Damaged Veneer is Your Friend…Really

Are you one to shy away when you have a piece of furniture that has damaged veneer? I don’t blame you. Many a times I have run into a project that really had me ready to quit. Last week I showed you a chest of drawers and how I gave it a new look (on the left). This week, I’m going to show you how The Evil Twin got a makeover that gave a me a run for my money. Enter in this soon-to-be farmhouse empire dresser.

Set of Empire Furniture Before Makeover | Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.com

Let’s take a closer look.

Farmhouse Empire Dresser Before Makeover by Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.com

You can see that the knobs are mismatched on the top and not original, no casters, and worn on top. No biggie, right? Well, the previous owner warned me that the top was pretty bad and that it would need painted since she works with furniture too.

Top of Damaged Farmhouse Empire Dresser Before by Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.com

She also told me one of the drawers was missing a bottom. Okay…I can handle that. When my husband brought it home and we both looked closely at the top, we just turned and looked at each other. My wrist and elbow already began to ache. That veneer had major bubbles, shredded through in places and was just plain awful.

No problem I said to myself. I’ll just use my towel soak method like I did on BEEP, Dumpster Diva, and this desk. However, looming in the back of my mind was my last veneer encounter with this other chest. The saga continues…

Towel Soak Method to Remove Damaged Veneer by Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.com

*post contains affiliate links so you can find the products I love to use too! (see full disclosure)

On Day 1 I pulled the dresser out to get to work and a side slat fell out. Oop. I removed the drawers and got my towels on there for a long soak. Typically, I would put the towels on the night before I wanted to work, but forgot. While waiting, I rebuilt the drawer by cutting a new bottom on my table saw and was feeling pretty good. My hopeful attitude led me to think I could have the veneer off by that evening. I was absolutely wrong. ahem.

I totally knew better and tried to have a crack at it later that day and found that this would be the twin to that wicked Art Deco chest of drawers. This is how the top looked by mid-morning on Day 2.

Removing Damaged Veneer from Empire Dresser | Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.com

Whenever I am working I tend to sing songs by taking old ones and adding in my current situation and this time it was, “a whole lotta scrapin’ goin’ on. Great balls of veneer!” hahaha…not so funny, really.

I wanted to quit. Why? Because I didn’t wait long enough for the water to penetrate and this was a super-thick veneer with excellent glue. Just as I was about to throw in the towel (get it? throw in the wet towel…) and take off the top and replace it with a new one like I did on this mess of a chest, the veneer started to lift when I gave it more time.

Oh a happy girl was I! Once past that veneer, on Day 3 it was time for my best friends to come play. Meet Ms. Sander and Mr. Wood Filler.

Tools for Removing and Repairing Damaged Veneer | Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.com

Filling the gaps was easy, and once cured, I sanded it down for a smooth finish. I will be perfectly honest that I had every intention of painting this surface, but when I was about to start I noticed how much character the wood had. So, instead of staining and then painting over top, I just used my favorite Early American stain and left that grain shine through. That’s when I was reminded of my farmhouse desk.

Early American Stain for Empire Dresser | Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.com

Once that stain was dry, I used a matte polycrylic for the topcoat for protection and aged appeal.

The cabinet didn’t have much damaged veneer, so I just prepped and painted a base coat of CeCe Caldwell’s Blue Montana Sky that I also used on the Diva I mentioned earlier and loved it.

psst…See my shadow on the floor for furball support?

Painting Empire Dresser with CeCe Caldwell's Blue Montana Sky | Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.com

Since my vision for this dresser was a fresh farmhouse look that resembled a summer’s day, I went over the blue with some Junque milk paint in Jadeite. The same color I used on this dresser.

Layering Junque Milk Paint | Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.com

I wanted this to look totally rustic and time-worn so I distressed and left it in the raw.

Here it is…with damaged veneer gone. Yeah, baby!

Farmhouse Dresser with Damaged Veneer Removal Tutorial by Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.com

The top is rustic and tells a story. I love it!

Top of Damaged Veneer Dresser Restored by Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigapieces.com

The washed effect I gave the cabinet was what I was after. It made me smile as it reminded me of those blue summer skies and green grass.

Summertime Sky Farmhouse Dresser by Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.com

Blue and Green Washed Farmhouse Empire Dresser by Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.com

My garage-sale-find pastoral painting titled, “Summertime Home” was the inspiration for this design. I love simple art and the stories they tell.

