Everything to know about Acrylic used in woodwork for home interiors

Kitchen in polycoat

Acrylics are highly sought after by many people for giving that amazing glossy surface to kitchen cabinets. In fact, we are willing to pay a premium for this gloss. But what is acrylic? While we understand that a vendor is charging us a premium for acrylic, is it really justified? In this article, we discuss acrylics used for wooden surface finishes in greater detail.

What is acrylic?

Acrylic is primarily not used for the surface finishes that we are discussing here. Acrylic in fact is transparent like glass. The color in acrylic is a separate stain added to it. In addition, it is lighter than glass, harder and is a much better insulator in addition to the fact that it is easier to work with since it can be sawed and it does not shatter. For all these benefits, acrylics have replaced glass in a lot of industries including for aeroplane windows, aquariums along with a lot of military use as well.

It goes by different names. Polymethyl methacrylate or PMMA is its chemical name with chemical composition of (C5O2H8)n. It has several brand names from different companies including Plexiglass, Perspex, Lucite etc. This is a long list.

What is Acrylic that is for interior design?

Now we come to the acrylic that is used for the interior design industry which we normally speak about when talking about our wooden surfaces.

Acrylics are made using two techniques.

  1. Extrusion
  2. Cell Casting

What are acrylic sheets that stick on the plywood surface?

The most common and frequently used acrylic is the thin acrylic sheets that come in thickness of 1, 1.5mm etc. If you are speaking with a carpenter or even most of the interior designers, this is the acrylic that they are speaking about. This is a sheet very similar to a laminate but is glossy.

Please note that most of this sheet is almost exactly similar to a laminate with just a paper thin layer of acrylic just below the top layer.

This acrylic is made with extrusion which is a much more inferior method of manufacturing acrylics. While slightly harder than laminates, they are not really as hard as to justify the extra money you will pay. In addition, some claims are also made about affects on health from acrylics made using extrusion though we could not completely prove the veracity of these claims.

If you are truly looking for acrylic for just the gloss factor, try to check some high gloss laminates which almost all brands have. These are almost as glossy as these sheets of acrylics and come at a lesser price. In addition, you get a larger range to select from.

Other disadvantages of acrylic sheets:

  • They come in limited range. 
  • No major brands manufacture these sheets.
  • Manufacturing issues are same as laminates with sharp corners, need of edge banding etc.

You can check out this process at the link at the bottom of the post.

What acrylic is best for my home interiors?

Cell cast acrylics are a bit more expensive compared to extrusion made acrylics but are a lot better as well. You can get these in two different formats:

Acrylic Boards

These boards which come in 18 mm thick sheets (usually 8’X4’ panels) have acrylic cell cast on top of a base. Action Tesa is a very good brand for these boards where the base used is MDF. What you will end up with is a couple of mm of acrylic cast on top of an MDF board and the entire panel is sold as a single piece.

Advantages of Acrylic boards:

Its cell cast and hence much more superior in quality compared to the acrylic sheets.

Its glossier compared to acrylic sheets as well as laminates.

Its harder and more scratch resistant compared to the thinner sheets.

Disadvantages of Acrylic boards:

Liquid Acrylic or Acrylic Paint

  • They come in limited selections. 
  • They have to be cut and then edge banding needs to be used on edges instead of a seamless finish.
  • They are slightly more expensive compared to acrylic sheets.

Acrylic paint can be done over a surface which has already been cut into the desired size. This process is similar to a detailed polishing process and includes several rounds of sanding, primer application, sealer application etc. These paints come from various companies but the best ones are from ICA and Asian Paints.

Advantages of liquid acrylic:

  • Hundreds of color options to select from.
  • This can also be applied over veneers to give a wooden look while retaining the high gloss.
  • These are extremely glossy as well as scratch resistant.
  • They do not yellow with age compared to other polishes like PU.
  • After few years, unlike acrylic sheets or boards, you can simply get the shutters buffed by a painter and they start looking as good as new.
  • The edges are seamless since the same polish is done over the edges instead of use of any edge banding.
  • Special effects like marble look are also possible.

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Disadvantages of liquid acrylic:

  • The process is a little longer and hence execution takes extra time.
  • You need a very highly skilled team to execute this work properly at the first time. 
  • This is a premium work and hence a lot more costly compared to other acrylics. A simple colored box with shutters made using liquid acrylic could be as high as Rs.2200 per sft.

Links:

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