How Many Coats Of Lacquer On Wood? (for BEST Results)

Ever stared at a wooden masterpiece and wondered, “How many coats of lacquer does this beauty hold?” Dive in, and let’s uncover the glossy secret together!

How Many Coats Of Lacquer On Wood

Lacquer is a popular wood finish often used for high-end furniture and woodwork since it dries quickly and provides waterproofing capabilities to the wood, enhancing its appearance.

When I was working with lacquer, I wondered how many coats I should apply to achieve the perfect finish I was seeking.

So, I conducted some research and found the best answer, thanks to the wood finishing experts in the San Francisco area.

Let’s find out, How many coats of lacquer on wood?

For standard wood furniture, 3-4 coats of lacquer are recommended. However, high-traffic surfaces like tabletops might need 4-5 coats. Stained or painted wood usually requires 3 coats. Wood floors typically need 5 coats if brushed on and 7 if sprayed on. Always consider the item’s use and wear when deciding on the number of coats.

But that’s a quick snapshot and there’s a lot more to know!

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    So, in this article, I’ll explore, how many coats of lacquer on wood, whether should I spray and brush, how many coats of water-based and oil-based lacquer on wood, is one coat of lacquer is enough.

    Plus, I’ll talk about how many lacquer coats are required for furniture, cabinets, floors, and more.

    Furthermore, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions as well.

    Let’s jump in!

    Furniture and woodwork finished with Lacquer
    Furniture and woodwork finished with Lacquer

    How Many Coats of Lacquer Should I Apply to Wood?

    So you’ve decided to use lacquer for your wood project, a great choice!

    Lacquer is known for its thin yet durable protection.

    But now comes the big question: how many coats should you apply?

    Don’t fret; I’ve been there, and I’m here to guide you through the decision.

    For Bare Wood Surfaces:

    Wood is porous, meaning it absorbs a good amount of the initial lacquer applications.

    Based on my past projects, it’s recommended to apply 4 coats of lacquer on bare wood surfaces.

    Think of the first coat as a foundational layer, primarily absorbed by the wood, setting the stage for the subsequent layers to provide that gleaming, protective finish.

    For Already Finished or Painted Wood:

    If the wood already has a finish or is painted, then it’s not as thirsty as bare wood. Here, 3 coats of lacquer are generally sufficient.

    I remember finishing a previously painted wooden coffee table – the third coat was the charm, giving it that smooth, reflective finish.

    Did you know fact about using Lacquer finish
    Did you know fact about using Lacquer finish

    How Many Coats of Lacquer Should I Brush?

    For best results apply 3 to 5 coats of lacquer coats when brushing since brushed lacquer coats on the wood are thick and take more time to dry.

    When you’re brushing lacquer on wood, dip bush so little on lacquer can and apply along the direction of the wood grain for better absorption and to get a better finish with no streaks and drips.

    Brushed lacquer costs need significant waiting time between coats since they dry slowly.

    If you apply another coat of lacquer before the previous one dries completely, you’ll probably end up with a tacky never drying surface which can ruin your furniture.

    Always test lacquer brushing on scrap wood before heading into the main project to avoid making mistakes and to ideal finish as you wish.

    Between each lacquer coating, a light sanding is recommended to remove bumps and surface randomness.

    Lightly sand the entire wood once the previous lacquer coat is dried completely with 400 grit sandpaper to get a nice and smooth surface.

    After final coating, rub the surface with a lit free tack cloth to remove excess lacquer since the brushing method leaves excess lacquer amounts on the wood.

    Benefits of lacquer finish
    Benefits of lacquer finish

    How Many Coats of Spray Lacquer Should I Use?

    Spray 6 to 9 coats of lacquer on the wood for an ideal finish since sprayed lacquer coats are thinner than the bushed lacquer coats.

    You can spray lacquer coats on wood up to 10 coats since sprayed lacquer coats don’t have thick film and they dry quicker than brushed lacquer coats.

    Lacquer is a totally different animal compared to varnish. Lacquer burns into itself and is able to provide thin single-layer film even after several coats are sprayed.

