How Many Coats of Lacquer Paint? (Explained!)

Lacquer is a clear coat finish that protects the surface from moisture, scratches, and other damage. But, how many coats of lacquer do you need?

For finished (or painted) surfaces, apply 3 coats of lacquer. Since there’s an existing finish, you don’t need to add too many coats. For bare surfaces, apply 4-5 coats. 

While applying lacquer, allow each coat to dry (30 minutes) and sand it before applying the next one. 

Why Does it Matter?

Why Does The Number Of Coats Matter For Lacquer Paint?

The number of coats of lacquer matters because it determines the finish’s clarity, durability, and maintenance. Since lacquer is thin and transparent, you must apply enough coats for good wood protection. But, if you apply too many coats, the transparent finish will turn blurry.

Transparent finishes are tricky because they require a certain number of coats to produce a clear finish. The finish clarity won’t be as good if you apply fewer or too many coats.

If you don’t use enough coats, the finish won’t be durable and won’t protect surfaces. That’s because lacquer is thin and needs more coats, so it doesn’t fade or chip off. Also, it won’t provide any moisture resistance to the surface. The minimum number of coats for lacquer is 3.

The thin flow of lacquer allows it to penetrate porous surfaces such as wood. The first coats of lacquer are absorbed by the wood and they form a base coat. That’s why you need more coats for good coverage and protection. 

If you use too many coats of lacquer, the finish will crack and become blurry. That’s because too much paint will be on the surface, causing the transparent finish to turn blurry or cloudy. Too much or excess paint also means a weak adhesion between the top layer and the surface, so the finish will crack. The maximum number of coats is 5.

You Need Another Coat if:

How Do You Know If You Need A Second Coat Of Lacquer Paint?

To know if you need another coat of lacquer, check the user’s guide or manufacturer’s instructions. Most manufacturers (or brands) include the right number of coats in the container or user’s guide. 

You can also inspect the finish (when dry) to know if you need more of it. For example, if the finish doesn’t feel rigid, has a lighter shade, or the finish is blended with the paint underneath, apply one more coat.

If the finish is clear enough, feels rigid, and has the right shade, you don’t need to add another coat. If you do, the finish will become blurry, the coating will soften and have a deeper shade that can cover the wood grain (or the paint underneath).

Lacquer Dry Time

It takes lacquer 30 minutes to dry enough for a re-coat. This gives the finish enough time to harden so it can support another coating. Lacquer is solvent-based and has a high volume of alcohol-based solvents that dry fast. 

However, the dry time depends on the room temperature, humidity levels, and surface type. The finish will take about 2 hours to dry during moist or cold conditions because the evaporation rate will be slower.

If you re-coat too soon, the solvent on the existing coat won’t evaporate, preventing the new coating from sticking. As a result, the entire finish will remain wet and sticky for several hours (or days).

Different Types of Surfaces:


For wood surfaces, apply 4 coats of lacquer — this is because wood is a porous material and will suck more paint. If the wood is stained or painted, apply 3 coats only. 


For stained or painted cabinets, apply 3 coats and for unfinished or bare cabinets, apply 4 coats of lacquer. For bathroom cabinets exposed to constant water, apply 4-5 coats for proper protection.


For tabletops or decks, apply 4-5 coats. That’s because tabletops are exposed to heavy usage, scratch marks, and dust. So, you need a protective layer (finish) to protect it from these elements.


For plastic surfaces, apply 2-3 coats. That’s because plastic is non-porous and doesn’t allow liquid to penetrate its coating. So, if you apply too much paint, the paint won’t stick and will peel off. You must also sand the plastic before finishing it.

Wood Floors

For wood floors, you need 5 coats of brushed-on lacquer or 7 coats of sprayed-on lacquer. This is because wood floors are high-traffic surfaces and need more protection.

Final Words

In summary, the number of coats depends on the type of surface. Use 4-5 coats of lacquer for high-traffic surfaces, and for low-traffic (or finished) surfaces, use 2-3 coats.

Tony Adams
Tony Adams

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about,

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