What Is Wood Veneer?

Wondering how to stretch your decorating dollar? Read on to learn what's at stake.

solid-veneered-wood-cross-section
Photo by Arthur Mount

Veneered wood is made by adhering a thin slice of hardwood to a thick backing of a cheaper material. It's a way to get the look of, say, cherry for the cost of pine. Compared with solid wood, veneered wood is more vulnerable, particularly to water damage. Water can cause it to peel or buckle. If the backing material is furniture-grade plywood, damaged veneer may be fixable. If the backing is a man-made material (particleboard or MDF, medium-density fiberboard), the veneer can swell beyond repair. Scratches in solid wood can be sanded and refinished. But this may not work with a veneered piece, as sanding could reveal the material beneath.