Aqua Coat Clear Wood Grain Filler Review
Why Use Grain Filler?
When preparing oak cabinets for paint, I use grain filler to smooth the surface. Oak is very grainy and looks horrible when painted without skim-coating the surface first with a good filler. In my experience, these products, including Aqua Coat, do not completely mask the natural grain pattern of the wood, but they fill deep surface cracks to hide them when painting.
Aqua Coat is a clear, water-based gel that can be used on a number of wood surfaces including kitchen cabinets, table tops, mantels and guitars. This product fills wood grain and helps seal it too to help prevent tannin bleed in painted wood. The real question is whether this product works or not. I have only used this product to prepare oak cabinets for paint, so my review is solely based on my experience using it that way.
Does Aqua Coat Wood Grain Filler Work?
I tried this product based on a recommendation from a fellow painter. Previously, I tried Sherwood filler from Sherwin Williams, which worked alright, but the product is available only as a special order through my local Sherwin Williams store.
Aqua Coat is a water-based clear gel with a funky odor that smells like M&M's. It's messy to work with, but it's performed pretty good, so far, when prepping cabinets I painted. It doesn't completely mask the grain, but it fills the deep cracks that would otherwise show through paint. When using white paint, these cracks are very noticeable without filling them first.
Applying this product on twenty-plus cabinet doors is very tedious, but worth the effort. I apply two coats, which seems to fill the grain pretty well. I tested one area with only one coat, which filled most of the cracks, but not all. The amount of coats needed really is based on what you're using the product for, but for preparing oak cabinets, two does the trick for me. Completely leveling the grain with the surface would likely take several coats because this product is very thin and shrinks as it dries.
One disadvantage of this product, as of this writing, is that it's only available through Amazon. Supposedly, Sherwin Williams might start selling it in their stores. In my area, there aren't similar products readily available without special order.
The pricing for Aqua Coat is a little expensive compared to the oil-base Sherwood grain filler. I paid around $30 per quart and used three quarts. I can special order Sherwood filler for about $60 per gallon. Four quarts (one gallon) of Aqua Coat costs around $120. However, the dry time is faster and clean up is easier. Most importantly, it serves it's purpose.
Applying Aqua Coat Grain Filler
The surface must be clean and dust free. I wipe the surface with a tack cloth first to remove dust. The company itself suggests using a small squeegee, or putty knife, to apply the material, but an old credit card worked good for me. A credit card makes it easy to work the gel into the corners. I don't recommend using a metal taping knife, which could scratch the surface of the wood. Wearing work gloves is a must.
You must apply this product in very thin coats, avoiding heavy build-up, otherwise sanding it is very difficult. Applying the material too heavy also results in a longer dry time.
The gel dries in a glossy film that must be scuff sanded before top coating. If you apply it thin enough, sanding it with a sanding sponge is easy. Depending on what you're using this product for it could take more than two coats to get the desired results, but for me, two coats filled the oak grain enough to get rid of the micro cracks that can plague a paint finish. When applied thin enough, the gel dries in about one hour.
When applying Aqua Coat, a little goes a long way. You can waste the material pretty easily by over-applying it. The company recommends waiting twenty four hours before top coating with primer, paint or lacquer. I let the filler dry overnight before priming.
It's important to note that you cannot apply an oil-base polyurethane coating over this grain filler. The polyurethane won't bond well with the filler, resulting in peeling and failure. When using a sealer, the sealer must be wax-free as well. You can coat this product with oil-base primer, or shellac primer, like BIN.