14 Pros and Cons of Lacquer Kitchen Cabinets

Almost every kitchen has cabinets that provide storage space. Most use some of them to support the weight of a countertop to create usable areas for cooking, baking, and numerous other activities. There are several finishes that you can consider for this essential component of the home, but lacquer tends to be the most popular one used in the United States.

If you are thinking about lacquer kitchen cabinets for your home, then you are considering a product that is easy and fast to install that won’t kill your checking account. It is a way to achieve an adequate finish with moderate durability so that your kitchen can achieve an immediate sparkle.

It may not be a long-term solution for most homes, but it can be a way to solve the problem of dingy-looking cabinets when you’re working on a remodeling project or trying to sell the property. There are some definite pros and cons to consider before you decide to make the investment into lacquer kitchen cabinets.

List of the Pros of Lacquer Kitchen Cabinets

1. Lacquer dries very quickly to create a usable product.
One of the most significant advantages that lacquer provides for kitchen cabinets is a finish that dries very quickly. If you use this product at room temperature, then it can dry in as little as 15 minutes. You can get the first coat applied, sand it, and then spray up to two more coats in just an hour. If you were to use other finishing products for your cabinets, then it could take several days to receive the same finish. Oil-based stains, for example, typically need at least 72 hours to dry.

2. You can use lacquer products immediately.
When you purchase lacquer to finish your kitchen cabinets, then the product is usable straight from its container. You don’t need to worry about mixing it with other items or applying it in a specific way to ensure that the curing process occurs as needed. This finish is even light enough to spray with almost any kind of air equipment.

Most lacquers don’t need to be thinned to be usable either. That means you can brush it straight on your kitchen cabinets to complete the look you want. It goes down flat, is forgiving with your brush strokes, and cleans up rather easily when you have the appropriate solvent or thinner available.

3. Lacquer kitchen cabinets provide a tough surface for your home.
When you compare lacquer kitchen cabinets with varnish, shellac, natural oil stains, and polyurethane, you will discover that it will last longer than these competitors. Although it might not be the most robust product on the market today, it does have the capability of lasting longer without flaking issues. It will also remain clearer for longer than the yellowing that occurs with these other options.

You also have the advantage with lacquer in that it penetrates deeper into your kitchen cabinets to create a durable surface. The seal protects the wood from the inside-out instead of creating a hard top coat that eventually degrades. Most kitchens only need two layers to create the lacquer kitchen cabinets that can last for about a decade.

4. Recoating is a possibility with lacquer kitchen cabinets.
If you catch your lacquer kitchen cabinets before they start to yellow or fade, then you can apply a new coat or two of finish to preserve their appearance. You’ll want to inspect the areas around your sink, stove, and countertop appliances about once per month to ensure the condition of the finish meets your expectations. There can be issues around the dishwasher as well if you use a heated drying cycle.

If you recoat an older finish instead, then any damaged areas or scratches will create a gray color that you will lock into the new surface. Cleaning these areas can require a lot of physical labor, which is why it is essential to proactively care for your lacquer kitchen cabinets.

5. It works with any type of cabinet.
When you choose lacquer kitchen cabinets for your home, then you can choose any door style. Every color possibility is yours to consider with this option as well. It is one of the best-quality paint finishes that is available on the market today. Although you will need to apply the product in a contained environment (which often means off-site), there are some ways that you can get around that issue. When it does take damage and needs a repair, then all you need to do is spray on another coat to get the look you love.

6. There are three finish options from which to choose with lacquer kitchen cabinets.
If you decide that lacquer is the best option for your kitchen cabinets, then you have three finishes from which to choose. A dull finish is not very popular, but it can provide muted tones to your kitchen when you want other elements of your interior design to pop more when you walk into the room. The medium finish is the standard option, helping you to highlight the grain and hue of your cabinets without giving them too much shine. You can also choose a glossy option that provides you with a reflective surface that will also show dust and debris more readily because of the higher sheen.

