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Lacquer Vs Polyurethane – What’s The Difference?

What’s the difference between lacquer and polyurethane? It’s an important question because you want to use the correct finish for your project.

If you’re looking to create a new piece of furniture, you’ll probably want to use polyurethane. If you’re creating a painting, though, you might choose lacquer.

Here’s a quick overview of each product type.

Polyurethanes are used in many different applications such as:

  • Furniture – including sofas, chairs, tables, etc.
  • Carpets & Rugs – flooring material that is applied directly on top of subfloor materials
  • Floor coatings – can be clear or colored
  • Wood finishes – protect against moisture damage and rot
  • Paint protection film – protects paint from scratches and fading
  • Protective gear – protective clothing like

While Lacquer are used for:

Painting – they provide excellent coverage with high gloss levels

Decorative items – decorative objects made out of wood, metal, glass, plastic, stone, ceramic, concrete, fiberglass, leather, paper, canvas, fabric, rubber, foam, plaster, clay, cement, marble, brick, tile, asphalt, concrete, masonry, stucco, bricks, terra cotta, slate, granite, limestone, sandstone, bluestone, cobblestones, flag.

What are the pro’s and cons of a polyurethane?

Polyurethanes are a type of plastic used in making shoes, furniture, car parts, etc. It has been around since the 1950s and is also known as PU foam.

It is a popular choice because of its durability, light weight and low cost.

There are pros and cons of using polyurethane. Here are some points to consider before choosing between the two:


  • Durable – Polyurethane is highly durable and long lasting
  • Lightweight – It weighs less than other types of plastics
  • Low Cost – Compared to other options it costs much less
  • Durable coating
  • Protective coating
  • Safe option
  • Can used for woodworking project
  • Cost effective
  • More protection against heat


  • Can’t be recycled easily
  • Not suitable for all projects
  • May not have enough flexibility
  • Long dry time
  • Slow setup time
  • No UV protection

How do I know which one to go with?

It depends on what kind of application you need. For example, if you’re building something sturdy then polyurethane will work well.

What are the other types of polyurethane?

Polyurethanes are used in a variety of applications including adhesives, foams, coatings, sealants, elastomers, and paints.

They are also used in the manufacturing of tires, shoe soles, and even in the production of certain medical devices. Polyurethane is a polymer composed of repeating units of urethane groups.

There are two main types of polyurethanes: aliphatic and aromatic.

Aliphatic polyurethanes contain carbon atoms bonded to oxygen atoms.

Aromatic polyurethanes have carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen atoms. The differences between these two types of polyurethans are significant.

Aromatic polyurethane has a higher melting point and is less flexible than aliphatic polyurethane. It is also more expensive because it requires special equipment to produce.

While the aliphatic polyurethane are easier to use, the aromatic polyurethane offers better performance properties.

The most common form of polyurethane is an acrylic-based resin. This is usually mixed with another compound called a hardener.

The mixture becomes solid when cured by heat or chemical reaction.

This process creates a product that is very strong but brittle. To make this product softer, manufacturers add fillers.

Here’s more type of a polyurethane:

  1. Polyurethane varnishes
  2. Water-based polyurethane
  3. Water-based and oil-based polyurethane

What are the pro’s and cons of a lacquer?

A lacquer is a paint finish applied to furniture and other wood surfaces. It provides a durable finish that is scratch resistant.

The finish also makes the piece easier to clean. Lacquers are also ideal for use on light colored woods such as maple, birch, cherry and mahogany.

There are several types of lacquers including water based, oil based, acrylic lacquer and polyurethane.

Each type has its own pros and cons. Below are a few reasons why you might want to consider using a lacquer instead of an oil paint finish.


  • Lacquer makes your nails stronger and longer
  • Lacquer can be applied in minutes
  • Lacquer lasts forever
  • Lacquer doesn’t chip or crack
  • Flawless finish
  • Long-lasting finish
  • Quick drying time
  • Shorter drying time
  • Used by professional woodworking workshops
  • Has flawless coat and protective coat


  • Lacquer is very expensive
  • Lacquer dries out quickly
  • Lacquer chips easily
  • Has dangerous chemical agents
  • High application costs

What are the other types of lacquer?

There are three main types of lacquers used in the nail industry today. They are acrylic, gel and liquid. Each type has its own benefits and drawbacks.

