The term veneer refers to any thin surface used to cover another – when we say veneer, we’re typically talking about a stone veneer (a layer of non structural brick or stone over a framed house) or wood veneer (a thin layer of higher quality decorative wood covering a more affordable structural layer). There are also a ton of veneer products available for plastic, vinyl, melamine and other materials, which means lots of options when it comes to adding a nice finish to construction grade surfaces.
Sheet veneers are usually used to cover cabinet edges, gable panels in kitchens, countertops and other surfaces that require finishing. G1S or G2S plywood refers to multi-ply sheets covered on either one or both sides with a higher grade finish – if you have maple, oak or other wood cabinets, the finished surface is a veneer – have you ever seen an oak or maple tree big enough to supply a 4’ x 8’ sheet of wood? Probably not!
Let’s talk about sheet veneers. Many come with a factory applied adhesive on the back, that requires heating to activate it. In this case, you’ll need an iron set to medium heat, material to place between the veneer and iron to protect the surface and a scraper (usually wood, 4 – 6” wide) to apply the pressure needed to bond the surfaces together. The more pressure the better! Make sure both surfaces are clean and dust free – to ensure a good bond wipe down with denatured alcohol and allow to dry. Apply heat until the adhesive is activated, and apply pressure by scraping the surface starting in the middle, and working your way to the edges.
If you end up with bubbles, reactivate the adhesive with heat and repeat the process. Sheets without heat activated adhesive will require contact cement. Depending on the cement you choose, follow the manufacturers directions! Both surfaces must be cleaned, and have 100% coverage of contact cement in order to bond properly. If you’re applying a wood veneer, allow enough time for the adhesive to cure before finishing or sealing – the chemical reaction needed to cure the cement releases a gas which needs to escape in order for the glue to cure, sealing too quickly could lead to bubbles in the future. Installing a full sheet of veneer takes a lot of preparation, practice and patience – but done properly, it’s a cost effective way to put a great looking finish on a rough surface.
Ladies and gentlemen, fire up your irons.