Flat Out Flat is a self-crosslinking water-based topcoat that mimics the lustrous look and feel of wax. The increased matting agents used to create "flat look" cause this wood finish to have less clarity, show fingerprints more and provide slightly less durability than High Performance. It is recommended for low-use projects other than kitchen cabinets and table tops.
Sanding Schedule: 120-grit followed by 150- or 220-grit sandpaper.
Remove dust with a vacuum, compressed air, an oil-free tack cloth or a water-dampened rag.
Let dry completely before applying GF product.
Do not over-sand with fine-grit sandpapers; this will close and seal the wood grain, preventing ideal color absorption.
Do NOT use steel wool with water-based finishes; the particles will get trapped in the finish and rust.
Preparation for Projects with an Existing Finish (Sealed Surface)
For high-use areas with heavy grime build-up and oil from hands, give your project a deeper cleaning.
See our video: How to Prepare Existing Finishes
Scuff clean with a Scotch Brite pad and a 50:50 mix of denatured alcohol and water. Dry 1-2 hours. Avoid cleaning with products containing phosphates (salt), which can linger in the substrate and produce a white haze. If your project requires a deeper cleaning, see Power Prep Cleaning Highly Used Existing Finishes below.
Sand lightly with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad.
Remove dust with a vacuum, compressed air, an oil-free tack cloth or a water-dampened rag.
Let dry completely before applying General Finishes product.
CAUTION: Do NOT use GF Flat Out Flat or any other clear coat, over white or light paints such as GF Milk Paint, or GF White Poly as it may cause yellowing. Any clear coat can become reactive over wood substrates or existing finishes causing tannin, stain or dye bleed-through. All of GF's White Paints, brushable or spray versions, do NOT require a topcoat.
General Finishes Flat Out Flat Application Steps
Stir topcoat to reincorporate solids that have settled to the bottom of the can before and throughout the application process.
Apply 3 coats. More coats will not improve durability.
If desired, thin with up to 15% distilled water or General Finishes Extender. Start by adding 5% in increments until you reach the desired consistency. GF Extender will improve flow and leveling and increase open time, which is helpful in dry climates.
No more than 3 coats are recommended. Flat Out Flat contains more matting agents to decrease the sheen, and the finish can get cloudy when excessive topcoats are applied.
Hand application: Apply a liberal amount of product using a synthetic bristle brush, foam brush, pad applicator, or roller. Avoid pressure and excessive back-brushing.
Spray application: Before spraying, strain topcoat through a fine-mesh filter. Spray wet films at 3-5-mil thickness. HVLP: 1.1mm-1.3mm spray tip, medium air cap. Verify tip sizes with your equipment supplier. See our general guide for spray tip sizes. Keep your gun at a 90° angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large, flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6-8" wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" wide to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass 25% to conceal lines. Wear a full filter respirator (NIOSH/MSHA approved) and work in a ventilated space. Visit this FAQ for more information on spraying techniques.
Dry 2+ hours between coats in ideal conditions: 70°F/20°C; 50-70% humidity. Be sure to allow adequate dry time. You can tell if a water-based finish is dry if it forms a powder when lightly sanded with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad. If in doubt, wait longer. Rushing the dry time can cause "blush," which is clouding in the finish due to moisture trapped between the layers. Increase dry time if:
Humidity is over 80%
3+ coats are applied
Thick coats are applied
Applying over a previously existing finish
Applying over products from other brands
Layering General Finishes water- and oil-based products:
Water over oil: Let oil-based products dry 72+hr before applying water-based products
Oil over water: Let water-based products dry 24+hr before applying oil-based products
To accelerate dry time in humid conditions, add General Finishes Accelerator and work in a space with good ventilation and air movement. If you decide to re-coat before the recommended time, test dryness.
Finish sand between coats with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad to improve smoothness and adhesion.
Remove dust with a vacuum, oil-free tack cloth or clean water-dampened rag before re-coating.
Water-based finishes cure and harden for full use after 21 days in ideal conditions. Avoid placing heavy objects on surfaces that have not completely cured. Treat gently, and do not clean during the curing period.
