Different Types of Wood Veneer & When to Use Them

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The types of wood used for veneers look very different and offer unique characteristics, but what they have in common are functionality and beauty, and they all provide a warmth to the space you’re working on. All told, the species of trees used for veneer are amongst some of the best building and decorative woods you can work with. 


 A Quick Overview of Wood Veneer

Wood veneers are very thin slices of wood cut from the trunk of a tree or a flitch, a large block of wood, to expose grain patterns. These slices are typically less than 3mm thick and are attached to panels made of wood or particle board to form flat panels.

Wood veneer is used to cover large areas as in wall paneling, and is also used for doors, cabinets, and flooring.


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Common Types of Wood Used for Veneers

Hardwood and softwood veneers are produced in a range of industry-standard specifications from a variety of species, both common and exotic. Hardwood veneer can be domestic or imported, with species including oak, beech, and maple. The most commonly used tree species for softwood veneer is the Douglas fir, although pines are also used. The supply of other softwoods is limited. As a general overview, common types of wood used for veneers include:

  • Anigre
  • Ash
  • Beech (European & American)
  • Birch
  • Butternut
  • Cedar
  • Cherry
  • Fir
  • Hickory
  • Holly
  • Makore
  • Maple
  • Oak
  • Pine
  • Poplar
  • Sapele
  • Sycamore
  • Walnut


Types of Veneer & When to Use Them

There are a few types of wood veneer as wood can be cut, treated, and added to in different ways.

  1. Raw Wood Veneer

Raw veneer is veneer that has no backing on it, so it can be used on either side as they look the same until you apply a finish. In the slicing process one side of the veneer is compressed the other stretched, so they can accept stain differently. Mostly made from hardwood trees, it’s very durable and can  be used on flat as well as curved surfaces and the grain isn’t matched during manufacture. This means that if you want to create a specific finish, it might be better to choose a different type of veneer.

  1. Laid-Up Veneer

Laid-up veneer is pieces of raw veneer attached together to create larger pieces. This is a good option as it can be manufactured to your specific size, design, and shape – but it is a lengthy process to create.

  1. Backed Wood Veneer 

Backed veneer uses another material – paper, phenolic, cloth and foil are common backings – to make it stronger and more versatile. The second material is attached to one side of the veneer and the grains in the panels are usually matched during manufacture. They can be applied to flat or curved surfaces as it is more flexible than raw wood veneer and less likely to crack.

  1. Laminated or Reconstituted Veneer 

Typically made from fast-growing species, reconstituted veneer consists of several slices of wood laminated together. The resulting block of wood is then sliced in the opposite direction from the initial slices so that its edges become the grain of the reconstituted veneer. The result is a very flexible veneer that can be shaped and bent.


You’ll find a lot of information about wood veneer specifications in the AWI Standards, section AWI-300 Materials, and you can also read our guide to wood veneers for a complete overview.

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