Easy tips and guide on how to paint veneer furniture

couple starting on paint job
Roselyn Tirado | Unsplash

Painting is one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to change the look of IKEA furniture. But how do you do it? While the hacker pros among us are pretty adept with this essential DIY skill, there are IKEA hacking newbies out there who may need a little guidance on how to paint veneer furniture.

I get a lot of questions on how to paint all sorts of IKEA furniture. IKEA Hackers readers have been very generous in sharing information, and I’ve included previous entries that may be helpful:

What’s the difference between veneer and laminate?

They are two different materials. Wood veneer is a thin layer of decorative wood glued on top of compressed wood boards. Laminate is an engineered material made from plastic and paper resins pressed together. Designs and colors can be printed on the surface of the laminate to mimic wood. Check the label on the IKEA furniture to determine whether it is covered with veneer or laminate.

Does IKEA use wood veneer or laminate?

Both materials are widely used in IKEA furniture. For instance, the white BILLY bookcase has a laminate surface, or what they call “paper foil.” At the same time, IKEA produces a BILLY bookcase in birch veneer, which is more expensive than the white laminate version. However, these bookcases with veneer layers will soon be replaced with laminate.

Can you paint veneer furniture?

Yes, you can paint veneer furniture after proper preparation of the surface. You’ll also need to use a suitable primer for wood veneer to enable the paint to adhere to the surface.

Do I use the same steps to paint veneer furniture and laminate furniture?

The basic painting steps are the same. What works for IKEA veneer will also work for IKEA laminate or paper foil furniture.

Bob from Fortune Restoration has volunteered an article on the correct preparation and painting tips for painting veneer furniture. Follow the steps, and your veneer painting project should turn up all right.


Painting Guide: Easy-to-follow tips on how to paint veneer furniture

Wood veneer is one of the most common materials in furniture finishing. It’s a thin layer of real wood typically glued onto a substrate, such as particleboard or plywood, to create a flat panel. It is often used in furniture making and interior design as a cost-effective alternative to solid wood.

Veneer can be made from a variety of wood species and can be stained, painted, or finished to achieve a desired look. Without proper maintenance, wood veneers can break and build up with grime.

Painting the veneer is a great way to enhance its appearance, giving a refresh or makeover to a piece of furniture. To ensure a successful paint job, treating, cleaning, and preparing the veneer surface properly is crucial. Fortunately, preparing veneer is a simple process that involves repairing, sanding, and applying a few coats of primer.

Things you’ll require to paint veneer furniture:

  • Gloves
  • Wood glue
  • Warm water
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Sandpaper (120 grit and 220 grit)
  • Mask
  • Primer (Shellac-based or water-based primer)
  • Top coat (such as polyurethane, polycrylic, or varnish)
  • Paint (use oil-based paint or latex; do not mix oil paints with water, as such paint will not stick to the surface for long)
  • Paint brushes
  • Paint roller

Step 1: Repair any cracks and damage and clean it well

paint veneer furniture
Image credit: www.doityourself.com

First, examine the condition of the veneer. All problems with the veneer need to be fixed before painting. Minor damages like raised edges can be secured with wood glue, while cracked areas can be filled with wood filler and recovered with new veneer pieces.

After all the gluing, clean the surface with warm water to remove dust, grime, and grease on the surface. If plain water doesn’t provide desirable results, you can use a few drops of dish soap in water. Ensure the crack and little damages you had repaired do not peel off. If you sense a problem, halt your cleaning process and fix the damage on priority.

Step 2: Sand the surface

sand and prime kitchen cabinets before painting
Sanded and primed | Image credit: Micah DePeuter

If the veneer surface is in good condition, you can proceed to the next step, which is to sand the surface. If the surface is damp from cleaning, let it dry completely and then lightly but thoroughly sand with a fine grit sandpaper. What you intend to do is to scuff the surface to allow the paint to adhere. Do not rub too hard, and expose the particleboard beneath the veneer. After sanding, remove all the dust on the surface to be painted using a dry cloth.

Step 3: Prime with primer

Next, prime the surface with a primer like Zinsser Bin. Apply at least two coats of primer, allowing the surface to dry between and after the two coats. Once the surface area is thoroughly dry, you can paint over veneer furniture.

Step 4: Apply paint and top coat

guide on how to paint veneer furniture
How we painted our kitchen cabinets | Image credit: Micah DePeuter

It’s finally time to paint after repairing, sanding, and priming. Use a roller for the flat surface and a paint brush for the edges and corners. Some veneer surfaces may require more than a single coat of paint, so make sure you do not stop at one. Allow the surface ample time to dry before it is reused.

If you do not let the surface dry properly, you would risk spoiling the paint, or the paint would begin to peel off.

After the paint dries, apply a few coats of a sealer or finishing top coat, such as polycrylic or varnish, to the painted surface. This is crucial if you plan to use the surface frequently.

Painting veneer furniture isn’t difficult but can be more time-consuming than painting wooden furniture. The key to perfect veneer painting rests in preparation. If you do not prepare the veneer surface properly before your paint job, the paint won’t stick as desired, and it will peel off very quickly, so don’t skip the prep.


About the Author
Bob Fortune is a professional writer & worked as a Customer Service at Fortune Restoration. Fortune Restoration is one of Chicago’s best companies for painting and restoration services for residential homeowners from Hyde Park to Lincoln Park.

Jules Yap