Why Have a Professional Paint Your Furniture?

Applying lacquer

Quite often, I have been asked, “Why should I have a professional paint my furniture when I can do it myself?”


While almost anyone can learn with enough practice to apply a finish that looks professional, there are 2 main factors that explain why you should use a pro to apply a lacquer based finish instead of an enamel or latex finish:


1. Wood is a natural material and is not inert


Wood furniture is of course made from lumber which was once a tree. The purpose of that tree trunk was to bring water and nutrients up from the ground (what they did with their waste is for another story another time). The capillaries that make up the grain are flexible and act like a sponge drawing the water up the tree. Ever stand a dry sponge on end in a shallow dish of water? You will notice the water being drawn up the sponge just like in a tree (See here for a video explaining capillary action).


After the tree is cut down and milled into lumber it is dried out and then made into furniture. However, wood never dries out completely, but rather reaches equilibrium with the air surrounding it.


As humidity levels change, wood will react to it, expanding and contracting with the humidity changes. Drier in winter, the wood will shrink. Humid summers cause the wood to expand.


Any coatings applied to wood should also have the ability to move with the wood as well as allowing it to breathe.


As the wood expands and contracts the finish has to be flexible enough to move with it, should the finish/paint not be able to move as required, fine cracks will begin to appear along wood grain patterns and begin to cause the paint to eventually peel and/or flake off.


2. Finishes and why Lacquer is superior to latex or enamel paint for coating wood


Paint is made as a solid and meant to block & seal the surface below it; therefore it is unable to accommodate the movement of wood. Paint is also thicker and has a tendency to build up in corners and grooves leaving areas that are not even. Crisp details become muted unless extreme care is taken by using a detail brush. The life of the finish for painted solid wood furniture is between 5 and 7 years


Lacquer is similar to nail polish in that it is made to be durable, chip resistant & is applied to a moving organic surface. It is also sprayed on in 3-4 layers ranging from 0.001 to 0.002 inches thick for a total thickness of around 0.005” thick. This allows for a better bond with the wood, allows the detail to remain crisp and looks more professional. Research shows that the average life of the finish for furniture coated with tinted lacquer is 2 to 4 times longer than paint


Finally, lacquer will bond to itself better than paint. Lacquer, when sprayed on top of another lacquered surface, will melt into the old surface causing both layers to become one without mixing while paint will layer and be susceptible to flaking. The benefit to this is if you want to change the colour on a piece of furniture with a lacquer finish, it’s less work to remove the old finish. Stripping paint is a very tedious and messy process and stripping lacquer while still messy, is an easier process.


Why do I need a pro to do it?


Nitro Cellulose Lacquers are highly volatile and should not be sprayed without proper ventilation and protection from ignition. The simple act of flipping a light switch in a room saturated with lacquer fumes can cause a fire to break out. There are brushing lacquers out there, but they are difficult to apply on larger surfaces and are also not available in tinted formats.


At Sandra Dee Furniture Refinishing, we are:

  • equipped with a certified spray booth that safely removes both the over spray and the volatile lacquer fumes;
  • trained to mix and apply a variety of finishes to ensure a professional outcome; and
  • insured against loss and damages, so you can be rest assured that your furniture is in good hands while in for refinishing.


Finally, this is something that we do all the time which can save you time and frustration of learning all the little tricks of applying a great finish.


Want to learn more about having us paint your furniture? Drop in and ask or call us to setup a consultation!