket, so when the paint was dry I removed the plastic from the top and wiped 3 coats of some satin waterbased polyurethane on to protect it.

Learn our special tricks to apply polyurethane by hand in this black dresser makeover’s post.

Wiping 3 coats of polyurethane on the wood top of the dresser.

See the full video makeover below!

Green painted dresser with black knobs from a close side view.

I’m so glad that I kept the detail on the drawers, and I absolutely LOVE this color… and the paint. Man, it’s a perfect finish! So stinking easy to use too.

Green painted dresser with a natural wood top and black hardware.

What do you think? What hardware would you have picked?

Full view of a green dresser with black knobs and a natural wood top.

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One Comment

  1. That harp was not original to the piece. It was added later because the style and material it was made from weren’t even the same. If that destroyed the soul of the piece, then I’m more than happy that I did.

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