paint chipping

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.

Bad kitchen cabinet painting

Here are a few examples of what bad kitchen cabinet painting looks like. 

Bad kitchen cabinet painting

Bad kitchen cabinet painting
Occasionally we will get a call to fix or refinish kitchen cabinets that have been previously painted by someone that didn't know how to paint them properly.

The common issue are:

  • chipping
  • peeling
  • paint runs
  • orange peel, brush lines
  • just plain ugly looking

 Trying to fix a bad paint job like this isn't something we are usually interested in.


Whomever did this painted over grease, never sanded and never primed the doors. Trying to fix something like this requires savage stripping and a lot of labour $$$.

Does Cabinet Paint Chip?

Kitchen cabinet paint is no different to auto body work. It will chip if you hit it.

However, in order for paint to stick and feel smooth, surfaces should always be prepared properly. After 40 years in the painting business we have learned one thing that sets our work apart from others, paint chips far less, adheres to a surface much better when old finishes are clean and sanded back down to the wood again.

Sanding greatly improves paint adhesion, durability and overall look.

Kitchen cabinet painting

Before Painting, Priming or Undercoating

⚠️ When is comes to kitchen cabinet painting, it is very important wood surfaces are extremely clean and porous (never shinny). The deeper paint gets absorbed into wood, the less chance paint will chip or be as noticeable. See flood coating

(sanding is particularly important when painting darker wood cabinets light colours or shades of white)

Note: We never use lacquer because it yellows, cracks and chips at corner joints with expansion. Benjamin Moore Acrylic paints however are the best choice when it comes to kitchen cabinet paint because it never yellows, it is more durable and flexible and comes in any colour you desire!

Preparing kitchen cabinets for paint

Before any cabinet painting we always follow these steps in this order.

If  you do not follow these steps, the chances paint will chip easier, crack away from the wood are greater.

bad cabinet preparation

There are no short cuts to how we finish cabinets. Its all about preparation.

Preparing the wood

  1. Scrape and remove any grease, crud you find and that includes tight to the corners and grooves. 
  2. Use a cleaning solution (NEVER TSP) to clean after you scrape. We recommend Spray 9 and sometimes solvent, Acetone, lacquer thinner but generally Spray9 works the best.
  3. Sand the entire piece until you do not see any gloss finish. Its paramount the entire piece of wood doesn't have shiny lacquer. The finish must be dull. We generally sand further than just the surface and will usually sand into the bare wood where the pulls and corners get the most handling of years. The deep paint goes into the wood, the better the bond. Its as simple as that.
  4. Air blast and vacuum the entire piece. The less dust including deep into the corners the better.


cabinet painting - prpreparation