    Better to test lacquer on scape wood before applying it to the main project to define the exact number of lacquer coats that need to be sprayed on the wood.

    I recommend you apply thinner on the lacquer 50:50 ratio to get the original clear coat lacquer finish without lacquer blushing.

    Lacquer thinner helps to make thin coats of lacquer with an even finish. Spray 5 to 6 coats of lacquer on the wood after thinning.

    Spray lacquer mixed with thinner horizontally to get the help of gravidity to pull the softened finish into a run.

    For Wood Floors:

    According to my experience, wood floors are one of the most demanding surfaces for a lacquer finish.

    They endure constant foot traffic, occasional spills, and the relentless wrath of furniture legs.

    When I decided to revamp my old wood floor, I chose spray lacquer for a swift, even finish.

    The recommendation? Apply 7 coats of spray lacquer for wood floors.

    Yes, it sounds like a lot, but each layer plays a pivotal role in ensuring long-lasting protection.

    For Other Wood Surfaces:

    While the article didn’t specify the exact number for other wood surfaces, my personal experiences and general practices suggest anywhere from 3 to 5 coats.

    This range ensures a strong, protective barrier while retaining that transparent beauty we all love about lacquer finishes.

    Tip for using Lacquer finish
    Tip for using Lacquer finish

    How Many Coats of Water-Based Lacquer on Wood?

    Apply 3 to 4 coats of water-based lacquer on the wood. Water-based lacquer causes no yellowing and gives extra protection and buffing on wood with a smooth shiny surface. It helps to reduce wood imperfections.

    Water-based lacquers are water reducible and available in gloss, semi-gloss, flat, and satin finish.

    Water-based lacquer dries faster than oil-based lacquer.

    How Many Coats of Oil-Based Lacquer on Wood?

    Apply 2 to 3 coats of oil-based lacquer on wood since they take more time to dry than water-based lacquer.

    Oil-based lacquer on wood is more durable than water-based lacquer, but it tends to yellow over time.

    Regular maintenance is a must with oil-based lacquer since they cause wood discoloration. Oil-based lacquer can be cleaned using mineral spirits.

    The reason for having higher durability in oil-based lacquer compared to water-based ones is because of its high level of VOCs amount.

    Ultimately you should apply less oil-based lacquer than water-based ones since oil-based lacquer dries slower.

    Tip for using Lacquer
    Tip for using Lacquer

    Is One Coat of Lacquer Enough?

    One coat of lacquer is not enough since lacquer coats are so thin and dry faster and absorb some amount into the wood.

    To remain on the surface, you need to apply a minimum of 2 – 3 coats of lacquer on the wood. One coat isn’t sufficient to get the required protection with an enhanced appearance.

    Generally, a considerable amount of lacquer from the first coat absorbs into the wood. first coat soaks and seals the wood.

    The amount that sits on the surface is so little and they cannot waterproof wood or improve wood sheen.

    One coat of lacquer may be enough if the wood surface is small, and you use the brushing method to apply lacquer.

    If the surface is large and you’re using the spraying method to apply lacquer, you won’t get the outcome you want. It is just a waste of time and lacquer.

    At least 2 to 3 coats of lacquer are required to develop wood sheen with a considerable amount of protection from the outside world.

    The second and third lacquer coats are the ones that properly sit on the wood surface to develop a wood sheen with protection.

    Otherwise with one coat wood will get damaged from environmental elements like moisture, insect attacks, and UV light.

    Dos and Dont's when using lacquer finish
    Dos and Dont’s when using lacquer finish

    Actual Number of Coats of Lacquer for Popular Products

    The number of coats of lacquer on wood varies on the manufacturer. There’re main 3 types of lacquers: catalyzed, nitrocellulose, and acrylic.

    Plus, they can be categorized under water-based lacquer and oil-based lacquer.

    The below table indicates the number of lacquer coats you should apply from each brand to get a clear idea about how many coats to apply without messing things up.

