Whether consumers need a clear varnish to protect the kitchen table, or a colored stain to revive an aging chair, there's a pretty good chance wood coatings manufacturers have their needs covered. With a range of end-use applications and style preferences to address, wood coatings manufacturers continue to focus on new product and technology developments.
Consider the kitchen–it's a potential gold mine for wood coatings manufacturers. Kitchens need cabinets to store pots, plates, food and whatever else finds its way into this most popular room in the house. There are also tables, benches, stools and chairs, sometimes finished with clear wood coatings for protection, other times stained in contrasting shades to add color to the room. And then there are wood floors–offering a classic look that is easy to clean after spills and other messes (like a five-year-old and the family dog forgetting to leave the mud outside).
Stains, varnishes and oils can also be found on furniture, floors and accessories in dining rooms, living rooms and bedrooms. Basically wherever consumers have wood, there will be a need for wood coatings, and that's only the inside of the house.
According to The Freedonia Group, Cleveland, OH, decks and porches will represent a $245 million market for wood coatings and sealers in the U.S. by 2004.
Why are consumers opting for wood products, both indoors and outdoors? "While the general health of the wood coatings industry relies on the strength of the U.S. economy, our growth is supported by American consumers' renewed interest in nature and in natural materials," said Ronnie Holman, vice president, research and development, RPM Wood Finishes Group. "Our research with consumers shows that no other natural material matches the warmth and beauty of wood. And there is no sign of this trend slowing."
According to Gary Shore, group vice president and general manager, RPM Wood Finishes Group, Americans' love for wood surfaces has been on-again, off-again. "The '60s and '70s created a trend of back-to-nature," said Gary Shore, group vice president and general manager, RPM Wood Finishes Group. "The link to natural (organic) products was established during this re-birth of the arts and crafts movement at the turn of the century. There was a lapse to a more economically-driven culture in the '80s. Today we are focused, again, on natural products. Wood floors, walls, fibers, furniture for the home and even furniture for the kitchen and bath, are strong elements driving the need for wood finishes."
But wood products are not cheap, and need special care, which means they require wood coatings that will extend their life and keep them looking their best. "The cost of wood and wood products continues to rise. The rise in cost is also fueling a demand for longer life for wood products," said Michael Williams, group vice president, marketing, RPM Wood Finishes Group. "Coatings play a key role in protecting wood for a longer life while maintaining appearance and aesthetics."
Whatever the ultimate end use for a wood coatings is, however, doesn't change the product's basic performance requirements. "Factors driving demand are the requirements for increased performance, improved speed and productivity and also a reduction in environmental impact," said John Crawley, technical director, Chemcraft International, Winston Salem, NC.
Parents often tell their children to "take it outside" when activities get a little rough for the family room. Wood coatings chemists must have heard this expression a lot because they continue to develop new wood coatings products for exterior applications such as siding, outdoor furniture, decks, sheds, fences and docks.
With such a wide range of applications demanding top-of-the-line wood coatings to preserve and protect, some wood coatings manufacturers have developed wood coatings that can be used on more than one surface. One common combination is products designed for both wood siding and decks.
Duron expanded its professional line of premium stain products last month with the introduction of Maxwood Deck & Siding stain. "What really sets Maxwood Deck & Siding apart is that it is fortified with Flood's E-B Emulsa Bond technology, a unique oil/latex technology that combines the penetration, durability and hardness of an oil-based product with the easy clean-up of latex which has been used by professionals to protect wood for more than 30 years," said Gene Merrill, Duron's director of product development.
"The renaissance of wood decks is returning to the market," said Pat Coughlin, product manager, The Flood Company. "Consumers are spending more time outdoors."
Mr. Holman of the RPM Wood Finishes Group said decks are gaining more visibility within the market. "Wood deck coatings are certainly a coating type that has recently received greater attention. Again, better performing products have been the trend in this market. The visibility of decks has increased as well as the complexity and appearance," he said.
