Oak veneer is a product applied to the surface of some furniture in order to make it look like it's made of oak. The underlying material is usually of somewhat less quality than the veneer itself, whether oak or another wood is used. As a result, the final product gives the appearance of being a more expensive piece of furniture than it really is.
As with any hardwood veneer, oak comes in a wide variety of grains and finishes. This helps to expand the homeowner's or remodeler's choices when undertaking a project, or trying to match other furniture in a room. In most cases, veneer is used when the project is of such a scale that doing the entire thing in genuine oak would be too expensive for the owner. A veneer may be used at other times as well, such as when a project manager wants a contrast in wood styles to create a specific effect.
Oak veneer has many common uses. It can be applied to cabinets, tables, chairs, staircases and doors, just to name a few. Typically, the same veneer will be used uniformly throughout the home or room, wherever wood is used. This gives a cohesive sense to the interior.
In most cases, the veneer is only 1/8 inch (3.17 mm) thick, so it must be handled very delicately. It typically comes on rolls, and it's often best to unroll the veneer and store it vertically for at least a day prior to applying it. This gives the material time to straighten, which can make the application process somewhat less difficult.
Once the veneer is ready, it is good to make sure the surface to which it will be applied is clean and free from all debris. An adhesive is then added to the wood — usually some sort of carpenter's glue. The oak veneer is carefully applied and worked into the desired position. Due to the delicate nature of the work, many homeowners will buy products with the veneer already applied, rather than trying to do it themselves.
While oak veneer remains very popular, there are other wood veneer products that can also be a good choice, like birch and maple. Each will have a distinctly different appearance, so the final choice of which wood type to use is often a personal preference, based on what the interior design is supposed to convey. Staining the wood a different color is a popular alternative to using veneer.