    Lacquer productNumber of coatsWaiting time between coatsBest for
    Deft Interior Clear Wood Finish5 coats30 – 60 minutesWood furniture, paneling, cabinets
    Minwax Gloss Brushing Lacquer Spray3 coats30 minutesFurniture, cabinets, trims
    Rust-Oleum Watco Lacquer Finish5 coats30 – 60 minutesFurniture, doors, paneling, cabinets
    Deft Interior Clear Wood Finish5 coats30 minutesFurniture
    Rust-Oleum Lacquer Spray2 – 3 coats20 minutesFurniture, cabinets, paneling
    PlastiKote Clear Lacquer3 coats60 minutesOutdoor furniture, trims, cabinets
    Deft Lacquer Sanding Sealer Spray4 coats60 minutesFurniture, cabinets, paneling

    As you can see almost all the lacquer products dries within 30 – 60 minutes and 3 to 5 coats of lacquer is the ideal amount that should apply to wood.

    How Many Coats of Lacquer on Furniture?

    3 to 5 coats of lacquer spray coats are ideal for furniture when brushing. 6 – 8 lacquer coats are great for lacquer spraying on furniture.

    After each coat let it set and dry for about 60 minutes and light sanding is recommended for a smooth finish.

    The first two coats work as sealer coats, the other two, three coats are built coats and the last coats are final coats.

    When it comes to final coats, previous lacquer coats should be set on furniture very well. End of the project you’ll get a 4-to-6-millimeter thickness of lacquer coat on furniture.

    Lacquer protects wood furniture from moisture and prevents rotting and decaying while improving the appearance of the furniture.

    Dining table finished with lacquer
    Dining table finished with lacquer

    How Many Coats of Lacquer on Outdoor Furniture?

    4 to 5 coats of lacquer finish is the optimal amount for outdoor furniture.

    Outdoor furniture is a bit of a diva. It demands more attention and protection due to the barrage of sun, rain, and occasional bird droppings it faces.

    The choice of how many coats of lacquer to apply becomes a critical one.

    Understanding the Elements:

    Our outdoor sets are exposed to UV rays, rain, humidity, and more.

    The intensity of these factors can vary based on your location.

    My sun-lounger in Arizona, for instance, had a vastly different weathering experience than my cousin’s deck chairs in Seattle.

    General Guideline:

    While the article provided insights on wood surfaces and cabinets, it’s generally agreed upon in the DIY community that 4-5 coats of lacquer offer optimal protection for outdoor wooden furniture.

    This ensures a lasting finish that can withstand the elements while maintaining that glossy, fresh-off-the-showroom-floor look.

    Outdoor furniture finished with lacquer
    Outdoor furniture finished with lacquer

    How Many Coats of Lacquer on Cabinets?

    3 coats of lacquer are recommended on stained or painted cabinets and 4-5 coats of lacquer finish are recommended on bathroom and kitchen cabinets.

    The number of lacquer coats on cabinets depends on the number of flaws in cabinet doors.

    After 2 – 3 coats you’ll get a nice-looking satin finish on cabinets.

    Cabinets are placed in moist environments like kitchens and bathrooms. Therefore, your lacquer coats need to apply all over the cabinet surfaces without missing any spots.

    Otherwise, water will penetrate the wood and cause wood to rot internally.

    If somehow cabinet doors start to rot after applying lacquer coats, restore the rotted area as soon as possible before reapplying lacquer coats.

    Just like every piece of furniture has its story, so does every cabinet. They face daily exposure to moisture, cooking splatters, and a medley of fingerprints. The right lacquer application ensures they continue to shine amidst the chaos.

    The Daily Wear and Tear:

    Cabinets, especially those in the kitchen, bear the brunt of our culinary experiments and hurried breakfast routines.

    From accidental spills to the steam from a boiling pot, they’re on the frontline.

    General Rule of Thumb:

    According to my experience, for stained or painted cabinets, three coats of lacquer will do the trick.

    If you’re working with unfinished or bare cabinets, bumping it up to four coats is recommended.

    And for those bathroom cabinets that face constant humidity? You might want to consider going up to 4-5 coats for that extra layer of protection.

    Kitchen cabinet finished with lacquer
    Kitchen cabinet finished with lacquer

    How Many Coats of Lacquer on Wood Floors?