To address the deck craze, True Value has added semi-transparent and solid color deck stains to its line of Woodsman products. Both the Woodsman solid color acrylic deck stain and Woodsman semi-transparent acrylic deck and siding stain are acrylic, latex-based products that "will have longer longevity than oil-based products," said Dave Vermilya, product manager, True Value manufacturing.
Wolman Wood Care Products' newest wood coating product for decks is targeted at the high-end market. "Wolman Extreme was developed for people who want their deck to look like a piece of furniture," said Chris Karman, vice president and general manager, Wolman Wood Care Products, a division of William Zinsser Company. Offering a "coffee table look," Mr. Karman said Wolman Extreme costs approximately 50-75% more than the average product. "We are finding that more and more people are willing to spend more money for high-end products that offer a furniture-type finish."
New from The Flood Company are two products–a semi-transparent deck and siding stain and a solid color deck and siding stain–that combine the best assets of proven technologies. "In the stain category, we have been leveraging our expertise in penetrating oils and merging this with acrylic technology to introduce a stain that delivers outstanding peel resistance for decks," said Mr. Coughlin. "It blends the penetrating and adhesion benefits of an oil finish with the color retention and flexibility qualities of a latex finish."
While many consumers think of these products when it comes to new decks, the right product can help bring an older deck back to life. "Every year more and more people are aware that they can do something to restore their decks," said Mr. Karman of Wolman Wood Care Products. "They don't have to allow their deck to stay grey or apply a solid-color stain. There are ways to restore decks using toned and semi-transparent products that offer natural finishes. Solid colors still have some problems when applied to decks. Some people do not want the wood covered permanently, so they opt for tone or semi-transparent finishes."
Other manufacturers, however, contend that more consumers are turning to solid-color finishes. "Homeowners who have decks that were built 15 to 20 years ago want to cover up wood and give their deck a new look," said Mr. Coughlin. "These solid-color stains have become very popular for aesthetic purposes." The Flood Company offers its Solid Color Deck & Siding stain for consumers wishing to go that route.
"Many consumers are looking for solid-color stains that coordinate with their siding and exterior accents," said Mr. Merrill. To take advantage of this trend, Duron's Maxwood Deck and Siding stain is offered in a self-priming solid color and a semi-transparent formula.
Introduced in March 2000 was Sikkens Rubbol solid stain, a product for the exterior wood stain market that is available in 53 colors. "It requires little maintenance and covers most surfaces in a single coat," said Lisa Kamp, product manager, Akzo Nobel decorative coatings. "A blend of alkyd resins, natural oils and high quality pigments provide excellent protection against UV rays, chalking and moisture damage."
Consumers can coordinate white homes with white decks using True Value's new Woodsman solid color acrylic deck stain, which will begin shipping next month. "Solid color deck stains are becoming very popular with more than three million decks being built annually," said Mr. Vermilya.
Wood coatings firms have also noticed a growing need for products that address the concerns about tannin and offer alternatives to applying a primer. Scheduled for release during the second quarter for the professional segment is Flood's Tannin Guard. "There is a concern about tannin when staining new redwood or cedar," said Mr. Coughlin. "Users want the character of the wood to show through the stain. This is an alternative to a paint primer, which covers up the wood."
Duron has addressed the tannin issue with its launch of Maxwood Siding & Trim, which is available in a solid-color 100% acrylic formula and solid-color and semi-transparent VOC compliant alkyd formulas. "Maxwood Siding & Trim, for use on vertical surfaces exclusively, is a breathable coating," said Mr. Merrill. "It's designed to resist fading and peeling. Another key attribute of Maxwood Siding & Trim is its resistance to tannin bleed, so that when two topcoats are applied, there's no need to use a primer."
While in the U.S. it is the deck market that continues to report strong growth, in the UK, the hot spot is the garden market. "The garden products sector continues to experience sizeable growth in the UK," said Donna Waites, Sadolin's marketing manager. "This is fueled by consumer lifestyle trends influenced by the media, which has seen the garden becoming an extension of the home with a variety of colors being introduced."
