ANSWER: All stains need a top coat. Think of stain as the color and top coat as the sealer and protectant.
The high urethane content of General Finishes Gel Stains results in a lustrous finish that tends to fool people into assuming no sealant is required. The beauty of Gel Stain comes from the thick urethane which can carry a LOT of color to any surface, but that color must be sealed in with top coat. An added bonus of top coat is that it also protects the wood from drying out.
Years ago, Chris from General Finishes made the mistake of not adding top coat to a desk top. She applied 3 coats of a Java/Antique Walnut mixture, and because it looked and felt "finished" she let the desk cure for a week, considering the project complete. The next day, Chris spent a few hours working at her new desk. Upon standing up, she discovered smudges of brown stain all over her elbows and realized that her mouse pad had rubbed away some of the stain on the desk. Lesson learned!
*If you choose to use High Performance, make sure that you wait 72 hours between the two products since you are moving from an oil based product to a water based product and it is essential that the first is dry before applying the second.
-Oil based products pair nicely with oil based top coats, and water based products with water based top coats.
-If you choose to mix water and oil based products, be sure to wait 72 hours between the two products. If a water based product is under an oil based product, you can wait 24 hours between products. Click hear to watch a GF video tutorial on this topic: http://youtu.be/yDKZFGvpYpw
-Enduro Professional Top Coats are thinner and are intended to be sprayed
-High Performance can be sprayed. If needed, it can be thinned by adding 10% water. Here is a GF video tutorial: http://bit.ly/1wuurwI
-Large surfaces such as cabinets or tables are easier to cover with liquid top coat rather than a gel top coat.
-For more information regarding the differences between GF top coats, visit the following blog post:http://bit.ly/1kYWbb3