*Are GF Products Compatible with Other Brands?

A good rule of thumb is to not mix brands. It might work, it might not. Most paint manufacturers formulate their products to be compatible within a "system" of products.

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*Can I Use General Finishes Products Over Wall Paint?

You can use GF products over wall paint but proceed with caution. Latex wall paints are engineered for a different purpose than wood finishes. Walls generally experience less wear and tear than horizontal surfaces, so they are manufactured without the resin systems that make furniture paint more durable.

DRY TIME: Latex wall paints should cure for 7-10 days before glaze or top coat can be added.

WARNING: Keep in mind that GF cannot guarantee an ideal finish when applying our products on top of or in combination with another company's products. We always recommend that you test for durability and aesthetics on an unseen area of your project before getting started.

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Which Topcoat Should I Choose?

General Finishes offers a complete coatings system with a finish for every objective.

General Finishes Professional, Industrial, and OEM Water-Based Topcoats

  • Enduro Professional Tintable 2K Clear Poly
  • Enduro Professional Tintable 2K White Poly
  • Enduro Professional 2K Conversion Varnish
  • Enduro Professional 1K White Poly
  • Enduro Professional 1K Clear Poly
  • Enduro Professional Pro Series Clear Poly
  • Enduro Professional Pro Series White Poly
  • Enduro Professional Pre-Cat Lacquer

General Finishes Retail Water-Based Topcoats:

  • High Performance Topcoat
  • Flat Out Flat
  • Enduro-Var II Topcoat
  • Exterior 450

General Finishes Exterior Water-Based Topcoats:

  • Enduro Professional Tintable 2K Clear Poly
  • Enduro Professional Tintable 2K White Poly
  • Enduro Professional 2K Conversion Varnish
  • Exterior 450

General Finishes Oil-Based Topcoats

  • Arm-R-Seal 
  • Gel Satin Topcoat
  • Wood Bowl Finish
  • Butcher Block Oil
  • Outdoor Oil


  1. Oil-based topcoats and ENDURO-VAR II will amber over time.
  2. All other water-based and High Performance top coats dry clear.
  3. Never use any water-based topcoat with long oils such as Danish, Tung or Linseed.
  4. Water-based top coats clean up with soap and water. Oil-based topcoats require mineral spirits for cleanup.
  5. If you use water-based topcoats over oil-based finishes, make sure that you wait 72 hours between the two products. It is essential to let the oil finish dry longer.
  6. For more complex projects with many details and corners or large surface areas such as cabinets, we recommend either ARM-R-SEAL liquid oil-based topcoats or water-based topcoats. Large surfaces such as cabinets or tables and complex projects with lots of detail are easier to cover with a liquid topcoat rather than a GEL SATIN topcoat.
  7. Enduro Professional Topcoats are thinner and intended to be sprayed
  8. HIGH PERFORMANCE can be brushed or sprayed. It can be thinned by adding 5-10% distilled water if needed. 

Compare all topcoats

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*How is a Flooring Topcoat Different than a Furniture or Cabinet Finish?

Three features differentiate flooring topcoats

  1. General Finishes flooring topcoat, Pro Image, is fortified with significantly more urethane to increase durability.
  2. The slip rate of flooring topcoats is higher to improve floor safety and reduce the likelihood of slipping; approximately a 5.7 rating. For example, someone in socks is less likely to slip on a flooring finish, or a basketball player is less likely to slip on a good professional floor finish. Cabinet finishes have a much lower (negative) slip rate because folks want a silky, smooth finish on a cabinet or furniture; approximately a -.4 rating.
  3. A floor finish has more elongation - the finish stretches to provide flexibility over expanding and contracting woods.


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*Can I Apply Water and Oil Based Products on the Same Project?

Yes! But you must follow a few simple rules to be sure you achieve the best possible finish.

  • When using a water-based product over an oil-based product, such as High Performance Topcoat over Oil Based Gel Stain
    • If the oil finish was applied over raw wood, wait 24 hours between the two products.
    • If the oil finish was applied over an existing finish, wait 72 hours between the two products.
  • When using an oil-based product over a water-based product, such as Arm-R-Seal Topcoat over Water-Based Stain, wait 24 hours between the two products.

Please see our video, where we discuss how oil and water-based products can be used over each other here.

Remember that you cannot mix water and oil-based products together.

General Finishes Enduro-Var Urethane Topcoat cannot be used with any oil-based product or sanding sealer.

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Can Oil and Water Based Products Be Used Over Each Other?*

Yes! But you must follow ONE simple rule to ensure the best possible finish: the underlying finish must be absolutely dry.

  • When using a water-based product over an oil-based product, such as water-based High Performance Topcoat over oil-based Gel Stain,
    • If the oil finish was applied over raw wood, wait 24 hours between the two products.
    • If the oil finish was applied over an existing finish, wait 72 hours between the two products.
  • When using an oil-based product over a water-based product, such as oil-based Arm-R-Seal Topcoat over Water Based Wood Stain, wait 24 hours before applying the oil-based product.
Other Rules To Remember
  • You cannot mix water- and oil-based products together.
  • General Finishes original Enduro-Var can only be used over raw wood or General Finishes water-based wood stains or dye stains. Original Enduro-Var cannot be used with any oil-based product, sanding sealer or shellac. Enduro-Var II (new formula) is compatible with all GF products and can be used over shellac.
  • Oil-based finishes amber over time; do not use them over white or very light colors.