Tips to prevent streaking during hand-application
See our video: How to Prevent Streaking with Water Based Topcoat
To avoid streaking, apply a liberal amount of product and avoid using pressure and back-brushing. Wipe the wood grain using smooth, even strokes. Use a large applicator, such as a paint pad, for larger surfaces.
Remove streaks by buffing with or fine-grade (220-320) sanding pad, or sanding well and re-coating.
For the smoothest result, apply with a spray gun.
Do not mix Flat Out Flat and High Performance topcoats. They are engineered with different resin systems.
Flat Out flat is not recommended for high-use areas such as cabinets and tabletops. The popular flat sheens are lovely, but they have different properties than glossy finishes. The flatting agents required to reduce sheen in matte topcoats also slightly reduce clarity, water resistance, durability and resistance to chemicals such as ketchup, soap, chemical cleaners or ammonia. This is not much of a concern in low-use areas but is important for tabletops or kitchen cabinets.
Here is a tip to improve the performance of your finish and still obtain a matte sheen: Use a semi-gloss sheen for the first 2 coats and a flat for the third for optimum performance.
Or instead use High Performance Water Based Topcoat or Arm-R-Seal Oil Based Topcoat.
Warning: Do not use water-based products with Linseed Oils or Danish Oils.
As is true of most "water-white" topcoats, General Finishes water-based topcoats dry clear over non-reactive substrates, such as plastic or metal, except General Finishes Enduro-Var, which ambers. When white paint sealed with a water-white topcoat is applied to something as unpredictable as wood, all bets are off and the reason for yellowing is often unknown. It can be caused by topcoat activating tannins in raw wood or aniline dyes, stains, or contaminants in a pre-existing finish. This is most evident when using BRIGHT WHITE paint and most prevalent in sculpted details of furniture where the topcoat can collect, intensifying color change to an unacceptable level.
There is no reliable way to predict whether yellowing will occur and to what degree. Every existing finish is different and we rarely know the finishing provenance on an existing piece. Every tree is different and every piece of wood is unique. Raw wood can bleed tannins immediately after the topcoat dries or months later with seasonal temperature changes. Oak, pine, mahogany, and douglas fir are particularly prone to bleed-through.
Whites have a lower “hide” quality and are more transparent than most other colors. Nearly all bright whites require additional coats to achieve the desired color and minimize color variation. This can increase the cost of paint finishing. Always include a clause in your contracts addressing the need for additional coats to achieve coverage.
All bright white paint will yellow slightly with time, with or without topcoat. You have probably tried to touch up white woodwork in your home after several years and noticed the new paint is brighter.
The underlying finish or wood species can affect the final color of light paint.
Details and inside corners are difficult to cover with any paint color, but it tends to be more noticeable with whites. This is a naturally occurring phenomenon in paint application and does not necessarily constitute a defect in the paint finish or your technique.
The more porous the paint, such as a chalk paint, the more likely that yellowing will occur. The topcoat is seeping through the spaces caused by the larger particles of filler that give Chalk Paints their texture.
Tips to Prevent Yellowing
If it is a low-use project, use a premium white paint that is self-sealing and does not require a topcoat. A clear topcoat is not required on General Finishes Milk Paint for increased durability, as it is a self-sealing, exterior-rated coating with high durability and chemical and water resistance. However, topcoats do provide a smooth surface that is easier to clean and boosts durability for high-use projects, such as tabletops and kitchen cabinets.
Use a professional spray such as General Finishes Enduro White Poly. It has "increased topcoat properties," is a standalone finish when 3 coats are applied, and does not require sealing with a topcoat.
Stain Blocker does not adhere to melamine cabinet veneers.
Stain Blocker cannot be tinted.
Always test your project's ENTIRE finishing schedule (from cleaning to topcoat) on an inside door or a more hidden area of the piece. This will not help if the yellowing occurs later, but at least you will know if there is an immediate problem.
