Although lacquer products are known to yield an attractive gloss, the reality is it’s still a wood finish that fades over time. You may choose to restore it, but can you paint over a lacquer finish?
Join our resident woodworkers as we exchange insights on making the task easier without ruining the material’s current condition.
Is it Possible to Apply Paint on a Surface That’s Lacquered?
Yes, it’s possible to apply paint on a surface with a lacquer finish. However, you must prep the material before the application to avoid ruining its condition. Don’t forget to run a dry cloth over the area you’ll be painting to ensure it’s dust-free.
After that, begin sanding the wood grain with 150–grit and 300-grit sandpapers. You must wipe the sawdust away and apply a primer over the surface before the painting application.
Lacquer Properties and Types
The combination of shellac and synthetic substances is one of the reasons why lacquer products can form durable and solid finishes. They carry similar properties to varnish, making them suitable as protective coatings for wood, metal, and other surfaces.
Before painting over a lacquer finish, you must also know how the product works to determine the proper methods and materials for this procedure. Here are the lacquer types you’ll encounter in the market:
Since acrylic lacquers have fast-drying properties, these products have continued to rise to fame in the automobile industry since their initial development in the 1950s.
Unlike the previous option, urushiol-based lacquer dries slowly. Despite the extensive drying time, you can count on its durability after the fully cured application.
On top of its aesthetically pleasing gloss, its protective layers can resist potential damage from water, scratches, and acids.
Another common sight on hardware store shelves is the nitrocellulose  lacquer. It’s a wood finish made of a solvent formula sensitive to high temperatures.
Most woodworkers use this wood finish on furniture pieces and musical instruments because of its fast-drying features.
If you’re refinishing cabinets in the kitchen, water-based lacquers are your best option. You may not know, but it’s an eco-friendly product with non-toxic chemicals. Although they don’t include oil components, they yield durable coats and resist scratches.
See Also: Can You Apply Shellac Over Lacquer?
Benefits and Drawbacks of Lacquer
Like any material in your workshop, lacquer finishes have upsides and drawbacks. It would help if you noted these things to learn how to utilize these products effectively.
When applied on a surface, most lacquer types don’t take too long to dry. Thanks to this attribute, you can finish the application faster than when using other products.
As you know, UV rays can cause damage to wooden properties when exposed regularly. Fortunately, lacquer finishes can fight against these harmful weather conditions and prevent the coats from fading.
If you apply lacquer properly, its protective coat can last long without recoating. Its unmatched durability allows the applied surface to resist flaking and chipping on wood.
High Gloss Texture
Lacquer’s glossy finish gives the product an edge over other options because of its aesthetically pleasing appearance.
After applying this finish to a furniture piece, you can expect color enhancement that makes the tint pop. It also makes the color lasts longer, eliminating the need for frequent refinishing.
Prone to Scratches
Although lacquer finish offers solid and long-lasting results, it’s still not safe from scratches made by sharp objects. Unfortunately, leaving the surfaces with scratches can result in greying the area.
But in some cases, some lacquer finishes turned white over time. Why is this so? And how to fix it? Read next!
Recommended Paints To Use
Now that you can paint over a lacquer finished surfaces, you must choose the right type of paint for the process. Here are the safe and effective choices to solve your dilemma:
Enamel paint is one of the products you can buy for painting over the lacquer finish. You may not know, but it consists durable formula that can resist potential damage from water exposure.
Since it’s easy to apply, newbies won’t have difficulties handling this material. Once applied, it’ll yield a glossy finish. We recommend buying spray-type or acrylic enamel paint.
True to its name, this paint includes mineral binders in its mixture. It’s a self-leveling product without sanding or priming the surface. You also don’t need to apply a top coat on it.
Although it’s more pricey than other options, we don’t doubt it’s durable enough to withstand harsh conditions.
The good thing about chalk paint is it can stick well to any surface, so it’s the perfect option for painting over a lacquer finish. It needs some prepping before the application, but the paint dries within 30 minutes.
Painting Your Lacquered Furniture
Materials You’ll Need
Step #1: Preparing Your Workspace
Whether sanding a material or not, your workspace must be well-ventilated for your safety and convenience. If you can do the project in an open space like a garage, trust us when we say it’s the better option.
Meanwhile, we understand that not all woodworkers can work outside. In that case, you must ensure the place has excellent airflow by opening the windows and doors. By doing this, you can avoid inhaling sawdust during the procedure.
After that, don’t forget to cover any object near your working area with plastic sheets. Keep those things away from the application site, as you wouldn’t want to expose them to dust particles and chemicals.
Lastly, you must wear a face mask and gloves for these procedures. Like it or not, most wood finishes carry a strong odor that may cause irritation and allergies.
Step #2: Determine the Type of Lacquer Used on the Surface
To determine if you can paint over a lacquer finish, you must identify what kind of lacquer you’ll use. Doing this lets you know the proper way to prep the material.
First, we suggest checking if the finish is under the catalyzed or ordinary category. You can soak a clean cloth in mineral spirits or thinners and wipe it across the finished surface.
If you notice the wood finish coming off the rag, it’s the ordinary kind. If not, it’s a sign that you’re working with a catalyzed lacquer.
You must also check if the surfaces have high, medium, or satin sealant. Typically, the ones with a shiny appearance fall under high to medium gloss variations. Meanwhile, wood finishes that are dry-looking belong to the satin category.
