Let’s get started
First, I started by taking all the drawers out and inspecting it. Turns out, there’s a rotten back leg, two broken drawers and its been chewed on. By rats or mice most likely. To my dismay, I also discovered all the veneer on the entire dresser needed to be scraped off because it was all peeling or bubbled.
There is only a few ways to remove peeling veneer. If you’re lucky, it will scrape off with a putty knife. I wasn’t lucky, about 2/3 was still really glued down.
First try warm soapy water
Why will that work? The warm moisture will reactivate the glue that is holding the veneer down and make scraping easier. I was able to remove quite a bit after I had let it soak, but a lot still remained.
Next up, the iron and an old rag
When all else fails, this is what I do. Get an old rag wet and the iron hot. Put the wet rag on the veneer and set the iron on it for 30 seconds. You may have to repeat this a few times but it will definitely loosen up the old glue. I have saved a highlight on my Instagram page and you can watch the process there. Gently use the scraper to get under the veneer and loosen it so it will peel. Lots of patience and you’ll eventually get it all off!
Time to Sand
I use my Dewalt orbital sander for all of my sanding projects. First start with and 80 grit, then 120 and finish with 220 grit sand paper. You definitely want to finish with 220 grit if you’re staining a piece, for the drawers and top I used Special Walnut by Varathane, one coat because I wanted it to be light. There is beautiful wood under the veneer that after a good sanding, looks brand new!
The top of the dresser ended up being in too bad of condition so I ended up painting it as well as the shell of the dresser. The color I chose is Charcoal by Rustoleum Chalked. I’ve used this before and its a pretty dark gray.
Sealing the paint and stain
I like to use wax over polyurethane. Wax has a soft, silky finish and it adds to the character of the piece. I chose white wax by Behr for the wood drawers to give an aged finish and clear wax for the chalk painted areas.
A few more tips
The top of the dresser was in very rough shape and when I painted it, it had quite a bit of bleed though into the paint. To seal that in, use clear matte polyurethane, coat the area, let it dry and you’re ready to repaint the bad spots. (Make sure you’re using water based poly.)
I mentioned a rotted area on one leg…. we just cut all 4 legs down an inch to make it all even and that took care of all the rotted part. Sometimes its just easier to remove it, you can’t even tell now!
One last tip, add a pretty shelf liner or paper to the drawers, it really helps dress it up!
Super proud of the finished Highboy!
Thanks for following along, you can check out another of my favorite furniture flips here. I hope this post has inspired you to Restore an Antique Dresser + Remove Peeling Veneer. Till next time, Laura