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What is Oak Veneer?

A veneer is a thin layer of wood applied on top of a lesser quality material.
Veneers are used on cabinets.
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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 15 July 2014
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Oak veneer is a product applied to the surface of some furniture in order to make it look like it's made of oak. The underlying material is usually of somewhat less quality than the veneer itself, whether oak or another wood is used. As a result, the final product gives the appearance of being a more expensive piece of furniture than it really is.

As with any hardwood veneer, oak comes in a wide variety of grains and finishes. This helps to expand the homeowner's or remodeler's choices when undertaking a project, or trying to match other furniture in a room. In most cases, veneer is used when the project is of such a scale that doing the entire thing in genuine oak would be too expensive for the owner. A veneer may be used at other times as well, such as when a project manager wants a contrast in wood styles to create a specific effect.

Oak veneer has many common uses. It can be applied to cabinets, tables, chairs, staircases and doors, just to name a few. Typically, the same veneer will be used uniformly throughout the home or room, wherever wood is used. This gives a cohesive sense to the interior.

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In most cases, the veneer is only 1/8 inch (3.17 mm) thick, so it must be handled very delicately. It typically comes on rolls, and it's often best to unroll the veneer and store it vertically for at least a day prior to applying it. This gives the material time to straighten, which can make the application process somewhat less difficult.

Once the veneer is ready, it is good to make sure the surface to which it will be applied is clean and free from all debris. An adhesive is then added to the wood — usually some sort of carpenter's glue. The oak veneer is carefully applied and worked into the desired position. Due to the delicate nature of the work, many homeowners will buy products with the veneer already applied, rather than trying to do it themselves.

While oak veneer remains very popular, there are other wood veneer products that can also be a good choice, like birch and maple. Each will have a distinctly different appearance, so the final choice of which wood type to use is often a personal preference, based on what the interior design is supposed to convey. Staining the wood a different color is a popular alternative to using veneer.

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Discuss this Article

JimmyT
Post 4

@stl156 - Great points. In addition to cabinets, I would say oak veneer flooring is probably the most popular use right now for oak veneer. I remember when my husband and I first started looking at buying wood floors. The price for solid oak is outrageous! It was definitely not in our price range. One of the sales people showed us some veneer flooring, and it was great. I honestly don't think there is any way people could tell the difference between the two after the floor is installed.

I was wondering, though, how exactly do they produce veneer? To cut it into the thin sheets, do the sawmills just cut normal lumber and then cut that down into thin strips, or do they have some sort of a machine that actually picks the tree up and "peels" it? Knowing the price that oak and veneer costs, I always wondered how much an individual tree would sell for. Probably a lot.

stl156
Post 3

I love the look of oak, but like the article says, it can get really expensive. We have a lot of stuff in our home that has an oak veneer layer on it. It cuts down significantly on the cost, but gives a great finish. Someone has to really be looking at the wood to tell that it is veneer.

Oak veneer cabinets are very popular at the moment. We had some installed when we remodeled our kitchen, and they look great. At least as far as I am concerned, the best thing about using oak veneer is that oak can be stained to almost any color. The birch and maple that were mentioned are typically lighter in color than oak, and so you have to take that into consideration when picking flooring and countertops. We didn't experience that with the oak, since we knew no matter what we could find a matching stain.

kentuckycat
Post 2

@matthewc23 - I think you're right that most stores won't sell veneer because the average homeowner won't ever need it, and because it is hard to store and care for. Since the wood is very thin, it is subject to cracking and ripping if it isn't taken care of correctly.

You have two basic options for finding veneer. The first is to find a local sawmill who produces veneer and can sell it. The vast majority of oak veneer in the US comes from the east, and depending on whether you need white or red you might have varying levels of success at a mill. Some areas produce more white than red and vice versa. Additionally, a lot of mill don't produce veneer. Just call around and see if any local mill cut oak veneer.

The other option would be to order it online. This will definitely be more expensive, because you'll probably be dealing with a middle man. Of course, you'll have to pay for shipping, too, which will add to the cost.

matthewc23
Post 1

So, if you wanted to get some oak veneer for a project, where would you find it? We found a really nice end table at a local secondhand shop. The only problem is that the wood is maple, I think, and it doesn't match the rest of our oak furniture. We really like the design of the table, and it was fairly inexpensive, which is why we went ahead and got it. Now we just need to figure out how to get oak veneer on it.

We already looked around at the local home improvement stores, and they didn't sell any, and couldn't really tell us where we might be able to find some. What is so special about oak veneer that they don't sell it in stores? Is it just because most people chose not to do the work themselves? Any help would be appreciated.

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