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Top Coat vs Wax For Painted Furniture

Top Coat vs Wax For Painted Furniture

Its time to discuss the different ways to seal and finish your painted project. Top Coat vs Wax For Painted Furniture is a topic i am always being asked about when customers come into the shop.

If you have been following me for a while you will know that for many years I only used chalk paint and as you know chalk paint HAS to be sealed,so I used the soft wax that was sold with the paint.

I used it so much that I gave myself repetitive strain injury in my right arm and the pain was incredible. Who knew rubbing in wax and buffing it, would be so hard on your arm ? And I would get a lot of headaches from the fumes of the wax ( I found it very strong ).

I did on occasion use a varnish called polyvine instead of the wax and that was certainly a lot easier  but I was coming to the end of my using chalk paint anyway as I  began to hate the brush marks and rough look in all the finishes. I really wanted a more professional finish.

What brought this change wasn’t even the reasons above, but the lack of durability in the wax finish and the dust and dirt that are attracted to the wax and are impossible to clean off . AGGHH I want to be able to wipe down the furniture with a damp cloth.. I might not be the best house keeper in the world these days ( too much upcycling in the world lol )  but I give it a go every now and again.


So I changed paint brands and it was then I discovered the BEST TOP COAT EVER !

General Finishes High Performance Top Coat.

This top coat is used over chalk paints ( if you are still a lover of that finish ) and over the milk paint  ( for high wear areas) and stain also made by General Finishes ( lots of instructional videos on using this product on the GF youtube channel )

But let me tell you why this top coat is so good. It’s available in multiple sheens from flat out flat ( a waxed appearance) to glossy depending on your requirements. And I am witness to the fact that it is water resistant and holds up  incredibly well ( once you give it time to cure properly )

No wonder it has won the Fine Woodworking’s Best Overall Choice Award They say its the most popular water based top coat on the market today. Here are some details about it….

  1. Water Based
  2. Clear (non-yellowing)
  3. Dry Time: 1-2 hours
  4. Cure time: 21 days
  5. Coats recommended: 3 minimum
  6. Spray or hand-application: Acrylic brush, foam brush, paint pad applicator, or spray:
  7. Interior application only
  8. Low odor
  9. Soap and water clean up
  10. Ideal for detailed pieces and any size project
  11. Sheens: Flat, Satin, Semi-Gloss, and Gloss.

Ok so lets talk about the different sheens. I find the flat gives a low sheen , like a buffed wax look. The satin has quite a high sheen i think and the gloss is super duper for over all the stains.. it gives a french polished look over the dark espresso coloured stain.  Look at the customer photo below. Both pieces are painted in Coastal Blue Milk Paint. The chair has the Flat High Performance Top Coat and the drawers have the satin … can you see the difference in sheen. How flexible does this make you work ? and you can give your customers a choice of sheen. The top coats over the darker colours are spectacular. They really enhance the colour.

Here is an interested fact you may not know… the GLOSS finish is the most durable of all the sheens. Why ? because the dulling agent used in the other sheens make it a little less durable. Now saying that ,they are sill much more durable than any wax,but you know what i do ?? If i am painting a piece for a client and i want to give it the most durable finish , i put the gloss on first and then for the other coats i use the flat. Therefore i have the max durability with the sheen of my choice. Good tip !

The other really popular sheen is the Flat Out Flat.

Anyone who wants the lowest sheen possible .. this is it. It will give you a very matt look on all your paint work and stains whether your paint is chalk or milk paint.


Lastly what about if you are painting outside…Yes we will eventually get summer so we may aswell start to get ready to brighten up the place a bit.

Is their a good OUTDOOR top coat. ? Yep there is

Exterior 450 Water Based Topcoat

This is  a tough top coat and gives a protective finish that will withstand the rigors of the sun, rain, and wind. you can use it on patio furniture, garage doors, entrance doors and interior windows. It is not recommended for decks.

 It performs well as a clear coat or as a topcoat over General Finishes Milk Paint.

This is the second example of the exterior 450 over Sunglow Milk Paint by GF

Fortified with UV absorbers to help minimize fading and maximize performance, Exterior 450’s built-in milde retards mold and mildew growth.. now this is a biggie for me because we get a lot of mildew on our outdoor furniture.A few more details >>>The same as the interior version which makes it super easy to use. ( that i LIKE)

  1. Water Based
  2. Clear (non-yellowing)
  3. Dry Time: 1-2 hours
  4. Cure time: 21 days
  5. Coats recommended: 3 minimum
  6. Spray or hand-application: Acrylic brush, poly foam brush applicator, or spray: HVLP 1.3 le
  7. Exterior (outdoor) finish
  8. Low Odor
  9. Soap and water cleanup
  10. Ideal for detailed pieces and any size project
  11. Sheen: Flat, Satin, Semi-Gloss and Semi Gloss

So whether you are updating your interior or exterior furniture you have a good choice of finishes. You can choose wax or top coats and get the look and finish you really want.

Hope you found this useful and it helps in choosing what you need for your next project.

All the products are available on our website and in the |USA you can find your local store


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