Waterborne Finishes Versus Solventborne Lacquer

Struggling with the application and quality issues encountered when switching to waterborne formulas for health and safety reasons. June 8, 2011

I've been spraying Gemini lacquer for years now and am using an airless sprayer to apply the finish on cabinet work, tables and other custom work. The product is great in how fast it dries. Typically two coats are enough to protect and seal any project and my customers are always impressed with the look the finish gives. The down side to the product is the worry with health issues caused by the extreme odors associated by the overspray and outgassing that lingers for days. Even though I use a dedicated paint booth, the smells keep me out of the shop far too long.

I switched to Gemini Titanium Waterborne High Solids Acrylic coatings and solved the problem with toxic smells, however I am having difficulties achieving the quality and ease of application I was accustomed to with their lacquer. Dry time is much longer (5 minutes to sand with lacquer vs. at least 30 minutes waterborne). Waterborne scratches extremely easily and is more difficult to repair in comparison to lacquer. Waterborne is extremely sensitive to temperature and humidity when applying. Lacquer never gave me the issues I am struggling with waterborne.

If this is typical for waterborne, I guess I'll go back to lacquer and learn to deal with it. If anyone has knowledge of a waterborne product that addresses the issues I stated above, please post your thoughts!

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor C:
I went through the same situation a year or two ago. I switched to all WB coatings and have had my share of issues, but I am now happy with my system and am very happy with the benefits.

My first issue was lack of color and massive grain raise. I solved this with using my ordinary oil stains and solvents for color and then Zinsser seal coat as a barrier before topping with WB. It dries fast and is much easier to sand. As far as drying, I had always kept my booth and drying rooms at controlled conditions, so I didn't notice that as a problem. Usually by the time I get back to the first door, cab or part, the first is dry enough to flip or sand. I also found that if I can spray two full coats in the same day, then I can avoid having to sand (for adhesion) between those coats.

The biggest reality for me was my equipment was not right for WB coatings. I was using Binks galvanized tanks with 2001 guns. After the first 3 tank lids were rusted and oozing brown, I knew I had to purchase an all stainless rig. One for clear and one for colors. It makes life so much easier. I only clean up on Friday afternoons now, and the tanks are always ready to go, just like the old solvent based days. I have found that a little butyl cellusolve really helps clean that stubborn buildup that occurs on everything.

Don't turn back. I believe it's just a matter of time before we will all have to be making the switch - might as well get used to it.

From contributor B:

This waterborne should be every bit as durable as the lacquer you've been spraying, and in some ways better. You don't apply waterborne at the same wet mil thickness that you would solvent. Keep it around 2-3 mils wet - this will help your issues with sanding and dry time.

Waterborne resins take a little longer to get "lacquer hard" and if you must have that kind of fast dry, then you need air movement and heat (especially if your finish area is below 65 degrees).

Don't give up on them yet, you simply need to take on the learning curve. Have you talked to your Gemini rep about all this?