On the Home Front
There is good news and bad news for wood coatings when it comes to the housing market. The good news is total housing starts in the U.S. in 1998 hit 1.6 million, their highest point since 1995, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). This year, new housing starts are expected to reach 1.5 million. The bad news: new home buyers are shying away from wood when it comes to the exterior of their homes. Low-maintenance vinyl, brick, stucco, stone and concrete are popular choices today and, according to industry estimates, they will remain the steady choice in the future (see chart, right).
But there are plenty of older homes with wood siding, and coatings manufacturers are still developing new and improved products to maintain-and in some cases restore-their beauty.
In the U.S., Akzo Nobel now offers Sikkens Rubbol solid stain, a new solid color, oil-base exterior stain for wood siding. "For maintenance, oil better penetrates the old coatings," said Mark Pastir, marketing manager, Akzo Nobel. Currently sold in Michigan, the product will be rolled out to other states this summer, according to Mr. Pastir. A national launch is scheduled for 2000.
Restoring weathered wood is also a market that has been tackled by Brighton, CO-based Sashco Sealants. The company has recently launched new products for the log home industry. The first, Return stain and finish remover, is billed as a professional-strength product that removes existing coatings including old stains, varnish, shellacs, urethane and paints. Old coatings can be removed in under twenty minutes, according to the company. The company also touts new CPR log cleaner and brightener. CPR, as its name implies, revives uncoated weathered logs. Both products prepare logs for staining. For that, Sashco offers the Capture/Cascade stain system.
Products for log homes may sound like a niche market, but it is a growing one. "Premium siding homes are still growing; log cabin homes are still growing," said Mr. Pastir.
According to the Log Home Council, part of the NAHB, log homes represented more than six percent of the custom homes built in the U.S. in 1992.
The log home market was also acknowledged by Chris Karman, general manager, Wolman Wood Care Products. "The log cabin home market is growing and will continue," he said. To capitalize on its popularity, Wolman is giving away a free one. The log home sweepstakes will be promoted at retail end caps and in Wolman commercials.
All Decked Out
For a vacation get-away, logs are nice; but when it comes to "home sweet home," consumers want an exterior that's easy to maintain. With less leisure time on their hands, Americans are more likely to be found relaxing than restaining the exterior of their homes. Because they are opting to relax rather than refinish, consumers are building more places to do just that. Decks are more popular than ever-of new single-family homes built in 1997, 32% came with a deck, according to NAHB.
"The deck market will still be growing over the next three to five years," said Mr. Pastir. In the U.S., Akzo has been increasing its line of deck products. The Rubbol Deck line, initially launched in 1993, will be expanded with tint bases this summer.
Wolman has been focusing on decks, too. Last summer it launched Extreme acrylic wood finish, a 100% acrylic product that gives a furniture-like satin sheen to decks. The company is also taking on the deck and wood maintenance markets. Wolman will add a new liquid version of its exterior wood deck and fence brightener for cedar, redwood and pressure-treated woods, and will soon launch Deck Strip Plus, which removes oil-based and water-based coatings, paints and primers in just 10 minutes. The latter product, according to Mr. Karman, is fully biodegradable.
Due to Extreme's satin sheen, the company reports that consumers are also using the product for outdoor furniture. Extreme is available in five shades (honey, cedar, redwood, gray and white) and is guaranteed to prevent wood from graying for a minimum of two years. In addition, Wolman Extreme has "seen very good acceptance at the commercial level, such as decks at restaurants," Mr. Karman added.
Like Wolman, Performance Coatings, based in Ukiah, CA, has been given the nod in the commercial market. The company's Penofin brand was selected for use on Walt Disney World's boardwalk in Orlando, FL, which follows the perimeter of lake covering hundreds of acres. (See, a Mickey Mouse-Approved Coating, p.30.)
