Lacquering Kitchen Cabinets Explained

Published on January 05, 2021

Kitchen cabinets are one of the most important parts of your overall kitchen décor. They add to the beauty of your kitchen as well as provide storage to keep the kitchen items in the kitchen. There are a lot of ways in which you can design and pick the color of the cabinets. Over time, the luster and shine of the cabinets fade and they require a redo. This is where the fun starts.

For a regular household, it is never feasible or affordable to redo the whole kitchen because the color of the cabinets is marred. It would take tens of thousands of dollars and require weeks to finish the task. Many get up with enthusiasm but go down in silence once they get quotes from contractors.

There is another way around it. You can take off all the cabinets from the wall and then put them back on. It is a daunting task that requires a lot of patience and labor. It is one thing to strip and stain a piece of furniture but is another thing to strip tens of smaller pieces from a cabinet, re-stain them and then install them in their original place. So, in all honesty, it is not for the faint of heart!

So, is there a way to get a clean and fresh look for your kitchen cabinets without breaking the bank account or your back?

There is! But it depends on you whether you like it or not. It is called lacquering!

Lacquer is a substance made of shellac that is dissolved in alcohol or any other synthetic substance. After application, it dries out and forms a protective coating. It is used as a substitute for paint on wood, metal, and a lot of mediums.

Here are some of the reasons why lacquering your old kitchen cabinets is the surest way to go:

Like paints, lacquer comes in a variety of sheens. It means you can have the desired effect on your cabinet based on your mood and desire as well as the other accessories of the kitchen. It can give the cabinets a solid color like a typical paint job or a sheer and glittery tone like a stain. This shows that lacquer is the best way to go if you are on the route of restoring the kitchen affordably.

Painting has its up and downs. One of the most complaints about painting an item is visible brushstrokes. The nature of the wood does not diminish the brushstrokes as it dries out. Rather, they are more pronounced. On the other side, a lacquer spray perfectly melts down on the surface and makes the cabinets look as if they are bought in the same way. Don’t forget the smoothness that a fine coat of lacquer adds to your cabinets!

Another great thing about lacquer is its longevity and durability. That is why it is one of the materials that is conventionally used as a top coat for wooden items. There are chances that if your cabinets are finished by the factory, they were done using lacquer.

Related: Unique And Funny Gifts For People Who Loves Lacquering Kitchen Cabinets

It dries very quickly which allows you to apply several coats on the same piece in one day. It could give out odor during application, but due to its quick-drying capabilities, the smell wears off within no time.

So, always use lacquer whenever you need a fresh color for your kitchen cabinets like white or grey. Surprisingly, it works like a charm for strong colors also, like blue or black. It comes out as smooth as butter and leaves no marks. There are no chances of getting smudges because the spray dispenses an even layer which is perfect for the absence of visible brushstrokes.

Lacquer is also practical when it comes to giving a faux-like color to the cabinets. For instance, using lacquer, you can retain its stain-like texture which is a big plus.

Why Lacquer Is Superior To Paint

There are items where water or oil-based paint is the best to provide a new color or retain the old one. But a lacquer is much superior and mostly recommended by the professionals.

There was a time when oil-based paint was the industry standard to paint cabinets and wooden articles. With the coming of lacquer, the practice was abandoned. Here are the reasons why:

It took too long to dry – this was one of the problems with oil-based paints that was off-putting for both sellers and clients. It took weeks to finish some articles because they would require multiple coats and you cannot apply another coat before the previous one is not completely dried. That was one of the main reasons why oil-based paint was abandoned in favor of colored lacquer.

Gas formation – oil-based paint tends to produce a gaseous odor that lingers around even after years of the paint job. This could not be more off-putting in a kitchen where food items and prepared and the smell of food is a big part.

Fading colors – during the first year, it was white or gray. The next year, it was off-white. And before you know it, it becomes a yellowish color, a bad yellow color. This was one of the disadvantages of using oil-based colors that put a big question mark on their durability and long life. The vacuum for a solid product is filled by lacquer.

Still, there are instances where oil-based paint is a better option when compared to lacquer. For instance, if you need to add a decorative coat or a watered-down, antiqued finish, or other special conditions. Other than that, lacquer wins in every situation without any competitor!

Pros & Cons Of Lacquer

Now that we have gone through some of the properties of lacquer and its contrasting aspects with that of oil-based paint, it is time to discuss its pros and cons in general. This way, you will have a clear mind to choose whether a lacquer will cut it for your specific work or not.


