Lacquer Vs Polyurethane

Lacquer vs polyurethane is a question asked by new DIYers when they are trying to protect their new work.  You have a beautiful wood project you’ve just finished and you want it to stay in great shape for as long as possible. 

So, what is the difference and is one better for your protecting your surfaces?  Read below to find out. 

lacquer vs polyurethane lacquer spray
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Lacquer Vs Polyurethane: Is Lacquer Better than Polyurethane? 

Lacquer spray should be used in specific situations and is best to use on some surfaces, while polyurethane is better on other surfaces.  So, lacquer isn’t better than polyurethane overall, each one has its benefits and is great in it’s on way at protecting your DIY surfaces. 

Lacquer is a more liquid type of coating and provides a glass like finish, so if that’s the look you’re going for, choose a lacquer.  Lacquer is very thin, and you get amazing results by using the best lacquer spray gun when applying lacquer.  You have to be careful with lacquer and liquids and wipe up any spills right away or it could leave a cloudy mark on your lacquered surface.   

Since poly is a liquid form of plastic, it is thicker and doesn’t penetrate as deeply into your surface as lacquer. But, it doesn’t scratch as easy or is as susceptible to water marks as lacquer. 

Some professionals consider lacquer the superior product, because it dries faster, and the finish it leaves on your projects is more mainstream than poly.  Poly can take up to 24 hours to dry on a surface, while lacquer can take only a few hours because it is more liquid than polyurethane. 

Can I put Polyurethane Over Lacquer? 

You might wonder can polyurethane be used over lacquer?  Yes it can.  Polyurethane over lacquer adds an extra protective coating over your projects.  Lacquer is absorbed into your surfaces more and gets deep into your wood or surface.  Polyurethane is a more plastic type coating that can withstand more intense traffic than lacquer, which tends to scratch easier than poly.   

Lacquer or Polyurethane on Metal 

Both can be used on metal and offer different benefits.  For home based DIY projects, poly offers the best protection against water damage, making it great for outdoor furniture than sees a ton of moisture.   

Poly is also more scratch resistant, which works well for high use items like chairs or table tops.  Because poly is a thicker plastic coating that you paint onto your surface, it doesn’t do so great in heat, which leads to peeling, cracking and discoloration.   

When would you use lacquer spray on metal vs polyurethane?  Using lacquer is great for metal surfaces that may be heated up like surface outdoors. 

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Lacquer vs Polyurethane on Outdoor Furniture 

Again, if your outdoor area is getting a ton of moisture, we would go for a poly coating (even over a lacquer spray) to protect your outdoor furniture.  Areas that get lots of heat, mean you should be applying a lacquer.  Lacquers, because they are thinner and are absorbed into surfaces more than poly, need more maintenance and re-staining than poly.  Lacquer can lose its gloss and discolor over time, just like poly. 

Lacquer or Polyurethane for Table Tops 

We’d use a lacquer spray under a poly here, if your table will be getting a ton of traffic.  More use on your table tops will lead to a very scratched surface if you only use lacquer. If it’s a decorative table that doesn’t see any use, then lacquer is totally fine to use on its own.


Lacquer vs polyurethane isn’t a competition.  Each product works great, but, they should be used in the right situations to give you and your projects the best long term protection from water, weather, and anything else you can throw at them.   

Check out our best lacquer spray guns post for a fast and easy method to apply lacquer on your next DIY project with professional results every time.