Creating a fantasy world may be Disney's specialty, but the company demanded real wood for its boardwalk. But in other theme parks, real wood is being replaced with composite products, such as Trex, a wood-polymer lumber product sold by Trex Co. LLC, Winchester, VA. Made from reclaimed and recycled materials (wood fiber and plastics), Trex does not require sealants or paint for protection. The product is offered in "natural," which turns driftwood gray after outdoor exposure, and a colorfast "woodland brown." If a consumer wants Trexx in a different color, a latex paint is recommended over oil-based paint, according to the manufacturer.
According to B�lent Atabay, general manager, Yasas, a subsidiary of the Yasar Paint Group, composite products are also entering the Turkish building market.
"The main architectural trend which affects wood products is PVC window frames, as these frames do not need any stain, protector or paint," Mr. Atabay said. "There is a growing market for composite products for floors, but compared to the wood parquet market, it is very small and far from affecting the latter. Wooden parquet is cheap in Turkey and people still prefer natural products."
Whether or not companies expect these composite products to become a major force, coatings manufacturers are keeping an eye on the market. Some of the companies Coatings World spoke with have been talking to composite building product makers; others have been testing their products on these alternative building materials.
A Wood-Be Comeback?
While composite materials are entering the deck market, natural wood is starting to make a comeback in kitchen cabinetry.
"Fashion drives this market. Natural wood tone colors for kitchen cabinets are just starting to come back, replacing white and non-wood grain colors that have been so popular," said Tom Barnum, vice president of trade sales at Deft. "This will increase wood stain sales."
In Norway, Jotun notes that there has been a move toward more natural colors in wood paneling, too. The company has been promoting its Jotun Panel interior wood stains as decorator options, not just protection products.
"Jotun's aim is to promote interior wood stain as a decorative alternative for treating wooden walls, giving more visible impact to the possibilities of wood paneling," according to Jeanette Torp, product manager, Jotun Panel.
"The trend today is towards lighter colors," Ms. Torp commented. "It's rather minimalistic-people want things with a simpler style. There is a back to nature feeling, and Jotun Panel fits with that very well." The line has been extended with 16 new colors designed to work with the character of the wood, along with the five original wood stains (patina, clear, white, antique and base). Additionally, Jotun's R&D department has improved Jotun Panel's clear formulation to make it more effective against yellowing.
More New Product Innovation
Flecto Company, Oakland CA, has recently launched Watco Wipe-On Poly, a new super-durable polyure-thane that can be hand-rubbed into wood to provide a clear finish that protects surfaces from water, stains and chemicals. "Watco Wipe-On Poly offers an easy way for inexperienced do-it-yourselfers to get a hand-rubbed finish," said Rich Swanson, president, Flecto. The product is available in clear gloss and stain sheen.
Deft has made change that makes it easier to clean up one of its wood coating products. According to Mr. Barnum, Deft's oil base stain can be cleaned up with water within an hour of application.
Like Deft, Performance Coatings is actively looking to make its wood coatings more user-friendly. Its efforts have included adding application instructions to its web site to help guide consumers.
"A major trend we are seeing is consumer convenience-products that are easier to apply," said Joan Griswold, vice president, sales for Penofin.
Inside the can, Penofin is making changes as well. On June 1, the company will introduce low-odor versions of its wood coatings, and will promote the launch with a special dealer advertising campaign.
United Gilsonite Laboratories (UGL), Scranton, PA, has extended its ZAR clear wood finish line with a new water-based polyurethane for exterior surfaces, wood furniture and above-the-water-line marine surfaces. When tested in a QUV, UGL contends the product outperformed its competition two to one.
Keeping the Market Moving
Most manufacturers Coatings World spoke with said the wood coatings market has been doing well over the past few years, and they expect the market to fair well in 1999. "The wood care market has been very good over the past three years," Mr. Karman said.
"More people are aware that they can, and should, do something to (protect wood). A lot of companies over the last five years have upped advertising and promoting efforts."
According to Mr. Pastir, the market is still on an up-cycle. "We're still very much in the growth stage for wood care," said Mr. Pastir.