Adhesives for Cabinet Refacing

Pros discuss how to adhere paper-backed veneer to an existing cabinet. September 5, 2006

I have two entertainment centers to reface and the material to be used is a pre-finished paper-backed sapele, possibly a lacquer finish. I was thinking of using contact cement, as I have done so in the past with wood-on-wood veneer, but I am having second thoughts. Any recommendations on a suitable adhesive would be greatly appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor B:
Done it and regretted it! Perhaps you would have better luck, but my contact cement projects with paper backed veneer over the years have not held up. The paper back veneer is nice stuff to work with, but I'd strongly recommend a yellow glue (Titebond, etc.). One trick you can do if you cannot work with a veneer press on the project is to apply regular Titebond (not Titebond 2 or 3) to both surfaces and let them dry. Then place the veneer on the substrate and use a household iron to press and heat the veneer. This will soften the Titebond glue on both surfaces and when it cools, the veneer will be securely applied in much the same manner as if you had used the contact cement. An old trick that really works.

From contributor R:
What's the iron and heat going to do to his pre-finish?

From contributor J:
They make a two-sided tape for this work. I believe the manufacturer is Fast Cap. No contact cement and no iron for pre-finished veneer.

From contributor B:
Contributor R, you're absolutely right. I overlooked that point. I doubt there would be a way to heat the veneer without softening the finish... especially if it's lacquer! Sorry about the oversight.

From contributor D:
Speed Tape by Fastcap comes in 6" rolls and smaller. It's great stuff. I use it for all kinds of stuff. It's my new duct tape. Good stuff for refacing, if done right.

From contributor F:
Just a note on iron-on veneering. I think contributor B is the first forum member I have seen that has said that this relatively new technique has worked for. I tried it on a project hoping to save time over conventional methods and regretted doing it. I found it iffy at best. Also, when it comes to ironing a sheet of veneer with a splice, forget it! The heat from the iron shrinks the veneer and opens hideous gaps at the joints. Beware.

From contributor S:
I haven't done a reface in 15 years, so take this with a grain of salt. The big issue with using contact with veneer is it releasing from solvents penetrating to the glue layer when finishing. Since you are using pre-finished veneer, I would think that a high quality contact would be sufficient as long as the surface was prepped very well and heavy roller pressure is applied.

I am not a fan of water based product of any kind. If you use solvent base product, be sure to take the existing finish down to raw wood or you risk the solvents reanimating existing finish and lift problems down the road.

From contributor M:
I have made 2" edgebanding with strips of veneer and glued them successfully with white PVC glue and an iron with good results. Using this technique you could try a sample with a wider surface area. Call the manufacturer of the veneer. If the finish is more of a baked on product similar to a pre-finished ply, it may not be as susceptible to solvents.

From contributor U:
Betterbond has an adhesive just for paperbacked materials. It's great with pre-finished or painted surfaces and is ultrahigh tack. It's a PVA and water cleanup. You can't go wrong with it. It's called Flex-pro by Betterbond, which makes quite a few types of adhesives just for veneer work.

From contributor O:
I have recently tried a few samples of veneering adhesive trials in my vac-bag. The results surprised me. The best adhesion to MDF was the 3-M general purpose spray adhesive #77. In my very non-scientific test, after setting under the pressure for 45 minutes, I tried to pull the veneer off the MDF. I was successful, but not how I thought I would be. As I pulled the veneer off (which was extremely difficult to start!) I found I was actually separating the MDF core. The face of the MDF was still adhered to the veneer; I was just ripping the MDF apart. I would love some input on this. The X-Factor is how long this seemingly amazing bond will hold. Thanks!

From contributor U:
I believe contact cement is not always the right method but has its place in certain applications. PVA or formaldehyde glues tend to bond or crosslink farther into the substrates just in the length of drying time involved. However, if you were to add two coats of contact cement to a substrate so as to close up the pores, you would in effect be priming the substrate for a better crosslink. How much time would you be willing to take doing this? I only use contact adhesives if I'm bonding to metallic or nonporous surfaces. Everything else gets PVA or urea products. Cabinet refacing gets peel and stick, and so do metals or glass in most cases, where the longevity of the product is not much past twenty years, or the surface is already finished and contact adhesive might only soften or make the finish itself peel off under the veneer.