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Latex paint over old lacquer surfaces

bergsteiger1's picture

I have a twenty-five year old home with many doors and trim that were originally stained and lacquered.  Over the years, the surfaces have gotten badly scratched and dinged.  Trying to repair and re-lacquer them is really not an option.  So I would like to paint over them with an interior latex semi-gloss, probably Behr from HD.  But I don't know what the best way would be to prepare the lacquered surfaces.  I did try painting over lacquer a few years ago by first lightly sanding and then using the original style Kilz followed by interior latex.  But some of the latex/Kilz did not adhere all that well and has chipped off in places revealing the old brown lacquered surface underneath.  I have seen products that you just wipe or paint on that are supposed to chemically prepar the surface for paint, but these seem to good to be true.  Any suggestions would be greatly approciated.

No Miracles (post #188431, reply #1 of 7)

There aren't any miracles to get paint to adhere.  The same abuse that has scratched and dinged the laquer will will damage the paint.  Latex paints are softer and tend to damage more easily.  White over brown makes any damage more visible.  The uniform white color makes any defects much more visible the natural camouflage of wood grain.

Oil based paints tend to be more durable than latex and usually level out better, showing fewer brush marks.

The sand paper in a can products do two things with a mixture of strong solvents.  They clean off oils and waxes and soften the finish.  Most of them require that you paint over them within a few minutes of treatment before the solvents evaporate and the finish hardens up again.  Only oil based top coats can take advantage of this softening effect.  These products are faster and easier than priming if you are using an oil based top coat.  Again, there are no miracles, however.


Your previous method is the text book solution.  A couple of things to watch for:

  • Did you clean off all the sanding dust?
  • Was the surface clean before sanding?  Oils and waxes need to be removed.  Sanding will just push these contaminates around and will not remove them.
  • Although the primers will tell you that you do not need to sand because that is what people want to hear and thus it sells their product, did you sand enough to dull the gloss?
  • If you think there is any change of waxes or polishes having been used, the "sandpaper in a can" product may be a better way to go before you prime if you are using an oil based primer.

Personally, I hate to see wood painted and I would use a wood refinisher to even out the existing lacquer and then put a clear finish over it.  A lacquer (probably hard to work with if you are brushing it on, better for spraying) or a shellac for a reparable finish.  Or, a polyurethane for a more durable finish, although wood refinisher will not disolve it so it cannot be redone this way again.  I think the wood grain surface is much better looking and generally is much longer lasting.

I disagree somewhat with (post #188431, reply #2 of 7)

I disagree somewhat with regard to the "liquid sandpaper" products.  Most allow more than "a few minutes" between treatment and recoating -- several hours on the ones I've used.  And they ARE effective for latex paints -- they leave the surface with some "tooth" that the paint can bond to.

My gut feel, not being a paint expert by any means, is that one of the "liquid sandpaper" products would be the way to go.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

Sand, wipe and paint (post #188431, reply #3 of 7)

I would sand with about 120-grit sandpaper to get a tooth the paint can adhere to.  And, then I would wipe down the surface with mineral spirits, on a white cloth, making multiple passes with clean cloths until they stay white. 

The mineral spirits wipe down will remove any residual waxes, silicones, and dust from the sanding, leaving you with a clean surface teh paint can get a grip on. 

Or, I'd use one of the citrus strippers to get off the lacquer, so I could apply a new clear or tinted finish and leave the wood exposed. 

It just depends on what I'm trying to do with the room.  If it is dark and needs lightened up, gloss white paint is the way to go.  And, I have a "modern" bedroom set from the late fifties, that ended up with a black lacguer finish on it. 

Take the door off and get it (post #188431, reply #4 of 7)

Take the door off and get it horizontal.

Lightly wipe the scrached area with MEK or acetone.

This often leaves a 'like new' finish.    Some small skill required, try it on a corner, etc. first to get a feel for what 'lightly' really means, amount of MEK, etc.....

Trim can be done in place once you get the hang of doing it horizontally. 

Do it with a fan and doors/windows open if you do it inside.. 

Latex over lacquer (post #188431, reply #5 of 7)

I want to thank all of you for your very useful contributions.  It has given me some good ideas so I can finally get off my duff and get started on this project.  Although I do plan to go with latex for most of the pieces, I am now considering refinishing some of them in natural wood.  Thanks again!

Use a deglosser to dull the (post #188431, reply #6 of 7)

Use a deglosser to dull the existing finish and lightly sand (say 150 grit sanding sponge).   MEK is a pretty toxic chemical - just use a deglosser.   Zinsser makes a good one.

You have to prime and should use an oil-based primer.   Benjamin Moore Fresh Start Alkyd is a good one.   Don't skip this step and don't use a latex primer.

Then 2 coats finish paint.   Use Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams not Behr (no matter what Consumer Reports says ;o)   )


 >>Use Benjamin Moore or (post #188431, reply #7 of 7)

 >>Use Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams not Behr <<

Totally agree!