How to Apply Veneer to Molding in 5 Steps

Cover up your trim's imperfections with a fresh overlay of veneer molding

Julissa Arangure
Written by Julissa Arangure
Updated June 10, 2022
A kitchen with an island and granite countertops
Photo: dvoevnore . / 500px / 500Px Plus / Getty Images
Difficulty

Intermediate

Learn a new skill while beautifying your home.

Time to complete

72 hours

2 to 3 days

Cost

$500–$1,000

Consider letting a pro with all the equipment handle this one.

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What you'll need:

TOOLS

  • Sharp knife or veneer saw
  • Air press or vacuum laminating kit (optional)
  • Veneer scraper
  • Wooden dowels
  • Mohair paint roller, preferably with a close nap

SUPPLIES

  • 1/16-inch veneer
  • Contact cement or liquid adhesive
  • Plywood or MDF for building the wooden mold

Crown molding makes an ordinary room look extraordinary and is a simple way to give your home a cohesive look throughout. But, as time goes by, wear and tear happen due to furniture bumps and scrapes, kids' activities, and pets playing in the house. If your trim has seen better days, veneer molding can restore it to its former glory. While there are many crown molding styles to choose from, veneer is an inexpensive way to give your room an upgrade. By following these five steps, you can enhance your living space in a chic way.

Why Apply Wood Veneer to Molding?

A veneer is a paper-thin piece of wood (one-eighth of an inch or less) that's applied to both sides of plywood, medium-density fiberboard (MDF), or particle board. It gives the appearance of a wood finish at a more affordable price. Different types of woodworking projects use veneers, and it is especially useful for crown molding. Besides keeping a wood panel stable, veneers offer an environmentally friendly refinishing option because you’re using less solid wood, and the material is recyclable and biodegradable.

Prepping to Apply Veneer

Rolls of brown wood texture
Photo: liyasov / Adobe Stock

The key to making veneer look beautiful is using the right tools to give it a seamless finish with perfect corners. A rasp is a hand tool for filing or shaving off unwanted or uneven pieces of wood. It can come in handy for those finishing touches. 

Keep in mind that each project is custom with veneer molding, so make sure you have all your specific crown molding materials before you begin. One of the most important materials in veneer molding is the MDF, which you'll attach the veneer to. It usually runs about ​​$4 to $10 per linear foot installed. Veneer is easy to find at any hardware store and comes in just about any wood finish you want; it runs about $3 to $10 per square foot.

5 Steps to Apply Wood Veneer to Trim Molding

  1. Cut Your Material

    With your sharp knife or veneer saw, start by cutting the veneer to the same size as the molding. If you’re working with curves on the surface, you’ll need to allow a little extra width so the veneer can seamlessly roll in and cover the entire piece of wood. If you cut your piece too short, you may need to start over since this will cause lifting or peeling with time. Also, make sure the blade is very sharp to avoid chipping the veneer.

  2. Roll the Adhesive on Both Pieces

    Use a small mohair paint roller to apply the contact cement on the back of the veneer, then gently apply it to the molding. You’ll want to have 100% glue coverage on the veneer and the molding. Start by brushing top-to-bottom and finish it off by rolling side-to-side. You'll only need about two coats of gel cement; otherwise, it will take much longer to dry.

  3. Let the Adhesive Dry

    If you’re using contact cement, allow the gel cement to dry slightly for about 15 to 20 minutes before putting the two materials together. You can use the back of your hand to test the consistency. You’ll want it dry enough so that the glue doesn’t get on your hand, but it should feel a little tacky. If you chose all-purpose construction adhesive for this step, set the two pieces together immediately before it dries.

  4. Put the Pieces Together

    If you’re dealing with smaller pieces, you can simply align and press down. You’ll want to start pressing at the center and spread outward to the edges to avoid bubbling. However, if you are dealing with curved edges or larger pieces, you can use wooden dowels or wax paper to ensure all corners are in place before setting the top piece down.

  5. Smooth It Out

    If you are using a thin air press, put the molding on a piece of particle board inside an air press polyurethane bag and close the bag. Turn on the air press, and it will remove the air from the bag and tightly seal the veneer onto the molding. Once the veneer is in place, turn off the machine and allow the molding to sit undisturbed in the bag for 15 minutes. If you do not have an air press, you can use your veneer scraper to smooth everything out—smooth along the grain and not against it.

DIY vs. Hiring a Pro

A professional molding job costs about $1,160 depending on the framing, and a carpenter’s hourly rate can range from $100 and $150 per hour. If you have the time to dedicate to the project, all of the necessary tools on hand, and some DIY know-how, you can save about 25% on the project cost. Material prices account for the majority of the total project price.

Additional Questions

How long does wood veneer molding last?

Depending on how well you maintain your wood veneers, they can last for many years and even outlive other wooden pieces in your home. Keep them well-maintained to protect against moisture, sun, and heat. You can also apply high-quality polish to avoid marks and scratches.

What are standard trim molding sizes?

Moldings for an 8-foot wall typically range between 3 inches and 5 inches, while a 10-foot wall requires 5-inch to 7-inch molding. A good rule to follow is: The taller the baseboard, the taller you’ll need your trim to be.

Is wood veneer removable?

You can remove veneer if needed, especially if it's damaged or lifting. Start by hand-removing the loose pieces first and continue on to the glued pieces using a putty knife. If you find that the veneer glue is very heavy, you can use a blow dryer to loosen it.

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