pressure sensitive adhesive backed veneer some questions and skepticism arise. Does it work? Is it better than other veneer application methods? Will it fail? The answers to are not so black and white and a lot of things must be considered when choosing and deciding whether PSA veneer is the right material for your project. The success or failure of the application of this veneer material depends a lot on the attention paid to the details of the application process.
There are a lot of mixed feelings about the "peel and stick" veneer. I know there are a lot of traditionalists that won't even look at paperbacked veneer, let alone the peel and stick or PSA kind. I am aware of the myriad ways to apply different veneer and veneer products. Some methods are better suited than others for different situations. Ultimately the choice is yours whether a product will work for you or not. The PSA backed veneer is convenient when you have to work in the field and on cabinets that are already installed.
Here are some facts about PSA veneer:
PSA stands for pressure sensitive adhesive, it is a viable product and has been used by many (including myself) with success. Its bonding strength comes from the application of pressure. With this type of adhesive this can only be done by hand. Very similar to how you would use contact cement. The application of this pressure is paramount for the successful application and use of PSA veneer. You should not use a J roller with this product. A veneer scraper or veneer hammer is the tool of choice. The pressure should be as firm as possible and scraped with the direction of the grain. Repeating the application of pressure is crucial. You cannot apply too much pressure and with certain veneer species it would be wise to repeat the process several times (maple is notorious). The PSA requires a lot of psi, this will help to restrain the veneer from moving with the changes in humidity. The 3M™ PSA is formulated to work better on less porous surfaces. As with all veneer application methods, surface preparation is important. For more detailed description on how to use pressure sensitive adhesive backed veneer read through the application instructions.
The relative ease of use with this type of veneer and adhesive is misleading. Some users grossly underestimate the application process. Veneer with this adhesive is not a sticker or shelf paper. The name “peel and stick” oversimplifies the process and lowers the user’s expectations. There is no shortcut as to how meticulous the application process is. If you are doing it right than you will be breaking a sweat. Applying PSA veneer can become very labor intensive especially on large projects and in those circumstances you might find that other and more traditional application methods are better.
I have cabinets I built over 10 years ago and used cherry 3M™ PSA veneer over a plywood substrate. I have yet to have an issue with the veneer. We sell to door manufacturers that use PSA veneer on steel doors for commercial applications. They have extensively and rigorously tested the pressure sensitive adhesive under circumstances exceeding everyday use.
These comments are not meant to start a qualitative argument with the professionals that stick only to traditional methods, as far as which method of veneering is better. They are meant to be informative so you can make a better decision about what is the best veneer product for your project.