Which topcoat for gel stain??

newbiediyOctober 5, 2013

Hi! I am new here. I am jumping on the gel stain bandwagon. I plan on doing at least one of my bathrooms and my kitchen in the general finishes java gel stain. I am very confused as to which topcoat is the best for these areas. It seems everyone has used something different. And while they all looked fine I am not sure which will hold up best in the bathroom and kitchen areas. General Finishes has a poly acrylic topcoat, a gel topcoat, arm-r-seal and a high performance topcoat. Can anyone help steer me in the right direction? Thank you so much!

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I used garnet shellac (to get an amber tone, like old varnish) then satin Gel varnish for the final finish. If you do not desire the amber, and with java I don't see why you would, then you could head straight into the final topcoats.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 11:25PM
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I used their wipe-on gel topcoat and it's holding up well after three years.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 10:32AM
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I used the gel top coat for bathroom cabinets (the blue can). It's oil based and it's been holding up well. This is what their web site says:

"What finish is best for over the oil base Gel Stains? Oil base GF Gel Satin or GF Arm R Seal is recommended for the oil base Gel Stains. Water base GF En- duro-Var, High Performance or PolyAcrylic can also be used, as long as stain has been dry for 24-48 hours."

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 1:51PM
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-- ARM R SEAL appears to be the best choice --

I had this same question so I 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 :)

    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 1:07PM
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I recently refinished a desk with GF products (oil stain and High Performance Poly (water-based). I also spoke with a very nice, helpful person over the phone at GF and he recommended the products I used for *my* project.

I waited one week after my two coats of stain before I applied my topcoat. I'm sure the oil stain (wipe on/off) is a much thinner coat than gel. (I had a bad experience with the gel, but that's not relevant to this thread.) The weather was warm and dry and I was working in my garage with a western exposure.

I applied 3 coats of poly on everything, plus 3 extra coats on the drawer fronts and desk top. I allowed 24 hours between coats. I sanded with 1000-grit after the 2nd, 4th, and 6th coats. Yes, I did sand lightly after the final one, just to get the odd dust nib. It was a super light kiss of a sanding.

I waited 2-1/2 weeks before I brought my desk in the house and back in operation. It needs to cure. It will feel very hard and dry to the touch, but GF warns to let it cure and after all the trouble I went to, I decided to go by the book. My cats sit on the desk and run across it, so I didn't want to tempt fate.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 2:25PM
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Thank you so much to everyone's input! I ordered the gel topcoat but have yet to start my project. I am hoping I can tackle it in Jan after the holidays. I tried to find this thread again and I was having a hard time so thanks for the recent responses so I could thank everyone! I am starting in my master bath so I need to find a place to put my cabinet doors and drawers that the little ones can't get to! I'm a little nervous to start, but excited as well!

    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 2:45PM
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*for* everyone's responses! Oops

    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 2:49PM
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I used minwax polyurethane satin brushon, 3 layers with at least 24 hours between.Looks very nice.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 7:07PM
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Did any of you get a 'frosted' look when using the GF Satin Arm-R-Seal over the top of the Java Gel Stain? How are the cabinets still holding up (over time)??

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 3:28PM
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Just be sure to practice on some scrap wood first with the gel stain.

I used it on a door I was refinishing and it looked like I had rubbed shoe polish all over the door when I was done and had re-strip the entire door and start over.

I've worked with regular stain and shellac for years on furniture and other woodworking projects and never had that problem or result.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 6:35PM
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