Restoration Tips and Tricks

How to Achieve a Flat Finish

One of the biggest trends in this era of DIY and shabby chic are silky-smooth flat finishes.  The most common way to achieve those flat/matte sheens is wax.  See our previous post for a deeper look into why we are opposed to this solution for most projects.  Basically we know it’s gorgeous (we agree), but the cons far outweigh the pros.

  1. Wax is not a long-term, durable finish.
  2. Wax required annual maintenance and reapplication.
  3. Refinishing a surface that has been finished with wax in nearly impossible without a tedious full strip

I am here today to be the bearers of good news – You CAN achieve a long-lasting finish with a beautiful matte sheen.

Recently, I was working on a table and agreed the top would be stunning with a suede-like sheen. To achieve that look, I would need to utilize a flat finish. However just a flat finish on this table would not hold up to everyday use; Remember table tops are high traffic, and flat finishes are more absorbent and susceptible to marking than a glossier sheen. I always strive to ensure whatever we create will survive for a long time!  My solution was to first apply a couple of base layers of pre-catalyzed water base finish in satin, and then General Finishes Flat Out Flat.    This stuff is not only FLAT FLAT FLAT, but it is velvety smooth to the touch – much like wax!  Sometimes you can hardly tell there is even a finish on the project at all.  If you are looking for a that perfect matte sheen FOF is the man for the job!

Here are the steps again:

  1. Paint your project as desired (following the proper steps for those steps you can go here and download our painting instructional guide)
  2. Apply first 1-2 coats of a stain sheen waterbase finish. (I use General Finishes or ML Campbell)
  3. Lightly scuff
  4. Apply 1-2 Coats of General Finishes flat out flat
  5. You should be done however if hand applying you may have light streaking in most cases steel wool can solve that problem!

Check out that FLAT finish! 

Here are a few pros and cons for your various sheen options, to help you decide if “flat” truly is the way you want to go…

Flat – Attractive, but not durable.  More absorbant, and easily scuffed and scratched.  Dust can be seen at every direction when using a darker color. Cleaning or rubbing can result in unintentional buffing, which will heighten the sheen and may appear to be imperfections in the finish.  While the above mentioned Flat Out Flat is stunning, and a fantastic option for your matte projects, the formula includes a matting agent which makes it less durable than higher sheen clear coats.

Eggshell – Slightly more durable than flat.  Very soft appearance.  Common on living area walls.

Satin – Most common furniture finish.  Not too glossy, but still a bit of glare for that true finished look.  Not ideal if you want the look of “no finish,” like chalk type paint.  Higher sheen makes it more durable and easier to clean than flat or eggshell.

Gloss – Very durable finish, but will easily show imperfections like scratches.

I hope you found these tips and tricks helpful, and encourage you to see options for battling your own DIY woes.  I want to hear about them, too!  Pass them on!

Happy Flat Finishing,

Tara Lou

* This blog contains affiliate links please read my disclaimer page.

Tara Lou

Mama, wife, furniture connoisseur, small business owner, nature-lover, homebody, hunter.

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