Quick Dry – when you apply a finish with a lacquer spray, it dries off more quickly when compared to that of oil-based paint. At room temperature, the lacquer can dry in as little as 15 minutes which is way too fast for its counterparts. After the first coat, you can sand the article, and then apply as much as three coats within an hour.

Instant Usage – there is no fuss involved in using a lacquer. You can buy a can and use it right away, following the instructions on the container. Also, it does not require any specific steps and procedures to get the best curing conditions once the color is applied. Surely, this is a hassle-free way when compared to its alternatives.

Toughness – lacquer will last much longer than its competitors because of the toughness it provides to the item it is applied to. Many superior products in the market can give lacquer the run for its money, but they are much expensive. On the other side, lacquer can resolve most of the flaking issues without worrying too much. It goes deeper into the surface of the cabinets and offers a durable finish. Most of the time, it takes only two layers of lacquer to get the job done.

Recoating – if there are areas in your kitchen cabinets that are decoloring with more pace than their neighbors, then you can apply a coat or two of the existing color without worrying about it too much. It is best to inspect the areas around, skin, dishwasher, stove, or any other spots where you use excessive heat or pressure to get the job done.

Versatility – there is not a cabinet style or theme that you cannot touch up effectively using lacquer. It offers a leading quality in color and finishes for your kitchen cabinets without breaking the bank. There may be issues with its application. For instance, it should be applied in a contained environment, but this is a non-issue if you know what you are doing.

Tri-Finish Options – If you have set your heart on using lacquer as your kitchen cabinet painting companion, you have three finish options. The first one is dull. It is not very popular but it does make some striking patterns when used in contrast with vibrant color. Second is the medium one which is most widely used to highlight the hue and grain of the cabinet material without becoming too much loud. The third one uses a higher sheen and provides a glossy finish. It is rarely used because it is hard to clean and maintain.

Appealing – in most settings, you will find that lacquer will take the trophy for being a smooth and shiny surface. As discussed in the earlier point, there are so many finishing options that make lacquer a go-to option for any kind of paint job.


A Questionable Long Life – under the best conditions, lacquer finish lasts under ten years. There are places in the kitchen like the stove, dishwasher, etc., where it starts flaking immediately. Also, the original finish does not hold very well against water and steam which puts a big question mark on its longevity and durability. As a general rule of thumb, you will reduce the long life by around fifty percent if you cook at home more than thrice a week.

Immediate Refinishing – just when lacquer starts peeling off of your cabinets, you need to apply a finish without wasting much time. It is because the bare surface can be seriously affected by other activities you carry out. It requires scrubbing and sanding before you can apply a new coat of lacquer which could be hard labor for some.

Brittleness – In an intensive environment, lacquer chips off too easily, no matter how much premium quality material you used in the first place. Also, there are issues with strikes and collisions. This is the reason why you will find cracks and chips in the lacquer finish around the hinges and joints. The main reason behind this is the nature of wood and its response mechanism in case of moisture and pressure.

Blushing – these are white blotches on cabinets right after lacquer dries on the surface. It happens because of the mismanagement in airflow while applying the product. As a result, the moisture will remain there forever. This can also take place when you apply lacquer during humid days. No matter you use spray or brush, this can happen and may disrupt your process of painting.

No Chemical Resistance – there is no resistance in lacquer when it comes into contact with commonly found chemicals in the kitchens like salts, water, and other cleaning products that you use inside and around your kitchen cabinets. All chemicals aside, even leaving water for a long enough time and cause trouble in the future, when it comes to lacquering your kitchen cabinets. Also, lacquer does not provide any heat resistance to the wooden cabinets which you should consider if you are opting for this product.

Poor Storing Abilities – lacquer does not offer a long shelf life. When you are halfway into your repainting the kitchen cabinets project, you should not go overboard with the lacquer quantity. There are no prospects for this material because once it is opened, it has a very poor storage life. At best, it can last around 3 to 6 months after you have pulled out the seal.

Blotching – If you are not attentive with the process, you may end up getting blotches on the cabinets once it is dried. The worst part about this is that you need to sand it and start all over to remove that kink. Although it takes around a quarter of an hour to dry, problem spots take much more than that.


In the end, lacquer is one of the most effective ways to inject new life into your old kitchen cabinets. It can offer smooth texture, strong color hues, and long life without costing more than its major competitors. Before you set your heart on using any method to redo your kitchen cabinet, you should conduct due research and conclude after weighing all the pros and cons to make an educated decision, including pricing, longevity, application, chemical responsiveness, and ability to handle and resolve stains and spots.

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