How to Install Wood Veneer on Cabinets | Garage Gear Guru

How to Install Wood Veneer on Cabinets

If you've checked out our list of 7 Amazingly Simple Ideas for Garage Cabinets you may have noticed that we recommend using old kitchen cabinets in your garage as an affordable way to add much needed storage space. You can shop on Craigslist or even look for people throwing away old cabinetry because it's just going in your garage--it doesn't have to look amazing. But, eventually, you may want to upgrade it a bit, which is where this post comes in. In it, we are going to offer step-by-step instructions on how to install wood veneer on cabinets.

What Is Wood Veneer and Why Do I Want It On My Garage Cabinets?

Simply put, veneer is a cosmetic covering. It is anything that goes over the surface of another object in order to make it look more visually appealing (and sometimes function better too). You may have heard the word in the term "dental veneers", which are like false covers that are implanted over your existing teeth to improve the look of their color, shape, or other features.

When it comes to installing wood veneer on your cabinets, you are basically applying a thin layer of a luxurious material over cabinets that are made from something not so luxurious. For example, many homeowners cut their costs significantly by installing a cherry or oak veneer over their cheap plywood cabinets.

In the case of your garage cabinets, you can significantly upgrade those used ones you bought (or hiked off the curb) just by installing a nice, affordable wood veneer.

How To Install Wood Veneer on Cabinets: Step-by-Step

Okay, let's get to it. Here are the steps to follow when you're installing wood veneer on your cabinets. We've provided written instructions below, but also found a really good video tutorial as well that covers basically the exact same steps.

  1. 1
    Sand your existing cabinets (if necessary). If your existing cabinets already have a face or finish, you first want to stand them thoroughly until they are just bare wood. Start off the job with 80 grit sand paper. Once you've done the first layer, switch to 200 grit and give it another go.
  2. 2
    Fill any holes or nicks. After sanding, inspect the cabinet for any holes, tears, dents, nicks or other imperfections that would prevent the cabinet from making complete contact with the veneer. Fill these in with wood putty, let it dry, and then sand it down to lay smooth with the cabinet.
  3. 3
    Clean the surfaces. Next, you've got to prep both your veneer and the existing cabinets. This involves cleaning them free of dust and other particulates. Start by using compressed air to blow away any gathered dust. Next, dampen a cloth (do not soak) with de-natured alcohol. Rub down the surfaces and let dry thoroughly.
  4. 4
    Apply your adhesive. The industry standard for wooden cabinet veneer is contact cement. You should apply it with a brush to completely cover both the front of the cabinets and the back of the veneer. Do this step one piece at a time. If you try to coat the entire cabinet in one go, the first piece will likely dry by the time you've coated the rest. Once you've got both surfaces covered, lay the veneer evenly on the cabinet.
  5. 5
    Bond the veneer to the cabinet. This is probably the most important step of the process. If you don't bond right, then your cabinets will look warped and bubbled. Good bonding takes two things: pressure and adhesive. We've already covered the adhesive, so lets talk about pressure. Despite what some guides say, you shouldn't use a roller to apply the pressure. It can cause a lot of trouble, and even void your warranty in some cases. Instead, use a wood scraper. The best technique is to start in the center of the piece and apply even pressure with both hands as you drag the scraper with the grain. If you are doing it right, you should be pouring in sweat by the end of the job. It takes a LOT of pressure.
  6. 6
    Let it dry. The adhesive should dry within 4 to 6 hours. Don't do anything else with the piece during this time. A good strategy is to bond all of your cabinetry, let it sit over night, and then proceed with the final steps.
  7. 7
    Finish the cabinet surface. Now that the seal is bonded, your cabinet and veneer have basically become a single entity. It's time to put the finishing touches on them. The easiest, most effective way to do this is with a spray sealer coat. Rather than completely soaking the surface, you should apply 2 to 3 thin layers sprayed in a light mist. Allow the sealer to dry thoroughly between coats. If you soak the wood in sealer, you risk warps, cracks, and blisters because wood hates moisture.

Make Your Job Easier With An All-in-One DIY Veneer Kit

If you're serious about this do-it-yourself job, you may want to invest in a veneer kit to make it easy. Here is one available on Amazon that includes everything you need. That link goes to their Knotty Pine Wood look, but they have a ton of options for you to choose from. According to their description, this kit is good for 8 - 10 cabinet opening.

Enjoy Your Newly Finished Garage Cabinets

There you go! Now that you have installed new wood veneer, you've probably got the best garage cabinets on the block. Invite your buds over, show it off, and bask in the new glory of your man cave.

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