There’s something special about wooden furniture. It’s the perfect blend of nature, durability, uniqueness, and style. When you touch it, you can feel its history and character. That’s special.
Here’s the catch, though. Genuine hardwood pieces are expensive. The average price of solid wood furniture ranges between a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, based on the size, craftsmanship, and materials.
But there’s hope for the budget conscious. For those who want the aesthetic appeal of wooden furniture without the big price tag, wood veneers represent a viable option.
Understanding Veneers: Reconstituted and Natural
What are veneers?
Wood veneers are thin sheets of wood pressed or laminated over sturdier core materials, such as plywood, particleboard, and MDF. They’re typically less than 3 millimeters thick and prized for their versatility, aesthetic appeal, and functionality.
While they sound like a modern technique,the use of veneers can be traced back to the Egyptians and Romans. Over time, “veneering” evolved and spread to Europe, leaving behind many exquisite pieces along the way.
Veneers come in all sorts of wood types, so you can get the exact look you’re after. That said, veneers aren’t just about aesthetics.
Veneer sheets can add muscle to your furniture. They help distribute stress evenly and make furniture more stable. Plus, wood veneers are much more pocket-friendly than solid wood.
Next, let’s look at the two most popular varieties of veneer sheets.
1) Natural Veneers
Natural veneer sheets are sliced from a tree log (flitch), cut at different angles to create a unique grain pattern. Each slice showcases the genuine, untouched beauty of the wood it comes from. You get to see all the unique grains, knots, and patterns that make that specific wood type special.
Furniture designers and makers adore natural veneers, because they allow them to show off the wood’s natural charm more affordably and sustainably. Instead of a solid plank, they use these thin, luxurious veneer sheets for that high-end elegance.
2) Reconstituted Veneers
Reconstituted veneers, also known as engineered veneer, recon veneer, or composite/artificial veneer, are made by blending scraps, bits, and pieces of different wood types.
Because recon veneers use wood leftovers and offcuts, they reduce waste. Plus, being engineered, they are more consistent in color and grain pattern. So, if you want sleek, uniform furniture, reconstituted veneers are the way to go.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Reconstituted vs. Natural Veneers
Now that you’re familiar with the two types of wood veneers, you’re probably wondering which one is best for you. To make your decision easier, we’ve compiled a list of considerations for comparing reconstituted and natural veneer sheets.
1) Aesthetics and Appearance
Recon veneer has a consistent and controlled grain pattern. It’s perfect if you’re going for uniformity. For example, wood veneer cabinetry made from recon veneers will have similar patterns distributed across the entire surface.
What’s more, reconstituted veneers can mimic various wood types, offering a wide range of aesthetics. No matter what look you’re going for, it’s right there!
Natural veneer showcases the true, unique beauty of real wood- complete with its grains, knots, and patterns. They’re perfect for homeowners who love the authentic, rustic feel of solid hardwood.
2) Durability and Longevity
Since recon veneer is engineered, it’s generally robust and less prone to warping and splitting. In some cases, recon veneer is even stronger than solid wood.
Natural veneers are durable too, but they might require more care to retain their beauty over time. We recommend you dust your natural veneer surfaces with a soft, dry cloth or tissues. For visible marks and stains, you can use a gentle cleaning solution with a soft sponge.
3) Sustainability and Eco-Friendliness
Engineered wood veneers are often considered eco-friendly since they’re made from discarded wood scraps. They can help minimize the demand for fresh wood.
On the other hand, using natural veneers is definitely better than harvesting solid wood, but they still have an impact on forests unless sourced responsibly.
4) Veneer Cut
For recon veneer, the cut depends on what you want the sheets to look like. Manufacturers often use a random cut pattern, where the wood pieces are mixed and compressed. Reconstituted veneers can also replicate specific grain patterns or artistic designs, giving designers a wide range of creative possibilities.
Natural veneers follow traditional log cuts (plain-sliced, quarter-sliced, rift-cut, rotary cut) to showcase their inherent wood grain patterns.
5) Cost Considerations
Engineered veneer is generally light on the pocket. They’re cheaper than natural veneers, making them a great fit if you want the wood look on a budget.
Natural veneer can be pricier, especially for rare or exotic wood species. But if you’re a wood purist who craves that authentic, one-of-a-kind feel, the investment might be worth it.
6) Wood Species
When it comes to engineered veneers, you can choose from various wood species, including those that might not be readily available as natural veneers. Common examples include standard oak, ash, walnut, or exotic ebony, rosewood, and mahogany.
With natural veneers, you get what you pick. Because they preserve the characteristics of the specific wood species, they’re best used to replicate an authentic look.
7) Wood Veneer Grains
The biggest advantage of engineered veneers is they’re entirely customizable. Furthermore, every sheet is consistent in color and grain. You don’t need to cut and match them for your project.
However, with natural veneers, things are slightly different. Given that they highlight the wood’s authentic grain patterns, you can expect a wider pattern range: from dramatic and wild to subtle and refined. Natural veneers are as unique as they get: distinct, diverse, and full of character.
8) Thickness and Tolerance
Most reconstituted veneer sheets are uniformly thick and easier to work with. However, you might need to be a bit more careful with natural veneers as they’re more varied.
Since natural veneers are cut from solid wood, their width can vary based on the size and shape of the log. They’re typically cut to make the most of the block while maintaining the desired grain pattern.
In the case of reconstituted veneers, manufacturers have more control, allowing for greater consistency in the width of the sheets.
Wood is a hygroscopic material, meaning it absorbs and releases moisture from the air. As a result, natural veneers can change in length, depending on the weather.
Reconstituted veneers are often more stable in terms of length changes. The manufacturing process can reduce the wood’s tendency to expand or contract significantly.
11) Quality Grade
Natural veneers have a standardized and nuanced grading system, with “A” being the highest quality and “D” being the lowest.
Quality grading for reconstituted veneers is different, often relying on the manufacturer’s reputation and specific product standards.
Is Veneer the Right Choice for You?
Choosing between natural and recon veneers is a personal journey. It’s about aligning your preferences, style, and functional needs with the right veneer type. Before you dive into your cabinetry project, take a moment to explore your options, consider your priorities, and make an informed decision. Cabinets are more than just wooden boxes, they are an expression of your taste and a reflection of your home. Choose wisely and let your cabinets shine!
Holland’s Custom Cabinets can help you explore a range of veneer project types, from brand-new wood veneer kitchen cabinets to trendy wood veneer window seats. We’re trusted master cabinet makers with a flair for creating tailor-made storage solutions. Get in touch with us to learn more!