Need help: lacquer vs. polyurethene

raged90403March 11, 2005

Hey folks,

I have new maple cabs in my kitchen that were finished about six months ago with two coats of sealer and three coats of clear lacquer (low sheen). The finish looks great-nice and light, but I am getting water staining at the bottoms of the doors and drawers near the sink. Not that we are splashing water all over the place, but you know how it is: wet hands reaching for a towel, and voila, some drops of water settling at the bottom of the drawer or cab front. I guess the water has managed to seep through the lacquer and is bleaching/staining the wood.

Anyway, I called my finisher back, and he suggested re-applying three more coats of a higher sheen lacquer. I was thinking about re-finishing with 2 coats polyurethene. My goal is to have a thin finish so that the cabs don't look like they have a thick coat on the surfaces.

Question to you guys/gals: is it O.K. to use lacquer on kitchen cabs if they get a little wet, or should I just order the finisher to use polyurethene? Will I always have water problems with lacquer? I guess I prefer the color of lacquer because it is much clearer than poly which has a bit of yellow to it. But I am willing to compromise the color for longevity, if necessary.

Thanks, and sorry for the long rant.

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You might try the wipe on poly on the underside of a drawer edge to see how you like it. It is a very thin coating, as you can imagine and may solve your problem. The difficulty with most lacquers and polyacrylics is they are prone to waterspotting. The one I know that is not is a product from Aqua Solutions called C-500 polyacrylic that is designed for even outdoor use or for swimming pools, etc. I used this on a kitchen countertop in my son's house and it's worked very well and doesn't look plastic-y, which I hate. It is colorless and actually comes in a satin that isn't glossy like the Minwax or Tripp stuff.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2005 at 5:59PM
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Thanks, susan. That c-500 sounds interesting. I will look into it.

Any other opinions out there?

    Bookmark   March 11, 2005 at 6:13PM
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Correctly applied lacquer is normally a waterproof surface. the full name is nitrocellulose lacquer. The same stuff ping pong balls are made of. It crates a very durable surface since each coat 'melts' into the previous coat, unlike polyurethane that simply sits in layers.
Are you sure the water is not leaving any type of residue behind? Hard water often leaves white spots after drying from the mineral content. Salt from a softener used to treat hard water can cause a dimilar problem. Salt usually wipes off with a damp sponge, calcium from hard water may need some distilled vinegar to dissolve again.
If the lacquer was applied in to few coats resulting in a porous finish, water can penetrate.
The most common thing I see damaging a lacquer finish is alcohol (usually of the drinking variety).

    Bookmark   March 11, 2005 at 9:42PM
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I would never permit anyone to talk me into a gloss finish. All the shine shows any imperfections. Give me the satin finish anyday. When I refinish furniture I use satin laquer (spray) and I've never seen such a beautiful finish - I'm real proud of it after I'm done. I have also used polyurethene in a satin finish also and it can look just as nice and seems to me protect against water better. They also have a run-on polyurethene which I have found very useful for differt things. It's just like rubbing on furniture polish. Forget about tongue oil - that lets water in like you wouldn't believe. Just don't do the gloss thing. It's awful!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2005 at 3:54AM
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Seven years ago we stained and high glossed our parquet floor we were amatuers but it all went well and I was always proud of it. This year we thought to add another coat of gloss but we didn't sand and used a roller. It blistered. When we learned the price of a new floor we got down on our knees with a chemical stripper. We then hired a man to put on new stain and he advised we use satin finish to cover the mistakes and the sort of alligatoring that had taken place. He used a brush and sanded between coats. Now with the satin the mistakes aren't as visible but the water spotting in terrible and the shoe prints are actually visible. We never had that with the gloss finish and I loved the gloss finish. I am wondering how it would be if I now did a high gloss over the satin. We used Minwax.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2005 at 11:26AM
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I would use a very fine steel wool and rub out water marks and use low gloss liquid worked for mine.good luck

    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 4:39AM
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Is it ok to mix (not mix the finishes, but to put lacqered wood in with polyurethaned wood), mixing stained mouldings and carved wood corbels that are lacquered, against wood panels that have a polyurethane finish? Is this ok? or should I stick with the spray application of lacquer on everything?

My email address is

thank you

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 12:19AM
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