    Apply 2 – 3 coats of lacquer on wood floors after applying a primer or sealer for a better finish.

    Apply water-based lacquer costs to avoid yellowing and for fast drying. Lacquer enhances the sheen of hardwood floors.

    Lacquer gives a warm, stunning welcoming appearance to wood floors. Lacquer coats can handle foot traffic well.

    With primer two coats of lacquer are more than enough. Without primer, 3 coats of lacquer on wood floors are recommended to apply.

    Wooden floor finished with lacquer
    Wooden floor finished with lacquer

    How Many Coats of Lacquer on Wood Stairs?

    Unlike other wooden surfaces in your home, stairs are subjected to a unique kind of stress.

    They endure constant traffic, varying pressures from the balls of feet to the heavy heels, and even the surprise attack from a toppled-over plant pot!

    Based on my knowledge, it’s evident that high-traffic surfaces like wooden floors might need up to 5 coats of brushed-on lacquer.

    Stairs, with their unique demands, would require a similar, if not a slightly more rigorous treatment.

    Stairway Stories: Adventures and Misadventures

    1. The Day of the Paint Spill: I remember helping a friend move into her new home. As we lugged cans upstairs, one paint can toppled, cascading paint down the stairs. But guess what? The recent lacquer job saved the day, making the clean-up breezy!
    2. Childhood Racing Ramps: As kids, my siblings and I used to race toy cars down the staircase, much to our parents’ horror. The tiny scratch marks left behind bore testimony to our fun-filled afternoons. Thanks to multiple layers of lacquer, those marks were but superficial and were easily remedied with a light sanding and re-coating.
    Stairs finished with lacquer
    Stairs finished with lacquer

    Do You Have to Sand Between Coats of Lacquer?

    Yes, Sanding is recommended between coats of lacquer to get a smooth finish with an enhanced appearance.

    Sand lightly with 600 grit – 800 grit sandpaper once the lacquer coat is dried completely.

    Sanding is great to get good adhesion between lacquer layers.

    Never sand with less than 320 grit sandpaper since they may scratch the lacquer finish and ruin your furniture.

    Hand sand along the direction of the wood grain between lacquer coating to minimize mistakes and make sure to remove sawdust with a suitable dust pipe or wipe it off using a rag.

    How Long Should You Wait Between Coats of Lacquer?

    Wait 60 minutes between coats of lacquer until the previous coat dries completely. But if you live in a humid environment this waiting time may be more than 1 – 2 hours.

    Usually, lacquer coats dry faster than regular oil finishes like Danish oil, tung oil, teak oil, and linseed oil.

    Lacquer takes to dry on wood for about 30 minutes. lacquer dries quickly on any softwood or hardwood without considering the wood type.

    Lacquer dries so well when applies on bare wood because some amount of lacquer will directly absorb into the wood for fast drying.

    Drying is essential between lacquer coats for better absorption and to avoid issues like forming drips and sags.

    Plus, it will give an enhanced beautiful look to your furniture or woodwork with an excellent finish.

    How To Decide the Number of Lacquer Coats On Wood?

    Deciding the number of lacquer coats on wood is critical because they can vary on several factors.

    The required number of lacquer coats on wood depends on the finish material, how much it is thinned, the skill of the finisher, and the finishing process.

    When all the lacquer coats are on a level without little less shiny spots you know you’re done.

    Here’re some of the main factors that affect the number of lacquer coatings on wood,

    • Finishing type – Spray or Brush
    • Lacquer is thinned or not
    • Temperature and environmental changes

    So, let’s discuss each of those factors in detail.

    How Does Finishing Type Affects the Number of Lacquer Coats on Wood?

    Spraying and brushing are the main finishing types of lacquer. Spraying is more popular than brushing because it gives a nice and ideal outcome.

    You need to apply a higher number of lacquer coats on wood when spraying than brushing since spraying lacquer coats is thin.

    Having thin lacquer coats is useful to avoid getting white surfaces, drips, and sags.

    For example, you need to spray 6 – 9 coats of lacquer, while you need only 3 – 4 coats of brushed lacquer on wood to get the same lacquer thickness on wood.

