What is the Difference Between a Lacquer and a Varnish Finish?


Whether you’re refreshing some second-hand furniture or putting the final touches on a woodworking project, choosing the right finish is an essential factor. A good finish doesn’t only keep your wood surfaces looking shiny, but it’ll also increase the durability of your furnishings. 

However, there are many finishes available, including lacquer and varnish, and choosing between them can be difficult. If you’re a beginner, you might not know that there’s a big difference between lacquer and varnish, and the one you choose will depend on the type of surface you’re working on and your level of DIY experience. 

So, what are the main differences between lacquer and varnish? And how do you know which one to choose?

What is a Varnish Finish?

Varnish is a top coat made of resin, drying oil, and thinner. When applied to wood, it can give an attractive glossy finish and also creates a protective layer keeping your furniture resistant to scratches or blemishes that come from daily use. Varnish also offers natural UV light protection, perfect for furniture or wooden surfaces that are outdoors in the sun throughout the year. 

What is a Lacquer Finish?

Lacquer is very different from a varnish finish. Firstly, it is solvent-based, usually made with shellac and alcohol; as the solvent evaporates, it leaves behind a hardy layer on surfaces. Lacquer comes in a wider variety of shades than varnish finishes and dries much quicker. Additionally, the combination of shellac and alcohol makes lacquer more resistant to damage, making surfaces far more resistant to scratches. 

Which Should You Choose? 

Both varnish and lacquer are suitable for surfaces throughout the home, and choosing between them may just come down to personal preference. They can both give glossy finishes with moderate-to-high protection from abrasions. 

However, there are differences in the ease of use between these two products. Lacquer is a much thinner product, making it easier to apply onto surfaces than varnish. As a result, it’s more suited to DIY beginners, especially considering its quick-dry ability. It also lasts longer, meaning you shouldn’t need to reapply it to furniture very often. 

The wide variety of lacquer types available also means you can choose the right sheen level for your surface depending on whether you prefer an ultra-glossy or matte finish. Trade Coatings offers a wide range of high-quality wood lacquers, with finishes including matte, eggshell, silk, or gloss. 

Contact Us Today for More Information 

Trade Coatings has over 40 years of experience in producing high-quality finishes, and we specialise in high-end lacquers. We supply our finishes to leading UK hospitality chains and would love the opportunity to work in partnership with you and your business.

If you want to find out more, don’t hesitate to contact us here or give us a call on 01604 781880. 

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