Ms. Waites said brown is no longer the standard for garden wood. "Choice of bold, fashionable colors and more traditional wood tones is another important factor, especially in the garden where television programs and magazines are encouraging people to be more adventurous," she said.
Last fall, Sadolin introduced its In the Garden range, formulated with waterborne technology, to independent garden centers. Comprised of four products–Rough Timber Care, Smooth Timber Care, Hardwood Garden Furniture Finish and Timber Preserver–the range is the only completely waterborne garden range in the market, according to the company.
Also suitable for the garden is Sadolin Clean & Protect, "a revolutionary three-in-one approach to treating weathered garden wood using water from a hose to clean, color and protect," said Ms. Waites. The product can be used on fences, sheds and decks.
In Canada, Swing Paints has introduced Circa 1850 exterior varnish, a product developed for the Canadian marine industry to coat marina docks damaged by winter storms. "Our company has just begun to address the outdoor market with the introduction of our Circa 1850 exterior varnish," said Mark Chaimberg, vice president, Swing Paints Corp., Montreal. "We tend to see this market veering towards a more natural look for their exterior wood, thus we have created a coating that will enhance the beauty of their docks by accentuating the wood that they have used in their construction while protecting it from the elements."
During development of Circa 1850 exterior varnish, Mr. Chaimberg said the goal was "to design a varnish that could withstand the extreme temperatures and sun exposure of docks on Lake Ontario. The result is a clear touch coating that protects and beautifies all exterior wood surfaces. This marine grade varnish uses a unique polymerized tung oil formula to provide a breathable, water-repellent surface that will weather all the elements," he added.
Going Back in Time
Log homes might not conjure up the notion of modernization, especially with our entrance into the 21st century. But there has actually been a growing interest in log homes in North America. "Log homes have become more popular in the late 1990s, and the trend continues to grow," said Ms. Kamp of Akzo Nobel.
According to the National Association of Home Builders' Log Homes Council, there are more than 400,000 log homes within the U.S. and Canada, and numbers are rising. Annual production of log home packages rose 41% from 15,854 in 1988 to 22,412 in 1995, according to a survey by the Log Home Living Institute.
To take advantage of this growing trend, this spring Akzo Nobel will unveil Sikkens Cetol Log Decor, an interior translucent waterborne satin that will provide color and finish in one product. "It is ideal for use on interior wood surfaces such as logs, paneling, ceilings, doors and furniture," said Ms. Kamp. "It has exceptional flow when applied to the log surface. The translucent finish allows maximum visibility of the natural wood grain on all types of woodwork."
While wood coatings targeted for exterior applications may experience high and low sale periods, the interior market can stay hot year-round. Although market research indicates that housing starts will decline over the next few years–1.9 million housing starts are projected for 2004–this shouldn't spell despair for wood coatings manufacturers. The Freedonia Group reports that the average size of homes in the U.S. will continue to increase, and buyers of larger, more expensive homes tend to spend more on furniture. According to The Freedonia Group, demand for coatings for wood furniture and fixtures will rise from 82 million gallons in 1999 to 100 million gallons in 2004.
"In the furniture market, environmental issues are always important while maintaining ease of application and appearance," said Mr. Crawley of Chemcraft. "Trends seem to be to use higher solids materials and the use of some water-based products."
"We have seen greater international competition and new finishing assembly techniques to compete with the foreign market," said Mr. Holman of RPM Wood Finishes Group. "There is also a trend to supply coatings and styling to the foreign market as furniture manufacturers form liaisons with foreign manufacturers."
New from the CIN is AcrylCIN, developed for the wood furniture and door markets. "The main benefits are a result of its UV curing and pistol application, which mean immediate drying and easy and fast application," said João Fonseca, product manager, wood coatings, CIN.
