These two words, laminate and veneer, often create fear and confusion.  What are they and how do they differ?

Let’s start with the word laminate.  Google® defines the noun laminate as a laminated structure or material, especially one made of layers fixed together to form a hard, flat, or flexible material.

Google defines veneer as a thin decorative covering of fine wood applied to a coarser wood or other material.  They show laminate as a synonym.

That is where the confusion comes in.  Both are thing layers affixed to one another. All veneers are technically laminates but all laminates are not veneers.

Since What Does it Mean Wednesday’s  targets the way words are used in furniture artistry, let’s examine how are they distinguished from each other in our little corner of the world.


Laminate and Veneer in the Furniture Painting Industry

Laminate – Thin layers fixed to one another with the top layer being plastic, paper, foil or a composite material.  (Note, in our niche, wood would not be a top layer.)

Some laminate products can be painted successfully while others cannot.  If you have a plastic, foil or composite as your top layer, scuff sanding with a 80-150 grit sandpaper will help the paint adhere.  If you cannot tell what the top film is layered onto, I recommend priming with an oil based primer to prevent moisture seepage into the substrate. If you are dealing with a faux wood grain paper (or any other paper) top layer, your money and efforts are going to be wasted.  I do not recommend painting paper-top laminate.

Veneer – A thin layer of higher value wood affixed onto another wood or wood-substance layer.

Originally, the thing high value wood layer was always placed on another layer of solid wood.  In recent decades manufactures have begun putting the superior layer over MDF, pressboard and other composite wood products.  (Pieces of furniture made from pressboard and other composite wood products often are very heavy.  They are heavier than solid wood pieces.  Their weight is a clue they are pressboard.)

And the difference is when we speak of veneer, we are always referencing a wood top layer over wood where as laminate can be any material over any other material.  I have painted both laminate and veneer without issue.  Just make sure you know what you are dealing with before proceeding.

Do you know what “VENEERITE” is?  Find out more HERE.

I hope you are finding Wednesday’s What Does It Mean informative.  Leave us a Facebook comment if you have any words you want us to include in future posts.