This buffet was headed for the dump. But we fixed it up and are ready to show you how to fix damaged veneer on your own piece, and how to strip the finish.
Get more of my favorite Tips for Repairing Old Furniture here!
Inspecting the Damages and Repairs
A few weeks ago I picked this STUNNING buffet up from a refinishing friend. It had been sitting in her garage for a year and she lost all motivation to tackle such a huge project! I about killed over when I saw that she was selling it and rushed over to her home as soon as I could! She pointed out dozens of problems from the bubbling and chipping veneer, to places that needed some glue. She gave me the full run down, and the list was long. I’m not going to lie, it was going to be my biggest project yet, but I was up for the challenge to make this trash into a treasure.
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Repairing some of the Peeling Veneer
How to Strip the Legs and Doors Down to Wood
Small Amounts of Chipping Veneer
The Backsplash Repairs
Tape, Plastic and Paint
After everything was wiped down I made sure to tape off anything that I didn’t want to get paint on. Especially since I use my paint sprayer for that nice smooth finish. I love to use this pre-taped plastic and painters tape to tape off spaces like this. And then I used some old newspaper and tape to cover the legs and the leg brace. You’ll notice in the picture below that I taped excessively around the raised detail down at the bottom in the middle of the buffet. I honestly didn’t want to spend a lot of time taping, so I taped the whole area, and more, and then went back with a small artist brush later to get close to the detail work.
Oops! The Bubbling Veneer Repair Didn’t Work
Finally after a week and a half, I was done with the prep work -or so I thought- and I started to paint it. I about cried when I realized that the moisture from the paint made more veneer on the top bubble up again. I was crushed when I saw all of that hard work of sanding, filling with Bondo, and sanding some more was all for nothing.
So I finally did what I should have done to begin with. I slowly and painfully removed all of the veneer from the top of the buffet. This time the veneer was a lot harder to remove. I started out with my trusty putty knife and hammer. I removed a lot of the veneer, but there were places that were being super stubborn and would not come off. So I tried a couple of different things.
The Wet Towel Method to Remove Veneer
First I tried the wet towel method. Basically, you put a wet towel (not soaking wet, but not just damp either), on the stuck on veneer overnight. The veneer and glue is supposed to get moist and lift up after that. It seemed to work great, but waiting overnight for it to get moist just isn’t for me.
The Heat Method to Remove Veneer
The other method I tried (while waiting on the wet towel to work it’s magic in another area) was a hair dryer. Now, if I was smart, I would have a heat gun for this. But I didn’t, so I went to the next best thing. And it worked pretty good. I found that it was easiest to heat up the metal putty knife first, and then point the hair dryer at the veneer while I scraped under the veneer. This was pretty slow and steady since the glue needed to get hot enough to get soft before I could really get in between the veneer and the wood. But it worked!
Which Method is Better?
This is such a tricky question. It honestly depends on the project, your time, the weather and what you’re feeling up to. I would say the wet towel method isn’t going to be the best in scorching summer heat in the south. But it will probably be better in a high humidity area, or on a rainy day.
The heat method would probably work better with an actual heat gun, but it worked too! So, really, I would say to try whatever you can start with. But know that if that veneer is stuck on good, that it will really be a pain to get off, no matter what.
*UPDATE: Since writing this post, I’ve learned an even easier way to remove veneer!! Check out our quick video to learn more!
Finishing up the Top Veneer Damage
After all of the veneer was off, and the wood was completely dry, I put on a very thin coat of Bondo to fill in the deep grain of the wood underneath. After more sanding with the power sander and more filling with Bondo, and then even more sanding it was finally ready for paint. And it worked!
Finishing Touches and Sealing the Paint
Once all of the paint was dry I grabbed my sanding block with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around and distressed all of the edges to give a worn look. Because of its age, this buffet has dings and scratches and I wanted to highlight all of those things. Each ding and scratch tells another story and shows how beautiful this piece really is.
After wiping everything clean again I sealed the whole piece with wax. And I honestly really wish I would have sealed it all with poly instead. I wanted to seal it with wax, thinking that the wood would look better with wax, but I think I would have gotten the same exact finish, but the poly would have been so much easier and faster, especially in the paint sprayer. But I’m really not a waxing girl.
Almost a week later I still do a little happy dance every time I walk by it. It is such a stunning old piece that had been almost forgotten about. But now it has a new finish that shows its curves and details and it is ready to proudly serve another family for many more years to come.
Would you take on a piece like this??