Developed for wood furniture, furnishings, molding and wood trim applications is Minwax's new line of water-based wood finishing products. Available in 66 different stain colors, including traditional wood tones and contemporary decorator colors, the new product line is easy-to-use, fast-drying and offers soap and water clean-up, according to the company.
"The rich colors in this special collection create a timeless appeal that is always in style, with professional results every time," said Bob Hammond, category director for Minwax and Formby's. "Now homeowners can add a designer's touch to their home with wood stains that accentuate the wood grain and add color to punctuate the decor."
Another growth area in the wood market is flooring. The Freedonia Group estimates that the floor market for wood coatings and sealers will rise from $278 million in 1999 to $400 million in 2004.
"The biggest factor here in the wood flooring market is abrasion resistance," said Mr. Crawley of Chemcraft. "We have made tremendous strides into this market by providing systems with exceptional abrasion resistance while maintaining adhesion and flexibility."
Swing Paints' Circa 1850 Bowling Alley polyurethane has proven that it is suitable for high traffice areas. "Having sold this product to a school district to redo their gymnasiums, we know that it is fit to take on even the toughest customers," said Mr. Chaimberg. "Our customers are looking for a polyurethane that is easy to use, has no or little odor, is durable, and can dry quickly for multiple recoats in the same day. And the fact that it is non-yellowing and extremely low odor is unique for a solvent-based system."
Sprucing Up Storage Units
While cabinets are usually utilitarian in nature–storing toys, books, clothes, food and towels, there has been a trend to spruce up their look a bit and make them part of a home's decor. "Kitchen and bath cabinets have both entered the market of fine furniture," said Mr. Shore of RPM. "The homeowner continues to expect woodwork in these areas of the home to be as serviceable and durable as past finishes have been."
In this segment, the two key issues coatings manufacturers must address are speed and environmental impact. "Speed is being dealt with by the use of UV coatings, and the environment by both UV and waterborne materials. Formaldehyde issues can also be addressed by these technologies," Mr. Crawley said.
Waterborne systems are also becoming more popular for cabinets. "Waterborne finishes are used quite successfully in spray-applied, vacuum coat and curtain-coat settings," said Mr. Shore of RPM Wood Finishes Group. "Even electrostatic methods can be used with waterborne products by isolating the 'charged' paint from the operator."
Customization is also affecting the cabinet market. Mr. Holman of RPM Wood Finishes Group said they have seen a "greater complexity of finishing to yield furniture type finishes. In the high-end market, another trend is color customization."
RPM Wood care has developed a line of acid catalyzed acrylic conversion varnishes for a range of interior applications such as office furniture, institutional furniture and kitchen and bath cabinets. "These are new introductions that offer similar performance to conventional acid-catalyzed clears but with much greater resistance to yellowing and residence to plasticizer migration from vinyl upholstery," said Mr. Holman.
Also from RPM Wood care is a line of two component waterborne urethanes offering "similar performance to their solvent counterparts but with very low VOC content," said Mr. Holman. These coatings are also targeted at the office furniture and kitchen cabinet markets.
Akzo Nobel introduced a reformulated version of Cetol BL Interior Clears last spring. Developed for the interior clear wood market, Ms. Kamp said Cetol BL interiors clears "presents a 'water-clear' finish that enhances the natural beauty of the wood." It also provides a durable and scratch-resistant finish for interior surfaces, resists yellowing and is easy to clean up.
Like the architectural coatings market, the wood coatings market has been impacted by the home improvement craze. And manufacturers are reporting strong growth rates for the DIY market.
"Consumer demand for high quality products is something that never goes out of style," said Mr. Chaimberg of Swing Paints. "The DIY market has become more demanding–they are no longer merely swayed by price. They are looking for fast dry, low odor, water clean-up if possible, durable and easy-to-use products. There is a trend towards higher end products that will last longer and perform better."