    That means in brushing, you will get thicker lacquer layers than when spraying.

    Spraying lacquer coats on wood is popular because they dry faster than brushing and you can get a smooth even finish with ease.

    Spray cans require more coatings than openable cans. Basically, 6 – 9 sprays are equal to the 3 -5 brush coats of lacquer.

    How Lacquer Thinning Affects the Number of Lacquer Coats on Wood?

    By thinning the lacquer solution before spraying, you’ll be able to get thin more transparent lacquer coats with fewer issues like streaks and blotches.

    Thin lacquer solution in a 1:1 portion before the application and use it to spray the brush to get a better finish than a regular lacquer finish.

    But on the other hand, you will have to apply around 10 coats of thinned lacquer on wood to get the finish you want since thinned lacquer films are thinner than regular ones.

    Test thinned lacquer first on scrap wood to get a better understanding of coat amount.

    How do Temperature and Environmental Changes Affect the Number of Lacquer Coats on Wood?

    The number of lacquer coats on wood varies on temperature variations, environmental humidity, and other environmental elements.

    When the environmental humidity is fewer lacquer coats of wood dry faster and reduce the high amount due to the evaporation of water.

    Therefore, you’ll have to apply more lacquer coats if you live in a dry, less humid environment.

    Same as, when the environmental humidity is high, lacquer coats take a lot of time to dry and water evaporation is slow.

    Therefore, a smaller number of lacquer coats should be applied.

    That’s it, folks! Now you know how many coats of lacquer should apply on wood to get promising results.

    How to use Lacquer on wood
    How to use Lacquer on wood

    So, let’s answer some frequently asked questions.


    Are there different lacquer coat requirements for stained or painted wood?

    Yes, stained or painted wood surfaces usually need about 3 coats of lacquer. This is because an existing finish or paint can help in achieving the desired look and protection faster.

    How can I determine if my wood surface needs another coat of lacquer?

    Inspect the dried finish; if it feels less rigid, has a lighter shade, or appears to blend with the paint or stain underneath, another coat might be necessary. A clear, rigid finish typically signifies adequate protection.

    Does the type of lacquer application method (spray vs. brush) change the number of required coats?

    Generally, brushed-on lacquer might require fewer coats than sprayed-on variants. For instance, wood floors might need 5 coats when brushed but up to 7 if sprayed.

    What’s the maximum number of lacquer coats I should apply on any wood surface?

    While specific needs can vary, it’s generally advised not to exceed 5 coats of lacquer on most wood surfaces. Too many coats might lead to a cloudy or blurry finish.

    Can lacquer be applied to non-wood surfaces like plastic?

    Yes, plastic can be lacquered, but it’s non-porous, so usually, 2-3 coats suffice. Remember to sand the plastic before applying to ensure proper adhesion.

    Did I cover all you wanted to know about: How Many Coats of Lacquer On Wood?

    In this article, I have deeply discussed about how many coats of lacquer on wood when spraying and brushing, water-based lacquer coats and oil-based lacquer coats, and the actual number of lacquer coats for popular lacquer products as well.

    For best results, apply at least 3 to 4 coats of lacquer on the wood with a brush. Apply 6 to 9 sprayed coats of lacquer on the wood for a nice, and durable finish. Thin coats of lacquer are necessary to avoid drips and sags. Level and rub out lacquer coats and leave 4 to 6 millimeters of film thickness for a better finish.

    Three to four coats of lacquer on wood are great on wood to make a waterproofing shield with an enhanced wood appearance.

    You will need to apply a higher number of lacquer coats on wood when spraying than when brushing since brushing gives you thicker coats that take more time to dry.

    Furthermore, I’ve answered some frequently asked questions as well.

    Hope you have gained good knowledge about lacquer coats and got the answer for the hot topic of how many coats of lacquer on wood.

    Try to use a lacquer finish on your next woodworking project and see how lacquer coat protects wood from environmental elements.

    Keep practicing until become a pro at wood finishing!

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    Walter Parker is a woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking! Read More About Him! Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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