Avoid painting period furniture, such as a 1940s serpentine mahogany desk, with light colors. The pieces were often finished in stain that contained aniline dyes, which cast a pinkish bleed-through under light paint. Not every piece of furniture is suitable for upcycling with a light paint color. Pine, mahogany, and furniture of the 1940s and 50s are a red flag.
Last, not all manufacturers' topcoats are compatible with other finishes and may react with a color change. Always follow best practices by not rushing, and testing to your satisfaction first.
Knots in wood tend to bleed and are dense, making paint and stain adhesion a challenge. Stain Blocker may improve adhesion and prevent bleed-through for painting projects. Pine knots are especially difficult to cover with white or light paints. If you decide to paint over them, apply 3 coats of Stain Blocker first; however, we cannot guarantee adhesion or bleed-through blockage. You are better off using a dark paint on pine.
Please be mindful of the manner in which water-based products are stored and how long they have been in storage. They not a forever product.
Life of Product
Water-based products do not last forever, even when unopened. General Finishes products are best used within 1 year of the manufacture date listed on the can. However, the life of the product may be extended with proper care and storage (see Storage Tips below).
Water-based products can last 3-5 years if the can is unopened, in good condition and stored in correct temperatures.
Product that is 3 years old will not look like product that is 6 months to 1 year old. You will see more stratification or separation as the product ages. Always stir thoroughlybefore using.
If your product hasa foul smell, it is contaminated and no longer in useable condition.
Clumps & Settling
Gravity can cause some solids to settle on the bottom of the can and slight separation on the top. This is normal. If working with older product stir with a paint mixing attachment on a drill.
If the solids dissolve and clumps smooth out after mixing from the bottom, the product is in good condition for use.
Inability to reincorporate large, chunky lumps after stirring for several minutes is an indication that the product has frozen and can no longer be used.
See video tutorial: Tips on Storing Leftover Finishes
Water-based finishes crystalize and form a skin due to evaporation when the air-tight seal on a can is broken at first use. The following best practices will increase the life of your product:
Pry open sealed lids with a paint can opener by hooking under the lid's rolled edge. The use of a screwdriver can disfigure the rim and lid, impairing a complete seal.
Keep lid closed while working. Pour what you will use into a bowl, paper cup, or plate, and close can lid as you work.
Clean the chime of the can thoroughly with a paper towel before closing to create a complete seal. Product falling into the chime can be minimized by using a pouring lid, such as Fitsall. Avoid wiping used brushes on the lid.
Pound the lid in place using a rubber mallet to avoid distorting the chime or lid. Dents in the lid from direct contact with a hammer can impair a complete seal. Alternatively, place a flat piece of wood over can lid and firmly pound shut.
Store in moderate temperatures. Avoid temperatures below 50°F/10°C or above 100°F/26°C. Keep from freezing. Frozen and heat-damaged product cannot be revitalized. Temperature-controlled spaces, such as a basement, are ideal for storage. Do not store product in an attic, garage, in direct sunlight, or next to something warm like a water heater or furnace.
Store can upside down to create a liquid seal, minimize evaporation and reduce the chance of crystallization. Decant remaining product from the can before stirring.
Decant leftovers to a smaller container when the finish is almost used up. Alternative storage containers for water-based products are plastic FIFO bottles or glass bottles. Do not fill metal-lidded containers completely to prevent them from rusting.
The following water-based product mixtures can be stored:
You have just finished applying a fine furniture finish. Treat gently until the paint or topcoat have fully cured. Allow 21 days for a water-based finish to cure and 30 days for an oil-based finish to cure before cleaning.
Regular Cleaning and Maintenance
Remove dust with a water-dampened cloth. Dust can build up over time and may scratch or dull finishes if not removed regularly.
Remove fingerprints, cooking fumes and smoking residue with mild soap and water. These contaminants will not harm the finish, but they accumulate on surfaces and dull the original luster.
As with all fine furniture finishes, avoid using furniture polish, cleaners or dusting sprays that contain silicone, alcohol, ammonia and anything acidic. Exception: We have successfully cleaned with Clorox wipes.