"Summertime Home" Pastoral Painting | Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.com

Yet again I was reminded that when I wanted to quit, I am ever so thankful that I have a Savior that doesn’t quit on me. “he will never leave you, nor forsake you” Deuteronomy 31:6. So thankful He doesn’t quit easily either.

On the same note, damaged veneer can be dealt with and just takes patience. Most shy away from them like the lady I bought from, and that’s when you can really score a diamond in the rough.

My hope is to inspire and encourage. By pinning and sharing you do the same for others. Thank you! ♥

How to Remove Veneer and Restore a Damaged Piece of Furniture by Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.com

You can find this chest and more in my shop (SOLD) – stop and say, “Hi!”

Up next, I have a fun DIY build for those furry friends that love us so. Meet Ted E. Bear. He’s tired of the summer heat and could use some lovin’. Head HERE to see.

Miniture Schnauzer Dog Laying on Floor | Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.com

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More damaged veneer makeovers for you:

Vintage Waterfall Dresser Gets Volkswagen Bus Makeover by Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.comDumpster Dresser Turned Boho Chic Diva by Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.com


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  • Sheri Krueger

    This is gorgeous! I love your website and Facebook page! You have been an inspiration to me to set out and do my first refurbish of an old white dresser that has been in my family for years!! I repeatedly went to your website for ideas and instructions (because I absolutely did not know what I was doing.!) . Your pieces are all so beautiful!! I can see how it can be addicting…. have picked up a piece to make into an entertainment center and recently redid a mirror and dresser for my daughters room!! P.S. Love your Scripture and words of wisdom on your site. Thanks for sharing!

    August 16, 2016 at 9:19 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Good for you, Sheri! I am tickled to hear my efforts are inspiring you and that you are seeing the awesome fruits of your labor. Thank you for encouraging me today. 😉

      August 16, 2016 at 10:20 am Reply
  • Mary-the boondocks blog

    Larissa, great balls of paint! This is totally awesome. I am really in awe that you were able to save that top and to reveal the beauty and history underneath. And I totally did not see the blue and green coming which looks perfect together.

    August 16, 2016 at 10:09 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Ha! You’re on the same wavelength, Mary. 😀 I have just been having fun with my work and trying to savor every last bit of summer. Thank you for stopping by!

      August 16, 2016 at 10:21 am Reply
  • Sherry Stuifbergen

    I like how you “stage” your objects, once done. I don’t have the “vision” you do! What a worker and I love the Christian add-ins. It is like praying all the time you are working…

    August 16, 2016 at 10:25 am Reply
  • Vangie

    Love the colors. Great job☺

    August 16, 2016 at 10:57 am Reply
  • Bonnie

    I love the work that you do remaking old furniture and other assorted knick knacks into something beautiful. You are such an inspiration to me as I read your blog. Thank you for sharing scripture and for reminding me to keep my eyes on the Lord.

    August 16, 2016 at 11:44 am Reply
  • Donna Gonzalez

    Could you paint something and have it come out ugly just so I know you’re human? Thanks.

    August 16, 2016 at 4:01 pm Reply
  • cheryl B.

    I love the color.where do you find the heavy duty casters??Great job as always.

    August 18, 2016 at 1:38 am Reply
    • Larissa

      I found these at at local sale. Hard to find, but when I do I grab them!

      August 18, 2016 at 12:29 pm Reply
  • Jacki ~ My Trash To Treasure Life

    Your inspirational painting is so exactly right! Thanks for the detailed tutorial – I have a sewing machine cabinet with peeling veneer. Guess what I’ll be doing to it!

    August 28, 2016 at 7:15 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      Yay! I hope you have fun with it, Jacki. 🙂

      August 29, 2016 at 5:47 am Reply
  • Olivia jensen

    I found your page while looking for ideas and tips for damaged veneer, I’m refinishing my dresser and had spent 2 years researching how old it was and such so i knew if i should paint it real nice or destroy it’s 3 layers of crap that was chipping off and get every one to stop commenting on the ugly piece of fire wood… well after 5 minutes of looking for veneer I find the same dresser as mine ! I’d love to share some photos I’m halfway through sanding and stripping but once you see it, ahhh. It’s got the most beautiful and interesting veneer and has been a never ending surprise and of course I’m the only one goo goo over it everyone else is “Oh hmm never heard of no curly trees ” I’ll share on fb or Instagram later, got a 2 year old boy anxious for my attention… (:

    July 3, 2017 at 11:03 pm Reply
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