Step #3: Sanding the Glossy Lacquered Surface
Sand the Glossy Surface Using 150-Grit Sandpaper
Leaving the surface scratched is the last thing you want when dealing with high and semi-gloss wood finishes. Because of this, we suggest using 150-grit sandpaper for the best results.
You must remove the gloss on the lacquer finish if you want the paint to stick to the surface since it’ll enhance the material’s adhesion.
Sand the Flat-Finished Surface Using 300-Grit Sandpaper
Fine-grit sanding papers (around 300-grit) should suffice for prepping flat finishes. You must execute the sanding procedure along the wood’s grain and not against it. If not, the process could result in noticeable scratches.
You can opt for a palm sander to finish the prepping faster. And if you’re sanding a broader surface, using electric-powered sanders will also offer you more convenience and efficiency.
Step #4: Wiping the Dust Off With a Tack Cloth and Damp Rag
After sanding, you must ensure that the wooden surface is free from dust produced during the previous step. It’s crucial to ensure that you won’t paint over dust particles, so you must run a tack cloth across the area.
Next, soak a lint-free cloth in water and squeeze it hard to eliminate excess water on it. Once the rag is damp, wipe the surface again to remove lingering sawdust.
Step #5: Applying the Primer (Oil-Based)
Now that the surface is dry and clean, the following process to tackle is applying an oil-based or latex primer. You can use a two to four inches brush for this step, as long as you keep the coat application as thin as possible.
Follow the wood grain’s direction to yield an even result. If you apply thick sealant coats, expect the surface to dry slower and develop unsightly runs.
You must wait at least two hours before the second primer application. After that, let the next coat dry for two to four hours. Typically, the drying time depends on the weather condition.
Step #6: Applying the Paint (Three Coats)
The best way to apply paint on a lacquer finish is through brushing or spraying. We recommend a minimum of three coats for this application, but oil-based paint products only need two.
Step #7: Allow it to Dry
Check the product’s instructions to determine how long you must wait for the paint to dry. You must ensure that the surface is not wet before adding another coat.
Generally, paint applications dry for around four hours. Once that’s done, you must seal the surface with a polyurethane finish or varnish.
Is Sanding Required to Paint Over Lacquer?
Although sanding requires effort, skipping this method isn’t the best idea because lacquer finishes are glossy and can’t adhere to paint solutions well. If you are not keen on this process, read the next section for other alternatives you can consider.
See Also: How to Remove Lacquer from Wood
Applying Paint On Top of Lacquer Without Sanding
Apply Chalk Paint Over Lacquer
Since this paint solution includes chalk, emulsifier, and water-based pigments, it’s a sure-fire alternative for painting over lacquer finishes. The only problem is this product isn’t as durable as others, and it’s not easy to apply.
If you want less hassle, our best advice is to use a primer before the chalk paint application.
Use Deglosser or Liquid Sander
Unlike sanding, applying liquid sander or deglosser can remove glossy finishes without exposing the surface to potential scratches or other damages. It’s also a non-toxic material, so you don’t need to use a mask during usage.
Apply Mineral Paint
Another environment-friendly alternative you can apply to the lacquer finish is mineral paint. These products don’t need sanding because you can use them straight to the drywall.
Utilize Lacquer Primer for Wood
Some binding primers, like products from B.I.N and Zinnser, require no sanding procedures. Their binding and adhesion power allows the surface to yield a durable finish.
Use Milk Paint and Bonding Agent
Some woodworkers prefer milk paint over other traditional products because it uses milk proteins as binders instead of synthetic substances. This paint solution can stick to the surface with a bonding agent without sanding and priming requirements.
All you need to do is mix equal parts of milk paint and bonding agent in a container. Once combined, you can apply it with a foam brush or roller.
Recommended Finishes To Use
The typical recommendation for wood finishes revolves around polyurethane, wax, and alkyd varnish. However, the latter has a polyester resin component that can stick well with lacquer finishes.
Since it yields a natural appearance, maintaining and cleaning it won’t be a problem. Alternatively, spray gel finishes can also work well.
Is it better to spray or paint over lacquer?
Yes, it’s better to spray or paint over lacquer because this wood finish adapts well to wood expansion and contraction. It’s also thinner than other options, so using rollers or brushes over it isn’t ideal.
Can you put lacquer over acrylic paint?
No, you can’t put lacquer over acrylic paint. If you do this method, it’ll show visible damage on the surface.
Can you paint lacquer with a brush?
You can paint lacquer with a brush. When using a brush, it is important to choose a high-quality brush with fine bristles to achieve a smooth and even application. However, some cases reveal that spraying makes the task easier.
Is it advisable to spray lacquer on top of water-based acrylic paint?
If you let the painted surface fully cure, you won’t encounter issues spraying lacquer over water-based acrylic paint.
Can you apply lacquer over an enamel-painted surface?
Yes, you can add lacquer finishes on an enamel-painted surface. The only problem is this method could lift the painted area if you apply the finish without checking if the surface is fully cured.
Now that it’s clear that you can paint over a lacquer finish, the next step to make is to put these methods into action. Like any woodworking project, our experts recommend identifying your options before diving into any task.
Feel free to follow this guide and work at your own pace. After all, this craft takes time to master.
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