How to Cover Painted Wood with Veneer
If you have painted cabinets or a painted fireplace mantel, I’m sharing how to cover it up to have stained wood instead!
- Maple adhesive-backed veneer*
- razor knife
- wood stain*
- paint stripper**
- putty knife**
- straight edge/4 foot level
**These items aren’t necessary for the wood veneer but I used them for other steps in the video above!
After seeing this picture on Instagram a few years ago, I really wanted to have a stained fireplace! But since mine was already painted, I’d have to tear it out to build a different one with stain-quality lumber.
Why Wood Veneer
Obviously, the cost of buying all new materials would be a pretty big investment. Plus having to develop a design for a new fireplace mantel helped me decide that’s not what I wanted to do!
And before you ask, stripping the paint off was not a viable option because it was not built with top-notch wood originally. Probably just cheap pine which would not have looked all that great stained. Plus stripping paint sounds easy, but there’s a lot of cleanup involved after you strip the paint before you can apply stain or sealer.
Wood veneer, however, is ready for stain from the get-go! And it is actual wood! In this case, I used maple!
Wood veneer is a very, very thin real wood product. It’s less than 1/8 of an inch thick even with the adhesive backing. And speaking of the adhesive backing…not all veneers come with adhesive. So be sure to check that yours does before ordering!
I did a little research on veneers at Woodcraft.com before I selected mine! They have a magazine and have excerpts from it available for download as well as all of the products you’d ever need for any projects to do with wood! It’s where I go for all of my niche wood projects like this one and the resin inlay I did last year!
**Thanks to Woodcraft for sponsoring this episode. However, all opinions are 100% honest and my own.**
A smooth, flat surface is key to good adhesion. So I started by removing trim pieces with lots of details that I knew the veneer wouldn’t be able to cover. (It’s pliable enough to roll for shipping, but having to bend it too tight will cause it to break or splinter.) Then I scrapped off any remaining caulk or build up.
Since I had one small piece with a rounded edge on the inside of my fireplace surround and I knew I wouldn’t be able to wrap it with veneer, I decided to strip the paint on just this one.
Chemical Paint Stripper
If you’ve never stripped paint with a chemical stripper, it is so cool to see the paint (or stain) rise off the wood and goop together! And a little gross depending on the color you’re stripping off.
After applying the stripper to the wood piece and the bricks, I let it sit and do its thing for a while before scraping off the goop into a plastic bag.
I could tell there were multiple layers of paint from all the years this fireplace has lived, so there were a few spots that needed another coat of stripper.
Measuring and Cutting Veneer
While the paint stripper was working, I got to work measuring the right and left sides for veneer. I started with the outer edges first so that I could cover the ends of the veneer with a nice, clean piece on front. (Watch video above for a clearer visual of what I’m talking about here.)
Match the existing direction of the wood when you’re measuring. To cut, measure and mark for your first piece. I like to use my straight edge to draw a line on all sides in case the straight edge slips while cutting. Then line the straight edge/level on one of your marks, press firmly, and glide your razor along it to cut. For the first few pieces, I’d recommend lightly scoring the line then going back over it again to cut through. Just until you get the hang of it!
Install and Trim Veneer
Peel back a small section of the backing and line up the veneer. Slowly press the veneer down as you peel more backing off and work your way up/down the section you’re working on.
Rub your hands over it to smooth it down and assure a secure adhesion. It’s not recommended to reposition the veneer once you’ve stuck it in place. But in practice, I was able to do that to a certain extent. One place it removed a lot of my paint, so the paint covered the sticky part and didn’t have any sticky left to stay up on the fireplace. I re-cut that piece and started over!
I love working with materials that allow for mistakes or lack of perfection…and using veneer in this manner does just that!
You can cut the veneer a little wide, and then trim it with your razor knife once it’s in place.
Install Wood Accents
I used some stock moldings to cover the gaps where the old moldings I removed used to be located. I had to mix wood species, which isn’t usually a great idea because it’s hard to get it to match. I took my time to select the pine moldings with the most similar wood grain to the maple I was using. And I tested my stain on both the veneer and pine trim before selecting which shade.
I also used glue to hold them in place so I didn’t have to use as many nails. It’s hard to putty nail holes and have them match the stain, so I didn’t even bother for this project.
Wood Stain and Sealer
Since the veneer is actually wood, you stain and seal it just like you would any other wood project! I used a few scraps to test different stains before I committed to the lightest of my options, Honey.
After it dried, I applied 3 coats of a water-based sealer. I like water-based sealers for most projects because it dries fast, I can sand, and move on with another coat. That’s important to me since I have toddlers who like to touch whatever Mommy is working on.🤪
I love how the warm wood tone of the fireplace warms up my living room. And that’s when the fire isn’t even on.😉 I hope you enjoyed this project! Let me know if you have any questions to complete it at your house!
Thanks for Checking In! ~Chelsea
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