  • Acrylic Lacquer

This is the original lacquer. It comes in a long tube and is usually clear.

Acrylic can be applied in multiple ways. It can be brushed out (like a regular nail polish), sprayed or dipped. The major drawback is that it dries quickly.

  • Gel Lacquer

A gel lacquer is similar to an acrylic lacquer. However, it is thicker than an acrylic and has a gel consistency.

Gel lacquer is also applied using the same methods as acrylic. The major downside is that it tends to chip away faster than an acrylic.

  • Liquid Lacquer

Unlike the others, Liquid Polish is not actually a lacquer at all. Instead, it is a polymerized solution of monomers and solvents.

When applied properly, it will dry into a tough film that protects the surface from scratches.

There are many advantages to using liquid polishing over traditional lacquering techniques.

One advantage is that it takes much longer to apply. Another benefit is that it is easy to remove if needed.

What are other alternatives of varnished or finish for furniture you can used?

Varnish is a popular finishing product that is used to protect wood surfaces.

It is also used to give a glossy appearance to wood furniture. Varnish is applied to the surface of the wood and then cured using heat.

There are several types of varnishes available. Some are water based while others are oil based.

The type of varnish you use depends on the type of wood you are working with.

For example, if you are working with oak, you would want an oil based varnish. If you are working with pine, you would want a water based varnish.

When choosing a varnish, there are two main factors that you should consider. These are the drying time and the gloss level.

Drying time refers to how long it takes for the varnish to dry after application. Gloss level refers to how shiny the varnish looks once it has dried.

If you are looking for a quick fix, you can always apply a coat of clear polyurethane sealant.

Clear polyurethane sealants are ideal for giving a quick shine to wooden furniture.

They are also easy to clean and won’t damage the wood.

Here some sample of common wood finish:

  • Evaporative finish

This type of finish are made up of wax particles suspended in air.

As they evaporate, they leave behind a thin layer of wax coating on the wood. This process requires no chemicals and lasts about 2 weeks.

  • Waterborne finishes

Waterborne finish are finish with water this means that they do not contain any toxic substances like formaldehyde.

Waterborne finishes have been around since the early 1900s but were only recently introduced to the market.

The biggest problem with these products was their high cost. Nowadays however, most manufacturers offer them at affordable prices.

  • Blemish-free finish

This attractive finish are designed specifically to prevent blemishes such as stains and dings. They work by filling small cracks and crevices in the wood.

Blemish free finishes last anywhere between 6 months to 1 year depending on the brand.

  • Darker finish

Darker finish are commonly shiny finish due to the fact that they contain more pigments than lighter colors. Darker finishes tend to be less expensive than brighter ones.

  • Durable protectant finish

This are commonly used with those who has experience with woodworking. Durable protectant finish will help keep your wood from getting scratches and marks.

  • Hand-rubbed finish

This hand-rubbed finish are created by rubbing a natural resin into the wood.

Hand rubbed finishes usually come in darker shades because they require longer periods of exposure to sunlight before being finished.

  • Oil-based finish

Oil-based finish are excellent finish that is used for both indoor and outdoor projects. Oil-based finishes are very durable and resistant to moisture.

  • Resilient finish

This resilient finish are great for protecting against humidity and temperature changes.

Resilient finishes are often applied over other types of finishes so that they don’t crack or peel off when exposed to extreme temperatures.

  • Satin finishes

Satin are excellent finish due to its ability to create an even surface without leaving streaks. Satin finishes are available in many different colors including white, black, brown, red, blue, green, etc.

  • Conventional resin varnish

This choice of finish are generally considered to be the best option if you want to achieve maximum protection.

Conventional resins are highly protective and long lasting. However, conventional resin varnishes are extremely difficult to remove.

  • Thinner finish

Thinner are perfect finish for beginners. Thinner can easily be removed using soap and warm water. It also doesn’t take much time to apply.

  • Transparent finish

Transparent are polished finish used to give wood a glossy look. Transparent finishes are ideal for furniture where it needs to appear clean and smooth.

Scott Buckley

Scott Buckley

I'm Scott, a Woodworker by day and book geek by night. I love making things out of wood. While I have and still, on occassion do, work with metal and plastics, I find them to be cold and somewhat boring. Wood is warm and I feel close to nature with it. I started as a means to help like minded creative folk to answer burning questions. I hope you enjoy reading and learning, and always feel free to reach out to me should you have any questions!

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