How To Tell if Secondhand Desk is Veneer or Laminate & How Do I Refinish It?

How To Tell if Secondhand Desk is Veneer or Laminate & How Do I Refinish It?

Regina Yunghans
Oct 2, 2013

Q: In need of an inexpensive desk, I bought this off of Craigslist rather than going the IKEA route. It's in rough shape, and I would love to refinish it. The majority of the desk seems to be wood (I can feel the grain), though it is fairly light and cheap feeling. The top though, is either veneer or laminate, which leaves me puzzled as to how to refinish it. I know they take different strategies, so I'd like to figure it out before pulling out the sand paper. What is the best way to tell the difference?

Ideally, I'd love to re-stain or do a white wash paint treatment so I don't loose the detail of the chevron pattern of the grain on the drawers, but I wouldn't be completely unhappy painting the whole thing if that's my only option. Or would it be possible to combine the techniques and stain the base and paint the top — or is that crazy?

This desk will be getting consistent use, so the finish would have to last through some mild abuse. I'd appreciate any thoughts, suggestions or advice since this will be my first real DIY project. Thanks!

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