"We've seen good, steady growth in the DIY market," said Mr. Coughlin of Flood. "In the deck segment, consumers are looking for help in finding out about the right steps to take and preparation tips in order to get a long lasting finishing. They are concerned about the longevity of the coatings they apply to their deck."
Mr. Williams of the RPM Wood Finishes Group said oil-based products continue to be a favorite among consumers. "The DIY market favors the traditional oil-based products because of their forgiving and easy-to-use properties," Mr. Williams said. "The water-based stain products have received more attention from manufacturers, but the inherent problems of grain raise and lapping continue to hold demand back in this product segment.
Just as in other paint segments, manufacturers rank application and environmental impact as key concerns of consumers when purchasing wood coatings. "The growing demand for wood care products is due to consumers increasingly looking for products that offer a quality look and lasting result, and are easy-to-use with little mess, quick drying, harmless to plants and animals, and allow brushes to be washed out in water," said Ms. Waites of Sadolin.
"Demand for our Varathane oil and water-based floor finishes continues to be very strong, reflecting the desire of DIYers to keep their wood floors looking beautiful," said Mr. Williams.
RPM Wood Finishes Group's latest introduction to the DIY market is Varathane Renewal, "the first no-sanding way to refinish worn and dull wood floors," said Mr. Williams. The system's semi-gloss formula received praise from Consumer Reports for refinishing less-worn floors that are only dulled and scuffed. (See "Flecto's Varathane Tops Floor Varnish Rankings," p. 40). Mr. Williams said this system incorporates a unique three-step process that allows a consumer to refinish a typical room in less than three hours with no special equipment or experience. Consumer Reports' tests also showed that this system left a smooth finish without brush marks, bubbles and scored well in the abrasion resistance test. According to Consumer Reports, it matched the best conventional varnishes in spill damage and UV resistance, and is described as "a worthwhile choice for small rooms where the floor isn't worn enough to require sanding."
Among the advantages offered by Varathane Renewal are "the elimination of the mess from sanding, quick and easy to use and the chance for a consumer to save hundreds of dollars per room versus hiring a wood floor finishing contractor," Mr. Williams added.
Recognizing that the DIY market requires more than just high-quality wood finishes, coatings firms have designed product displays intended to catch shoppers' eyes.
Mr. Vermilya reported that True Value's Wood Care Center continues to receive a good response from both co-op members and consumers. "With our new platinum level True Value Paint Shop being introduced, which the Wood Care Center is part of, we anticipate an even larger response in 2001. Also, our enhanced co-op program will help members in the cost of the Wood Care Center," he said.
The RPM Wood Finishes Group also designed a retail display intended to offer consumers one-stop shopping for all of their refinishing needs. "Having a Varathane floor finishing center which brings all of the products you need to refinish a floor (sander, sand paper and coatings) has helped DIYers to get all the things they need to do their project," said Mr. Williams.
Time is also a factor when it comes to DIY products. Consumers looking to redecorate their homes usually prefer to undertake projects that can be completed in one or two weekends, avoiding projects that could become a month-long nightmare. Minwax has published Easy Weekend Projects, a booklet containing refinish projects that will make old furniture look brand new and "bring the beauty of wood into the home." The guide also offers some tips from Norm Abram, host of "The New Yankee Workshop."
As in other paint markets, customer satisfaction stands as a key to building relationships and keeping consumers loyal to your brand. If consumers purchase a product that doesn't live up to the advanced billing found on a label, they'll move on to another brand. To help take the guesswork out of product selection and win over consumers, wood coatings manufacturers are introducing warranties and guarantees to insure customers they will be happy with the product's performance.
"We are the only company that offers a guarantee for every product that we sell," said Mr. Karman of Wolman Wood Care, who noted that the company's guarantees vary depending on the particular product. Wolman Extreme, the company's newest product for the deck market, comes with a two-year guarantee against fading and greying.