VIDEO: Can oil and water-based products be used over one another?

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What are VOCs, Volatile Organic Compounds, and what is their role in stains, paints and topcoats?

What is the definition of VOC?

According to the EPA "Volatile organic compounds (VOC) means any compound of carbon, excluding carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbonic acid, metallic carbides or carbonates, and ammonium carbonate, which participates in atmospheric photochemical reactions." These carbon-containing chemicals that are labeled volatile because they easily become gases that enter the atmosphere. They include both human-made and naturally occurring chemical compounds produced by plant and animal processes.

Among the most common sources of VOCs are:

  1. Acetone. Found in: nail polish remover, furniture polish and wallpaper.
  2. Benzene. Found in: paint, glue, carpeting and emissions from gasoline combustion.
  3. Butanal. Found in: emissions from barbecues, burning candles, stoves and cigarettes.
  4. Carbon disulfide. Found in: chlorinated tap water

The main source VOCs in paints and stains are chemical solvents (the ingredients that allow the other additives to blend together) and chemical driers, materials that control dry time.

How can I find out how much VOCs are in my wood finishes?

Look for the manufacturer's SDS (Safety Data Sheet) on their website which contains a complete toxicity review for all pure chemical compounds manufactured and sold in the US, In the paint world, VOCs will vary by colorant, so an SDS should be provided for each color. If you cant find each product's SDS, ask the company for it.

GF’s water-based products meet all regulatory standards with full reporting disclosure in the form of an SDS (Safety Data Sheets) created by an independent regulatory agency. This is in accordance with the Global Harmony System established in 2015. SDS’s are required to be updated every three years from the original publish date.

What are the health risks?

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, Health effects may include:

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Headaches, loss of coordination and nausea
  • Damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system
  • Some organics can cause cancer in animals, some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans

How are VOCs regulated?

It's a complicated subject with inconsistencies across all states. VOC requirements are affected by:

  1. Each state has different rules and regulations on VOC limits and shipment requirements.
  2. Each regulatory body categorizes coatings differently. Flats, non-flats, primers, stains, varnishes and industrial maintenance coatings have different restrictions.
  3. Some VOC limits are measured excluding water while VOC levels for Low-Solids Coatings are measured in grams of VOC per liter of material, including water.
  4. Smaller sizes, such as liters or quarts are considered consumer products Vs. architectural products and as such are exempt from the new VOC standards in some regions.
  5. Many solvents are exempt and not labeled as VOC's, such as acetone and ethyl acetate, because they react negligibly in the atmosphere. They do not form ozone at the same speed or to the same extent.
  6. Some VOC measurements include all VOCs emitted from a product into the immediate air environment, while other measurements include only those VOCs that are regulated to control smog levels. According to the EPA, VOC labels and certification programs may not properly assess all of the VOCs emitted from the product, including some chemical compounds that may be relevant for indoor air quality.
  7. Varying regulatory agencies are involved in regulating VOC limits in the coatings industry. This has led to inconsistency throughout the country. Agencies include the Federal EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the OTC (Northeast Ozone Transport Commission), the Colorado APCD (Colorado Air Pollution Control Division), and CARB, the California Air Resources Board.
  • CARB has authority to set and enforce emission standards for motor vehicles, fuels, and consumer products; set health-based air quality standards; monitor air quality; identify and set control measures for toxic air contaminants and oversee local air quality districts.
  • California's SCAQMD (South Coast Air Quality Management District) tops the list as the most stringent agency responsible for improving air quality for large areas of Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, including the Coachella Valley. See a list of SCAQMD regulations for 9 categories of coatings.
  • OTC, the Ozone Transport Commission is a multi-state organization created under the Clean Air Act (CAA). It is responsible for advising the EPA on transport issues and for developing and implementing regional solutions to the ground-level ozone problem in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. The OTC has several progressive versions of rules adopted by different states in the NE, creating inconsistency throughout the region. The latest Phase IV Model Rule restricts the shipment of gallons of non-VOC compliant finishes containing more than 250 grams of VOC per liter in most counties in the following states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Indiana, and Ohio. Utah has followed suit. You can read the draft for OTC Rule V here.
  • Colorado APCD issued a concept paper in January 2019 that stated that the Division is considering adopting the OTC Phase IV Model Rule for Consumer Products.

Are there VOC-free stains, topcoats and paints?

Reporting standards are imperfect and the definition of low and no VOC can be open to interpretation. Low-VOC or no-VOC products only address a limited range of compounds.

It becomes more complicated.

  1. Some companies tout their products as zero-toxin, zero-carcinogen, and zero-VOC and never provide a Safety Data Sheet. The product can only be zero VOC if the base, the resins, the colorants, and other additives are all zero VOC.
  2. Other manufacturers will claim Zero VOC, but it is only accurate for one color while the balance of the colors do contain VOCs. Or the colorants might be Zero or low VOC, but the tint bases are not.

What is a low VOC level in a paint or stain?

Water-based coatings will always have lower levels of VOCs than oil-based finishes. Beyond that, go as low-VOC as you can. The most used standard is 275 VOC gpl (grams per liter.)

To learn more about making the transition from using oil based finished to water based finishes, watch here


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What type of topcoat can I apply over a long oil such as Tung oil?

You can use any oil-based finish but be sure to let the Tung Oil dry for at least 24 hours before applying.

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