Clean up water, alcohol and food spills in a timely manner and use placemats & coasters to protect the finish.
Future finishes or touch-ups may not adhere properly or perform as desired over a contaminated surface. Some contaminants, such as silicone, seep through finish into the wood and often cannot be removed.
Avoid excessive exposure to direct sunlight, high temperatures or high humidity. These can damage furniture and finishes.
Do not use water-based products with Linseed Oils or Danish Oils.
General Finishes products must be tested to your complete satisfaction before using. General Finishes will not be responsible for color satisfaction, misapplication, nor compatibility with other manufacturer's products. General Finishes will be responsible only for the cost of our products, and not for costs such as labor, damage or project replacement.
Contamination and Compatibility
Our finishes are engineered as a system and are compatible with each other. General Finishes cannot guarantee an ideal refinish when applying our products on top of or combined with another company's products or over surfaces that have been in contact with waxes, polishes or sprays containing contaminants such as silicone. Test for adherence and aesthetics before beginning.
FIRST AID: Seek immediate medical attention if symptoms occur due to the following. EYE CONTACT: Remove any contact lenses. Flush eyes with water for 20+ minutes while lifting upper and lower eyelids. SKIN CONTACT: Wash thoroughly after handling. INHALATION: Move to fresh air and loosen clothing. If not breathing, if breathing is irregular or if respiratory arrest occurs, provide artificial respiration or oxygen by trained personnel. INGESTION: Call physician immediately. Wash out mouth with water. Do not induce vomiting unless directed to do so by medical personnel. Never give anything by mouth to an unconscious person.
Prop 65 WARNING: No chemicals were found in this product which are known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.
CAUTION: MAY CAUSE EYE IRRITATION.
Keep out of the reach of children. Avoid contact with eyes. Keep container tightly closed and sealed until ready for use. Wash thoroughly after handling.
Flat Out Flat is a matte water based topcoat with a velvety feel and was developed as a durable alternative to our Satin Wax. Choose this product if you want a finish that looks more like wax and your project will not require high use. Like wax, it dries softer to the touch than High Performance when completely cured, and it will show more marring and fingerprints. Flat Out Flat is made with a stable self cross-linking acrylic instead of urethane. High Performance is urethane based and contains less matting agents which result in a slightly harder finish. For that reason, High Performance is the best choice for high use areas such as table tops and kitchen cabinets. Both topcoats have similar water resistance, but High Performance offers greater clarity. Use with Oil Based Finishes: Let oil-based finishes dry for 72 hours before applying High Performance or Flat Out Flat top coat.
The popular flat sheens are lovely but they have different attributes than glossy finishes. The flatting agents required to reduce sheen in flat or matte topcoats also slightly reduce clarity, water resistance, durability and resistance to chemicals such as ketchup, soap, chemical cleaners, or ammonia. This is not much of a concern in low use areas but is important for table tops or kitchen cabinets.
Here is a tip to improve the performance of your finish and still obtain a matte sheen:
Use a semi-gloss sheen for the first two coats and a flat for the third for optimum performance.
General Finishes is constantly seeking new resins and additives to improve the performance of our finishes.
If the finish feels cool to the touch, it's not ready. When you can sand it to a dry powder, it is ready for the next coat. Dry times will be longer if it is raining, cold, or humid. When in doubt, waiting longer is always better.
It depends on whether you are looking for aesthetics or durability.
A topcoat will provide greater durability and protection than wax finishes over time.
While wax finishes are lovely, they typically show wear (fingerprints) and are not permanent, requiring semi-annual to annual maintenance.
Wax is a low durability finish. It’s fine for a decorative piece that will receive light traffic. It is absolutely not strong enough for tables, kitchen cabinets, or other surfaces that will see frequent use.
Wax takes a bit of elbow grease to apply.
Furthermore, nothing adheres well to wax, which can impact future finish changes. Even though there is internet chatter about removing wax with 3rd party products or mineral spirits, the risk of a failure in re-coating over a wax finish is very high and sometimes impossible.