"Flood has noticed that guarantees make a stronger statement than warranties when consumers make product selections; guarantees are seen as an endorsement of quality," said Mr. Coughlin. "Guarantees against peeling make a strong statement." Flood offers a three-year guarantee against fading and peeling on decks and siding for its semi-transparent Deck & Siding stain, while Flood's solid color Deck & Siding stain is guaranteed against peeling for five years on decks and 15 years on siding.
"Consumers are constantly looking for ways to distinguish between levels of quality and performance among the many product offerings," said Mr. Merrill of Duron.
In the (Wood) Works
Regardless of whether wood coatings manufacturers are focusing on new product development for growing markets or improving the performance and application characteristics of their current products, they know R&D efforts can lead to greater market share. What can we expect to see from leading wood coatings firms in the coming months? If R&D efforts are any indication, UV and water-based products will be popping up in many markets.
"Ultraviolet-cure products continue to intrigue the industry," said Mr. Shore. "Early UV cure products were either too high in viscosity to be applied by conventional means or solvent-reduction was necessary. Today, 100% UV curable products, either spray-applied, dipped, or vacuum-coated, are available. There are several truly amazing features of the UV curable products–there are literally no VOC emissions, the resistance properties of the film are outstanding, the spread-rate is as great as 6,400-sq.-ft. per gallon, immediate cure and few losses since the wet material cannot cure until it 'sees' the proper UV energy."
Chemcraft's "swap" with Canadian-based Sico Inc. will strengthen the company's UV coating range "by providing technology using 100% solids for a variety of conventional and innovative wood technologies," said Mr. Crawley. (For more information on the swap, see p. 10).
"Chemcraft is also working on UV for open grain applications, 100% solids UV for spray and vacuum, waterborne high performance systems, and also novel curing technologies," he continued. "All these products stress speed, performance and the environment as primary issues."
Among the areas of focus for the RPM Wood Finishes Group are UV cure floor coatings with improved performance and waterborne technologies; improved performance in DIY floor coatings and interior project coatings; and zero VOC spray application UV materials, according to the company.
Mr. Shore said improvements in water-based technology will lead to more waterborne wood finishes. "The real focus for wood coatings will be toward better performance and greater environmental friendliness," said Mr. Shore. "Waterborne developments will continue to fill unexpected gaps in the total waterborne system. Solutions to the issue of grain-raising for water contact to wood substrates will also lead to new opportunities in waterborne wood finishes schedules."
"Our R&D efforts are always focused on enhancement in water-based technology, which in turn improve product performance and application," said Mr. Merrill of Duron. "The most recent enhancements in water-based technology have really opened the door to improved durability of our exterior wood coatings, such as the tannin bleed resistance in the Maxwood Siding and Trim."
Mr. Chaimberg said Swing Paints is looking into future production of water-based coatings as one means of meeting consumer demand for better, easier-to-use products. "We are currently investigating ways to make better products that will last longer and provide the consumer with the ease-of-use they are demanding," said Mr. Chaimberg. "Our primary concern is producing coatings that are of the highest quality at the best price. We are also keeping an eye on the ever-changing trend in color and fashion as we look to bring out products that meet the needs of our customers."
Still other firms plan to improve existing products and technology. Mr. Karman said Wolman Wood Care plans to introduce an improved Wolman F&P to the market within the next 30 to 60 days. "We are using a new technology that gives it 100% better color retention," he explained. "More people look at color retention, and we have been focusing on it for the past few years."
At PPG Industrial Finishes, efforts are being made on reducing customers' cycles and environmental compliance. "Our R&D efforts focus on technologies that offer improved physical properties at the lowest cost possible," said Mark Wolff, director of market development, Industrial Finishes, PPG Industries. "Cycle time and environmental compliance are also very important."
Cabinets, Floors, Siding and More
Do you currently manufacture wood finishes for the cabinet market and want to know the state of the cabinet industry? Or maybe you are active in the wood siding industry and are concerned about competition from other materials? Below is some market information on the wood siding, wood flooring, cabinet, furniture and log home markets.