What General Finishes Top Coat is best for Gel Stain ?

melissatuckerDecember 13, 2013

I have applied 3 coats of General Finishes Java Gel Stain to my kitchen cabinets and am now having a hard time figuring out what the best top coat choice is ? I have been researching for hours and simply cannot figure out the different between General Finishes:

  1. Arm R Seal.
    2. High Performance Clear
    3. Endurovar
    4. Polyacrylic water based top coat.

I am terrified that I will choose the wrong top coat finish and ruin the work I have already done ( which to date has sucked up weeks of my life : )

Any help would be GREATLY appreciated.

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I just called General Finishes. They are EXTREMELY HELPFUL ! I had already purchased the Polyacrylic Water Based top coat and he told me that was incorrect. He said their are so many people posting on Pinterest/internet ect about this top coat so everyone keeps using it but they never meant for the gel stain to be used with the Polyacrylic top coat. He said it will work out fine but it is not the best top coat for gel stain on KITCHEN CABINETS. He explained that the 3 choices were the Endurovar, High Performance Clear and Arm R Seal. He explained the difference in such great detail that honestly I was still a bit confused. I then just asked which one he would use and he said if you have the patience to WAIT A LONG TIME for the top coats to dry then he would choose/likes the Arm R Seal the best.

He stressed over and over again the importance of DRY TIME. He discussed how everyone is using the Java Gel Stain like PAINT applying very thick coats and said that if you don't wait approximately 48 hours between EVERY SINGLE COAT of the stain itself and then ONE FULL WEEK before applying the top coat you will not get the best results. He said not waiting says between coats may seem okay when using the gel stain but when you apply the top coats you may get a cloudy film. ( also said all woods are different and people prepare the wood in so many different ways that it is possible for some to report good results WITHOUT waiting the proper dry time but that wont happen for everyone so it is just best to be patient and wait out the dry times ESPECIALLY if you are essentially PAINTING on the gel stain. )

Also mentioned NO sanding in between gel stain coats but YES sanding lightly with 400 grit between top coats ( and of course no sanding the final top coat.
I just bought the Arm R Seal as he recommended and we will see how it goes. Guess its a good thing it will take a week to get shipped here so I am FORCED to wait out the appropriate dry time before starting :)

still would like to know what everyone has been using as their top coat on kitchen cabinets to reinforce my choice to use Arm-R-Seal.... still so worried about picking the wrong one.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 1:13PM
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Honestly,I can't emagine anything that could be said which might tempt you to ignore instructions printed on the stain container and firsthand advice from the manufacture. My dear grandmother would say "you are just being a little worrywart".

    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 8:40PM
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I used the gel clear topcoat - three coats, wiped on thinly. But I also wiped on the gel stain thinly. And had about a week dry time between coats because of my schedule.

I agree with the manufacturer's rep ... the second most common cause of FAIL in finishing is insufficient drying time between coats.

(Most common is lack of surface prep)

    Bookmark   December 14, 2013 at 8:23AM
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I used Arm R Seal, and because I was progressing SOOOOO slowly, had plenty of time between coats. So, far it has held up beautifully.
You may want to post your advice in the decorating and/or kitchen forum because that's where this gets dissussed frequently.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2013 at 1:54PM
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I've used General Finishes products for years and have been very pleased with the results. I'm with Klem, listen to the folks that make the product!

    Bookmark   December 15, 2013 at 1:25AM
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I have tried both the gel top coat an Arm-r-seal. I used the gel top coat on bathroom cabinets and was happy with it. But...after using arm-r-seal on a dresser top, I very much preferred the look and found it to be much easier to apply. I will use arm-r-seal every time now!

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 7:55PM
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Thank you so much everyone for all of your input/help. I went with Arm R Seal and actually now have a new problem/question. I let them dry for over a week and put on 1 coat of the Arm R Seal ... let that coat dry for 3 days ...put on a 2nd coat.... let the 2nd coat dry for 3 days and then started to sand SUPER LIGHTLY with 400 grit and MY STAIN CAME OFF IN SOME AREAS !! I have no idea what I am doing wrong. Help please : ) Not sure if you can see the missing stain spots in this photo ...but also do you see how much stain came off on my sand paper !?! I used no pressure at all with the 400 grit just rubbed as lightly as I could over the surface 3-4 times.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2014 at 9:12PM
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