Q: How to fix water damaged IKEA particle board?

Water damaged particle board KALLAX: what to do next?

Julia gave a shout for help on our IH Facebook group:

“I need problem solving help.

My daughter was trying to do a good thing and bought two 2×4 KALLAX units off FB for a sick friend.

The units were incredibly dirty, but they were cheap and we were going to clean and disinfect anyway.

However, some of the veneer started to come loose as we loaded the pieces into the truck. It started to rain on the way home, and by then, the veneer pieces were practically sliding off in places.

Looking at it, it appears the owners knew there were problems, as there are a couple splotches of hot glue underneath.

Water damaged particle board KALLAX

Some of the scratches swelled from the water exposure too.

Water damaged particle board KALLAX

So… my daughter’s heart is sad and I’m trying to see how we can salvage the situation and fix these units.

I’m not sure what kind of glue to use or precautions we should take. Any advice is greatly appreciated!”

~ by Julia


Hi Julia

KALLAX is made from particleboard. Water is its kryptonite.

The first thing to do is to assess the damage. How severe is the water damage? Are many of the panels swollen and warped?

If so, it may not be worth saving. And your daughter may be better off buying another set of pre-loved KALLAX.

Next, do you have time to let it dry thoroughly? Wet particleboard can easily sag under weight. If not thoroughly dried, it may also provide a fertile ground of mold and mildew. If so, again you may want to discard it.

How to fix water damaged particle board

Let’s say, it’s salvageable. Then this is what I’ll recommend.

First, let it dry thoroughly. Either naturally or use a hairdryer.

Sand down the areas that “bubbled up”, with a fine grit sandpaper. Then use wood filler to repair the surface and other scratches. Sand it down again to smoothen the surface.

For the veneer edges that fell off, try using veneer glue to stick them back on. Remove any residual glue from the veneer strips first. After applying the glue, clamp the strips down to cure. (Follow directions on the product.)

Then, consider refurbishing the KALLAX unit.

You can paint using the sand, prime, paint sequence. (Here’s a guide on how to paint veneer.)

Many readers have successfully used chalk paint on IKEA furniture, with minimal sanding and no primer.

KALLAX painted

KALLAX unit painted with acrylic paint

Alternatively, use other methods to hide the scarring, like contact paper. If you’re handy, you can also wrap it with plywood.

KALLAX with plywood wrap

Expedit with plywood wrap and contact paper on shelves

Hope you found this helpful. Let us know how it turned out.

Happy hacking,


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Jules Yap