Flat Out Flat Water Based Topcoat

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.

Need some inspiration? Visit the General Finishes Design Center or Pinterest Board for furniture topcoat ideas.

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General Finishes Flat Out Flat Water Based Topcoat, Quart

Instructions

Step 1: Preparation

All wood projects require preparation sanding, and all existing finishes require prep cleaning and sanding. If you skip this critical step, your finish may fail.

Preparation for Raw Wood or Raw Wood Projects That Are to be Stained 
See our video: How to Prep Sand Raw Wood

  1. Sanding Schedule: 120-grit followed by 150- or 220-grit sandpaper.
  2. Remove dust with a water-dampened rag or oil-free tack cloth.
  3. Let dry completely before applying GF product.
  4. Do not over-sand with fine-grit sandpapers; this will close and seal the wood grain, preventing ideal color absorption.
  5. 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

  1. 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.
  2. Sand lightly with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper.
  3. Remove dust with a non-sticky tack cloth or a water-dampened rag.
  4. Let dry completely before applying General Finishes product.

Power Prep Cleaning Highly Used Existing Finishes
For high-use areas such as kitchen cabinets or table tops with heavy grime build-up and oil from hands, give your project a "Power" clean. See our video: How to Power Prep Existing High Use Finishes for Stain or Paint

  1. Scrub clean with a detergent, such as Spic and Span or Dawn, using a Scotch Brite pad.
  2. Rinse well with water.
  3. Scrub clean with a Scotch Brite pad and a 50:50 mix of denatured alcohol and water. Dry 1-2 hours.
  4. Sand lightly with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper.
  5. Remove dust with a non-sticky tack cloth or a water-dampened rag. 
  6. Let dry completely before applying General Finishes product.

Alternative Cleaning Solutions For Existing Finishes (Not as aggressive or effective as denatured alcohol; requires rinsing.) 

  • 50:50 mix of bleach and water 
  • 50:50 mix of vinegar and water
  • Mineral spirits can be used when working with water-based products, but only if the surface is thoroughly rinsed and allowed to dry for 72 hours.
  • If you use with products containing phosphates (salt), which can linger in the substrate and produce a white haze, be sure to rinse thoroughly.

Step 2: How To Apply General Finishes Flat Out Flat

General Finishes Flat Out Flat Application Steps

  1. Stir topcoat to reincorporate solids that have settled to the bottom of the can before and throughout the application process.
  2. Apply 3 coats. More coats will not improve durability.
  3. If desired, thin topcoat with 10-15% distilled water or General Finishes Extender. Extender will improve flow and leveling and increase open time, which is helpful in dry climates.
  4. 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 an acrylic 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. 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.
  5. If a faster build is desired over raw wood, use General Finishes Sanding Sealer for the first coat, followed by 2 coats of Flat Out Flat.
  6. 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 or 400-grit sandpaper. 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.
  7. Finish sand between coats with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper to improve smoothness and adhesion.
  8. Remove dust with a vacuum, oil-free tack cloth or clean water-dampened rag before re-coating.

Cure Time
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 400-grit sandpaper or fine-grade (220-320) sanding pad, or sanding well and re-coating.
  • For the smoothest result, apply with a spray gun.

Mixing Topcoats
Do not mix Flat Out Flat and High Performance topcoats. They are engineered with different resin systems. 

Use

  • 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.

Incompatible Products

  • Linseed Oils
  • Danish Oils

Yellowing & Clear Topcoat

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.

Summary

  • 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 General Finishes Chalk Style 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 Style 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.
  • We recommend using General Finishes Stain Blocker, an engineered chemical barrier, to prevent persistent bleed-through for interior-use projects.
    • 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
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.

Cleanup of Water Based Products

Application tools and materials containing water-based products can be cleaned with soap and water immediately after use.

Product Spills
Spills may be able to be removed from fabric and carpet if cleaned immediately with soap and water.

Storage of Water Based Products

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 bottom of the can. The life of the product may be extended with proper care and storage.

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 paint, use 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.

Storage Tips
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:

  1. 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. 
  2. Keep lid closed while working. Pour what you will use into a bowl, paper cup, or plate, and close can lid as you work.
  3. Clean the chime of the can thoroughly with a paper towel before closing to create a complete seal. Paint in the chime can be minimized by using a pouring lid, such as Fitsall. Avoid wiping used brushes on the lid.
  4. 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.
  5. Store in moderate temperatures. Avoid temperatures below 50*F/10*C or above 80*F/26*C. 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.
  6. 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. 
  7. 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:

  1. Product thinned with up to 15% General Finishes Extender or General Finishes Accelerator can be stored, with the exception of thinned General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain.
  2. Mixtures involving colors & sheens within the same product line, such as:
    • High Performance Satin + High Performance Gloss
    • Snow White Milk Paint + Coastal Blue Milk Paint
    • Amber Dye Stain + Merlot Dye Stain

The following product mixtures should NOT be stored:

  • Any water based product with thinned tap water; water often contains bacteria that will adversely affect stored paint.
  • Topcoat + Stain or Paint
  • Milk Paint + Chalk Style Paint
  • Water Based Wood Stain + Dye Stain

Furniture Care and Maintenance

Cure First
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.

