Peel-and-Stick Veneer Problems

Tips on how to prevent or fix adhesion problems with adhesive-backed peel-and-stick veneer applied to existing cabinets. September 23, 2006

I recently applied a sheet of peel and stick veneer to a cabinet end panel. The cabinet looked fine from time of application until several weeks after installation. Now many bubbles appear under the veneer. The cabinet is in the middle of a run of cabinets with crown molding at the top. It would be costly to remove and rebuild. Does anyone have a remedy for this problem?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
I have been able to re-activate the adhesive with an iron set on low heat. Use a cloth between the veneer and iron and press for 15 to 30 seconds. I would also contact the manufacturer of the veneer if you can and ask them for suggested methods. Is the cabinet located near a source of moisture, such as over a stove?

From contributor B:
All efforts to "reactivate" the adhesive will doubtless leave you at risk for more callbacks. I'd edge band a 3/4" panel (or build an even wider pilaster) for the end of the cabinet. Make it deeper than the box (perhaps in plane with the doors), screw it on from inside the box and jog the crown around it. The crown on the front of the cabinet will get cut shorter and you'll need to replace the piece on the side. In the end, it will be a nice detail.

From contributor C:
I've used the peel and stick in the past and I have put a small slice with the tip of a sharp utility knife, maybe 1/4" long, hidden in a grain, and worked the bubble to relieve the trapped air out with the special tool. In lieu of the tool, use a piece of wood with an eased edge. Work slowly to push out the air and restore the glue bond.

From the original questioner:
I appreciate the responses I have received. I may not have explained the problem sufficiently. In addition to bubbling, the veneer seems to have swelled to the point that it has cracked at places. There is a stove approximately 18" from the problem area. However, the problem also exists just above the toe space.

From contributor E:
I've had this same problem when I wrapped all the way around a radius and ended in a butt joint. I assumed it was because it expanded and had nowhere to go. The way we took care of it was pin holes and heat as explained above. It worked for a while but it's doing it again. The way to not have that problem in the future is to spray a good clean smooth sealer and scuff sand the substrate before you veneer it and then use a thin spray of contact cement along with the peel and stick. We never had problems since we went this route. You might be able to heat the veneer enough to get it off and then use this method.

From contributor F:
Acclimate, acclimate, acclimate. Is steam generated in the area that could add moisture to the veneer?

From Gene Wengert, technical advisor, Sawing and Drying Forum:
Next time, very lightly sand the panel before you apply the veneer. Then remove the dust, perhaps using a rag with a bit of alcohol on it (not Jack Daniels). Oftentimes, the side panel is just not active for gluing due to its age, exposure to dust, etc. Sanding reactivates it.

In extreme cases with lots of moisture changes, which cause movement of the veneer or substrate, you can expect problems no matter what. Such problem will show up as having the bubbles or cracks all running the same direction - along the grain.