7. Lacquer kitchen cabinets look attractive in most spaces.
The high sheen that you can achieve with lacquer kitchen cabinets makes them visually appealing in most environments. You can choose an ultra-matter option if you want less shine as well. That means you can match your current aesthetics in whatever way suits your personal preferences.

List of the Cons of Lacquer Kitchen Cabinets

1. You will get less than 10 years of life out of most lacquers.
It is easy to tell which homes use lacquer kitchen cabinets because the lifespan of this product is usually 8-10 years under the best of conditions. If you cook at home frequently, then you might reduce the viability of this product by 50%. The original lacquer begins to break down immediately around your stove, sink, and coffeemaker if it sits underneath a hanging cabinet. Your finish will not hold up well to water and steam, causing a beautiful yellow oak cabinet to turn close to an ugly shade of orange.

2. It requires you to refinish your cabinets more often.
Once the lacquer degrades on your kitchen cabinets, you must refinish them to maintain the quality of the wood. If you do not provide another coat of protection, then the moisture and heat damage from your activities can cause immediate and devastating problems. You’ll want to give the cabinets a good scrubbing to ensure they are clean. A light sanding can help the new lacquer stick better as well. Then you can upgrade the look for a fraction of the cost – but you’ll have to do it again within the next 10 years to maintain the overall value of the installation.

3. The new lacquer products tend to dry brittle.
Any finish is going to sustain damage if you hit it hard enough. You will find in a heavy-use kitchen that any lacquer, including premium ones, will chip far too easily. It is not unusual to find cracks in your finish at the joints in the doors. The reason why almost every homeowner experiences this disadvantage is due to the natural response that wood has when it absorbs moisture or experiences temperature changes. It expands or contracts.

With lacquer kitchen cabinets, these small movements are enough to make the finish crack because it is so brittle.

4. Blushing can be a significant problem with lacquer kitchen cabinets.
If proper precautions are not taken during the application process of the lacquer for your kitchen cabinets, then blushing can be a problem. You’ll see it immediately because there will be a milky-white blotch or area on the cabinet as the product dries. The moisture in the finish can remain there indefinitely. That’s why you need to check your air lines for water if you spray the finish onto your cabinets.

Blushing can occur when brushing or spraying during high humidity as well. There can also be contaminates in the product that can dry on the cabinets to create what looks like a fish eye. Make sure that your equipment, brushes, and rags are all clean and dry to avoid these issues.

5. There is no chemical resistance to the lacquer finish.
Most lacquer kitchen cabinets do not resist chemicals at all. The finish can turn different colors in the spots that make contact with salt, water, or the usual products that you use to clean or disinfect surfaces. Some products are strong enough to impact the integrity of the lacquer in just a few minutes. You will want to take care when cleaning your cabinets because of this disadvantage since even leaving water on the surface can be enough to cause a significant headache in the future.

Lacquer does not offer heat resistance either if your kitchen cabinets have a coat that is too thin. You’ll want to make sure that an extra coat goes on any surface that receives consistent sunlight exposure in your kitchen.

6. You cannot store leftover lacquer for a long time.
Lacquers do not have an extensive shelf life. If you plan to refinish your kitchen cabinets, then purchase the amount that you’ll think that you need. Anything that you have left over will only last for about 3-6 months. If you try to use an old finish, then the results will not meet your expectations because the protective power of the finish is gone.

7. Errors will require you to refinish the cabinets once again.
If you do not apply the lacquer correctly to your kitchen cabinets, then it can blotch once it dries. The only way to correct that situation is to remove the imperfection and start over. Although it only takes about 15 minutes for each coat to dry, it can take twice that time to remove problem spots. It is also essential to remember that lacquer finishes tend to be prone to more staining over time than other finishes, so it requires a high level of maintenance to ensure that the sheen stays at your preferred level.

The pros and cons of lacquer kitchen cabinets are important to consider if you plan to upgrade your storage capacity, change your layout, or need to refinish what you already have. You’ll create a look that you love for an affordable price with this option, but it may not provide the long-term benefits that other top finishes can provide for some homes.

About the Author
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.