lacquer vs paint

Lacquer vs Paint, which is better?

When it comes to refinishing older kitchen cabinets, which is better to use, lacquer, pre- or post-catalyzed lacquer (epoxy formula) or paint?

Below is an example of why we never use pre- or post-catalyzed lacquer (epoxy formula). This pigment lacquer cabinet door is only a few years old. Don't be fooled over the BS that pre- or post-catalyzed lacquer (epoxy formula) is better.

pre- or post-catalyzed lacquer (epoxy formula) chips and flakes

We realize pigment Lacquer and Acrylic cabinet coating takes a knack to do it well. Not everyone gets the same results as the next guy but one thing for certain, if something isn't prepared correctly the finish is sure to fail. 

When it comes to "kitchen cabinet painting" (refinishing older cabinets in modern colours) we always choose high quality Acrylic paint for a variety of reasons. PAINTING Guys have acrylic cabinet painting down pat. We have been painting kitchens for over 40 years.

  • Lacquer is extremely toxic
  • Acrylic paint is low to zero VOC
  • Pre- or post-catalyzed lacquer (epoxy formula) is brittle and cracks easier at the corner joints with expansion.
  • Acrylic paint is far more flexible!
  • Lacquer yellows 
  • Acrylic paint does not yellow and looks amazing. 
  • Lacquer including catalyzed lacquer touch-ups are impossible to seamlessly colour match because lacquer always yellows over time. Good luck getting any company to touch up catalyzed lacquer a year later. $$$
  • Acrylic paint is easy to touch up and does not yellow or degrade in the same negative way lacquer does.
  • Lacquer is highly explosive and toxic making it terrible to use onsite around static, gas furnaces, children, elderly and general public.
  • Acrylic paint is a water base product very low in VOC, never a concern.
  • Lacquer requires special zoning regulations to spray, requires fire extinguishing and venting systems which all ends up costing clients more money for nothing gained
  • Acrylic paint is safe and sprays beautifully with glass-like finish and affordable.

It’s a myth pre- or post-catalyzed lacquer (epoxy formula) is more durable than paint. We’ve being spraying acrylic paint on cabinets for years and have hundreds of happy clients. Our finishes are beautiful, glass smooth, hard enough and last for years. 

Acrylic paint is our choice when it comes to kitchen cabinet refinishing and painting.

Smooth finishing

We moved onto acrylic finishing when coloured kitchen cabinets painting became popular and low VOC became stable. It took us a few years to learn how to spray acrylic paint through hvlp sprayers. We have this down pat now.

Once we got the acrylic cabinet coating down, there simply was no return to pre- or post-catalyzed lacquer (epoxy formula) or oil based products.
Don’t get us wrong... pre- or post-catalyzed lacquer is ideal for the cabinet refinishing business because it is fast drying and profitabale for production but it IS NOT BETTER. It’s an ideal clear coat for natural wood cabinetry but when it comes to refinishing all older cabinets in occupied homes where there are families, elderly, children, gas furnaces and stoves etc... paint is a clear winner.
Pre- or post-catalyzed lacquer are serious liability around public.  It should be a banned product in our opinion and will likely be banned some day simply because of how green friendly water based paints are today.

Knowing this.. we simply could not continue using lacquer.

Kitchen Cabinet Paint

Kitchen cabinet panels often shrink and expand throughout the seasons from changes in humidity

Therefore, it’s important to use a paint that is flexible that bonds well to all types of products.  We always use Benjamin Moore colours and their top acrylic paints.

Note: lacquer and oil based products applied over older wood cabinets will yellow, shrink and crack over time.
Unlike acrylic paint, (which doesn’t yellow or shrink) lacquer and alkyd products makes no sense to use when painting white cabinets. Read more on chipping and cracking

  • We always use high quality acrylic paint.
  • We don't use lacquer or oil products, including hybrid oil paints because they yellow and shrink over time.