How to Paint Over a Veneer Finish

A piece of veneer finished wood.
  • 3-6 hours
  • Beginner
  • 100-200
What You'll Need
Wood glue
Replacement pieces of veneer
Dishwashing liquid
Warm water
Clean cloth
220-grit sandpaper
Tack cloth or handheld vacuum

Applying a couple of coats of paint over a veneer finish can give an item a fresh, new look. The key to a successful paint job, however, is all in the preparation. If you don't prepare veneer surfaces properly, the paint won't stick as it should, or it will peel off later. Fortunately, the preparation is easy and just requires a little sanding and a couple of coats of primer.

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    Step 1 - Repair Damaged Areas

    Veneer, which is a thin layer of decorative wood, can crack, chip or pull away from the item you want to paint. Repair such problems to ensure that the paint will adhere properly. If part of the veneer has begun to pull away from the underlying surface, use wood glue to set it back in place. If the veneer is missing sections or has become cracked, carefully remove the damaged section and glue a replacement piece of veneer in its place. Wait until the wood glue has dried completely before moving on to the next step.

    Step 2 - Clean the Veneer Surface

    Dirt, dust, and grime can cling to a veneer surface and interfere with your efforts to give it a new look. Clean the surface of the item you're planning to paint with a solution of mild dishwashing liquid and warm water. It's best to avoid soaking the item, however, as the underlying construction may be damaged by too much. Instead, wet a clean cloth with the cleaning solution, wring it out and then wipe the surface to remove any built-up grease and dirt. Rinse the surface and let it dry completely when you're done.

    Step 3 - Sand the Veneer

    Use 220-grit sandpaper to sand the veneer finish, being careful to use only light pressure. Avoid sanding it so hard that you move through the veneer to the underlying construction. Use a tack cloth to remove dust particles periodically. After sanding, use a handheld vacuum or your tack cloth to clean up any dust particles that have settled around your work area. If you allow them to remain there, they may blow onto your work as you paint, ruining the look of your paint job.

    Step 4 - Apply a Primer

    Paint a coat of primer onto the veneer finish, sanding the surface once more after the coat of primer has dried thoroughly. The extra sanding helps to make the surface you're painting smooth and unblemished. Use your tack cloth to remove dust particles again, and then add another coat of primer. Let the primer dry for about 24 hours.

    Step 5 - Paint Over the Veneer

    Apply at least two coats of your chosen paint to the veneer surface, painting over the dried primer. If you're opting for a light color, you'll need to apply two coats at minimum, and you may need more to achieve the desired effect. If you've chosen a dark color, you may need about four coats of paint. Give each coat of paint enough time to dry completely before adding a new coat. Wait 24 to 48 hours before you move on to applying varnish.

    Step 6 - Apply Varnish

    Apply a few coats of varnish to your painted surface. This is particularly important if you plan to place items on it, work on it, or even handle it frequently. The varnish will help to seal and protect your paint job. Wait 24 hours before you use the freshly varnished surface, making sure it has cured completely.

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