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Laminate veneer is a type of engineered wood that is used for furniture, cabinets, and flooring. The term “laminate veneer” can refer to any product made of a thin face layer glued onto a core, where the face layer is made of anything from marble to wood to plastic. The use of laminate is not a new idea. Examples of wood, ivory, and marble veneers made as long as 4,000 years ago have been found.
One of the most popular types of laminate veneer is made of real wood. By slicing thin layers of wood and adhering them to a solid core, the grain pattern of the wood can be repeated regularly over a surface, which is usually not possible with solid materials. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, laminate wood veneer products were more expensive to produce than solid wood, and were often considered more beautiful and valuable because of the artistry of the surface. Improvements to adhesives in the 20th century made wood laminate products stronger than before, and now up to 80% of furniture is made with some type of veneer.
Real wood laminate veneer is made of several thin layers of wood pressed together with an adhesive. The inside layers are usually some type of plywood or man-made composite wood product that is resistant to shrinking, bowing, and warping. The outer layer is a very thin slice of natural hardwood, usually taken from a whole log. The wood may then be bent into the desired shape using high-pressure molds, or by applying steam to the wood and bending it over a jig.
Faux wood laminate veneer is constructed similarly to real wood, except the veneer is instead made with plastic. The look of real wood is mimicked by printing photographs of natural wood grain onto paper which is then impregnated with some type of resin, usually melamine. A clear resin layer is then applied over the top of the paper to make it durable and scratch-resistant.
Advancements in reproducing the look of real wood is making laminate veneer an increasingly popular choice for floors and cabinets because of its durability, resistance to surface wear, and relative ease of installation. Faux laminate veneer also has an environmental advantage in that old-growth and hardwood trees need not be cut down and wasted to achieve the desired regular, flaw-free surface.