Real wood, laminate or veneer – easy ways to tell the difference!

bedroom, minimalist bedroom, wood and white
Design: Desmond Ong

The plethora of materials available now lets us enjoy wood, or sometimes the look of it, in any shape or place!

As veneer, laminates, and solid wood are very different materials, how and where they can be applied will differ. But with some close scrutiny, you’ll be able to tell them apart. Dess Chew of interior design firm Three-D Conceptwerke shares these tips:

Veneer is a thin layer of shaved wood that is normally applied on plywood. It is prone to scratches, and can’t be sanded down as it’s only a skin, so veneers are usually not placed in heavy-usage areas. As the thin skin wraps around the plywood, from the surface to the edges, there are no visible joint lines. The grains also tend to be more even, with little variation.

On the other hand, there are usually telltale joint lines when laminates are applied, because they are made from fusing a thin layer of decorative paper with a thicker core substrate (there is little or no wood used at all!). Sometimes, laminate edges are given an edge trimming, which is a PVC grain simulation that follows closely with the laminate grain. Laminates are also seldom used around curved surfaces as they come in stiff sheets measuring 8 feet by 4 feet. That said, wood- lookalike laminates come in a huge variety of styles, including some that look weathered, with realistic textures to boot!

Solid wood is rarely used in customised carpentry works,
as the supply of solid wood is regulated. They are available more commonly as finished pieces of furniture. As it is a natural, organic material, there will be variations in tone and colour, so you will find more uneven shading throughout each piece. To identify if a piece is solid wood, just look at the cross section of the panel to see if it is one single piece of wood.