Asked on Oct 12, 2014

Can you stain engineered (and veneered) wood?

Anna @Annabode
by Anna @Annabode
Hey Hometalkers! I'd really like to give my son's train table a makeover by painting the drawers and staining the rest, but I'm not sure it's possible. The table is made of engineered wood with a "birch" veneer (I have this in quotations, because I'm not sure if the veneer is even wood.) If I lightly sand it, will it accept stain? Has anyone tried to do this before?
  15 answers
  • R.V.R. Farris R.V.R. Farris on Oct 12, 2014
    I haven't any experience in dealing with veneered or engineered wood, however, I did want to tell you how much I love your son's train table. Did y'all build it or buy it? It's wonderful!
    • Anna @Annabode Anna @Annabode on Oct 12, 2014
      @R.V.R. Farris We got it off of Craigslist, so unfortunately I don't know who makes it!
  • Colimbia1 Colimbia1 on Oct 12, 2014
    I don't believe that you can stain engineered wood. It isn't real wood underneath and would not take stain well. My advice is to paint it with chalk paint. Others may have other painting suggestions.
  • Sherrie Sherrie on Oct 12, 2014
    It is real wood but it is compressed with other material with a coating. Saying that you could try painting it. Getting it to accept stain is the problem. So people have had luck with a gel like stain. General finishes. I know absolutely nothing about it or how it works. But I know many who have had great luck with that.
  • Debora Stoeberl Debora Stoeberl on Oct 12, 2014
    Prime the wood first then paint it
  • Karen Kay Babineaux Karen Kay Babineaux on Oct 13, 2014
    Sand a small corner that would be inconspicuous to the eye. Dab a cue tip in the stain and make a small dot in side the sanded corner and you will have your answer!
  • Nancy J Goldwire Nancy J Goldwire on Oct 13, 2014
    Use a "Deglosser" on the table, then use a stain. Not certain if you should use an acrylic stain or an oil base. Your local hardware store should be able to tell you. Good luck.
  • Nancy Jungnitsch Nancy Jungnitsch on Oct 13, 2014
    use a java gel stain, it will work on anything and comes in several different wood colors.
  • 117135 117135 on Oct 17, 2014
    Gel stain is the answer. General finishes has several colors to choose from and they have great videos on their site on how to use.
  • Debbie Gartner Debbie Gartner on Mar 29, 2017

    I doubt that you'll be able to sand and stain it. It would depend on a) whether it's real and b) how thick it is, and I doubt that it's thick enough. That being said, birch does not accept stain well - it turns out blotchy even with a conditioner.

    Whatever you do, you can test it first by removing one of draws and do it towards the back so it won't be seen.

    I think you'll have more luck with paint and primer and prob need to light sand/rough up the surface so it adheres better.

    Debbie, The Flooring Girl

  • Terrie Goodson Henderson Terrie Goodson Henderson on Nov 12, 2020

    I have the same question I was looking at a used desk I really like but some rubbing on some drawers that looks off white and of course stands out cause the whole thing is in a cherry wood color....Says it's made of solid and engineered wood. I want to strip it and stain it a different color ...Does anyone have any ideas if I should even bother with this?

  • Mogie Mogie on Nov 12, 2020

    Sand a small corner that would be inconspicuous to the eye. Dab a cue tip in the stain and make a small dot in side the sanded corner and you will have your answer!

  • Debbie Smith Debbie Smith on Jan 23, 2021

    I painted a bookcase that had cherry veneer. First clean and lightly sand to rough up. Then I used a primer called "Stix." After the primer completely dried, I painted with a water-based enamel paint used for cabinets.

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Mar 19, 2022


  • Mogie Mogie on Sep 06, 2023

    Because wood veneer is actually real wood (and often has a beautiful wood grain), you CAN stain and varnish it! However, be careful if you're using an electric or belt sander, because often the veneer is so thin that aggressive sanding will wear though the veneer quickly.

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Sep 06, 2023

    Gel stain would work on this project, apply it to an barely noticeable spot and see how it does.