Warnings and Warranties

Limited Warranty
General Finishes products must be tested to your complete satisfaction before using, including compatibility with other manufacturers products. General Finishes will be responsible only for the cost of our products and will not be responsible for any costs such as labor, damage, or replacement costs.

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. 

Danger: Contents are COMBUSTIBLE. Keep away from heat and open flame. Application materials or other waste soaked with this product may spontaneously catch fire if improperly discarded. Immediately after use, place rags, steel wool or waste in a sealed, water-filled, metal container. Dispose of in accordance with local fire regulations.

CAUTION: Contains ALIPHATIC HYDROCARBONS. VAPOR HARMFUL. Use only with adequate ventilation. DELAYED EFFECTS FROM LONG-TERM OVEREXPOSURE. Contains solvents which can cause permanent brain and nervous system damage. Intentional misuse by deliberately concentrating & inhaling the contents can be harmful or fatal.

Warning
If you scrape, sand, or remove old paint, you may release lead dust. LEAD IS TOXIC. EXPOSURE TO LEAD DUST CAN CAUSE SERIOUS ILLNESS, SUCH AS BRAIN DAMAGE, ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN. PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD ALSO AVOID EXPOSURE. Wear a NIOSH-approved respirator to control lead exposure. Clean up carefully with a HEPA vacuum and a wet mop. Before you start, find out how to protect yourself and your family by contacting the National Lead Information Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD or log onto www.epa.gov/lead.

Do not swallow; first aid: drink water to dilute product. May cause eye and skin irritation; first aid: flush eyes thoroughly with water.

FIRST AID: In case of eye contact, flush thoroughly with large amounts of water for 15 minutes and get medical attention. For skin contact, wash thoroughly with soap and water. In case of respiratory difficulty, provide fresh air and call physician. If swallowed, do not induce vomiting. Get medical attention immediately. 

Warning
This product contains a chemical known to the State Of California to cause cancer and birth defects. Do not swallow; first aid: drink water to dilute product. May cause eye or skin irritation; first aid: flush eyes thoroughly with water.

Specifications

Basic Features
Product Colors Water White in can (dries clear)
Base Type Water
Ambering No
Sheen Very Flat (1-5)
Interior or Exterior Interior only
Type Self-crosslinking Acryllic
Application
Coats 3 coats
Application Method Brush, Roll, Spray
Brushable Yes
Usable over existing finishes Yes
Sprayable Yes
Spray Tip Sizes HVLP 1.1mm-1.3mm
Dry Time
Dry Time - Touch 30+ min.
Dry Time - Recoat 2+ hr
Dry Time - Light Use 7-10 days
Dry Time - Cure 21 days
Contents
Can Sizes Pints, Quarts, Gallons
Coverage 75 sq. ft/pint, 150 sq. ft/quart, 600 sq. ft/gal
Technical Data
Viscosity Medium
Viscosity (cPs) 350-450
Weight Solids 24%
VOC <210 g/L
Durability
Durability (Highest, High, Medium, Low) Low
Hardness (Koenig #) 89
Wear (Taber #) 50.00 mg loss
Water 4
Chemical 86

Videos

FAQs

Flat Out Flat FAQs

What is the difference between Flat Out Flat and High Performance Topcoats?

Flat Out Flat is a matte water based topcoat with a velvety look and feel and was 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 results 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. 

 

Relevant Videos

Can I mix General Finishes Flat out Flat and High Performance topcoat?

No, you should not mix Flat Out Flat and High Performance topcoats. The are engineered with different resin systems. You mix CAN High Performance topcoats to adjust sheen. For example, you can mix HP Flat and HP Gloss to obtain a different sheen.

Relevant Videos

What is the best way to obtain a more durable finish with a flat sheen?

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.

Relevant Videos

How can I tell if a water based topcoat is dry?

If the finish feels cool to the touch, its 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.

Related Products

Relevant Videos

Which is better as a sealer? Topcoat or wax?

It depends on whether you are looking for aesthetics or durability.

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.

If you love a wax finish, try General Finishes Satin Finishing Wax. If you want the look and feel of wax with more durability, use our Flat Out Flat Topcoat. For even more protection, use High Performance Topcoat.

 

Relevant Videos