The wood coatings market is dependent on one thing: the use of wood in all types of consumer durables. As a group, DIY homeowners, contractors, fine furniture makers, cabinetry companies and even engineered wood manufacturers are the driving force behind just how many gallons of wood coatings will be sold and applied to decks, wood floors, dining tables and more around the world.
Regardless if the customer's name is Ethan Allen, Andersen Windows or John Q. Public, each have a common bond: customers want products that combine ease of use and environmental friendliness with economics, appearance and performance. Are today's coating manufacturers up to the challenge?
It Better Be Quick
In the deck coating market, cleaning is key to maintenance and is an important step to take before protecting the surface with any type of coating. And it should come as no surprise that in our fast-paced society, homeowners and contractors are demanding faster working products.
To this end, wood coatings manufacturers have developed new products that can be used on damp and wet wood. For homeowners, these products mean a faster switch from DIY to R&R. For contractors, it can mean more money in their pockets as they can schedule more jobs.
To answer the needs for quick maintenance and protection, The Flood Company will add a new product to the FloodPro Spa-N-Deck 100% acrylic wood finish line this spring. Spa-N-Deck base coat is a deep penetrating neutral toned oil/acrylic bond coat that can be applied directly on wet wood prior to the application of FloodPro Spa-N-Deck 100% acrylic finish.
Thompson's, too, is launching a new product that can also be applied on freshly cleaned surfaces. New Thompson's Water Seal Advanced waterproofers are one-coat, water-based products sold in clear-multi-surface, natural wood protector and five shades of tinted wood protector, according to the company.
Victoria Scarborough, who heads the R&D staff at The Thompson's Company, noted the performance attributes of the new line. "Each of the new Advanced waterproofer formulas has achieved the highest level water repellant score of any product of its kind, based on the industry's yardstick for testing waterproofing effectiveness," said Dr. Scarborough. "In fact, the combination of the patented technologies has resulted in a new line with a waterproofing formula that cannot be duplicated by any other manufacturer."
Thompson's sister brand Minwax has also added a quick-results product. New Minwax super fast-drying polyurethane, on shelves since Sept. 2001, is an oil-based product that dries 25% faster than regular polyurethanes, according to the company. "We've tested this new product with Minwax wood finish stains and gel stains and the results are professional and consistent," commented Bob Hammond, category director, wood care group, Minwax.
UK-based Rustins will soon launch a quick drying slip-resistant floor coating. The product had been in a year-long market test at several ballet schools, according to R.E. Rustin, managing director.
A Market Rebound?
Bringing a new product to market is a daunting task. But in tough economic times, getting consumers to buy can be just as difficult. Many home improvement projects are put on hold when families feel the financial pinch.
Wolman Wood Care, which monitors online resources, says talk among contractors is that although people may have postponed their deck cleaning and coating duties last spring and summer, there are signs that the market should turn around.
"The word is getting out there that (homeowners) have to do something or they'll end up buying a new deck or fence," said Rick Mendenhall, Wolman certified contractor manager, Wolman Wood Care Products.
That turnaround will no doubt be important to Wolman's bottom line. The company relies heavily on contractor purchases, as its products are sold mainly in paint stores. Its top competitor, Thompson's-part of the Sherwin-Williams stable--is sold at Home Depot, Lowe's and other big box outlets where DIY customers tend to shop.
With its business stemming from some 8,000 "certified" contractors, Wolman benefits from this group's loyalty, according to Mr. Mendenhall. "With contractors, once they get on a product, they stick with it," he said.
But that doesn't mean contractors are averse to change. Over the past few years, companies have reported that more contractors are switching to water-based products. "Water-based is easier to use-not to say that oil is going out the window," Mr. Mendenhall said, adding that the majority of Wolman's products are oil-based.
The Flood Company agrees that oil remains steady in the market. "Roughly 40% of the exterior clear wood finish market is conventional oil because of performance and application advantages as well as contractor preference," said Pat Coughlin. However, Flood contends certain areas such as southern California and Maricopa County, AZ, are starting to rely more on products featuring advanced waterborne technology, "proving it can deliver reliable performance," said Mr. Coughlin.
As industry insiders know, wood coatings manufacturers are grappling with increasing environmental pressures stemming from new and future regulations. Meeting these new rules brings formulation and pricing challenges for all companies, big and small.
"New regulations lowering VOCs are anticipated for California regions in 2002 and 2003, as well as many mid-Atlantic and northeastern states by 2005. In fact, many existing formulas will soon be legislated out of existence," said Janet Krakow, category director, The Thompson's Company. "Higher solids formulas often contain more mildew-promoting oils and demand higher material costs and water-based formulas can be challenging to make water-repellent," she added.
Regulations are also affecting companies outside the U.S. "We have been forced, by legislation, to produce more of our products as quick drying waterborne finishes," said Mr. Rustin.
While companies like Rustins work to add more waterborne products to their roster, each is keenly interested to see how new regulations will affect sales of their oil-based offerings. "As of July this year, all finishes containing 25% or more of white spirits have to be marked with a 'Danger to the Environment' symbol, and we do not know how this will affect sales of some of our most popular products, including Danish Oil," Mr. Rustin added.
Recognizing the need to make products that deliver what the market demands and what regulators require, coatings manufacturers have focused their R&D efforts toward these goals. "In order to meet the demanding performance characteristics, we are having to design finishes that blend high performance acrylic technology with emulsified oil technology to deliver penetration and adhesion," said Mr. Coughlin of The Flood Company. (Looking for new raw material technology for your wood coatings? See below).
This new addition to Coatings World contains a select group of new raw materials formulated specifically for wood coatings. For more information on the products listed here, contact the companies directly.
An acrylic emulsion for wood coatings, sealers and topcoats, it is a one package, self-crosslinking acrylic emulsion that is non-formaldehyde emitting with excellent clarity, low foaming and excellent cold check resistance. A key use is for coatings that require resistance to various chemicals. Contact: Johnson Polymer, (800) 231-7868; Fax: (800) 437-3266; Web: www.johnsonpolymer.com.
An acrylic emulsion for wood coatings and hardboard primers, it exhibits low minimum film forming temperature, yet offers excellent block resistance. This polymer is ideally suited for high PVC primers over hardboard and composite wood substrates. Contact: Johnson Polymer, (800) 231-7868; Fax: (800) 437-3266; Web: www.johnsonpolymer.com.
This hydroxyl-functional acrylic emulsion is for acid-catalyzed, low-temperature-curing wood finishes, such as low VOC topcoats for kitchen cabinets. Excellent print, mar, block, chemical and humidity resistance. Unique balance of stability, pot life and cure speed. Low formaldehyde. Contact: Rohm and Haas, Janet Ziegler, (215) 592-3884, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ceridust TP 5091 and Ceridust TP 6721
Ceridust TP 5091 features an entirely new wax chemistry by making a Montan ester wax UV-reactive. Thus, this new molecule is enabled to polymerize in any given UV-cured coating system. As the wax is linked to the polymer matrix there is little to no migration to the surface of the coating. Benefits include long lasting improvement of scratch and mar resistance, slip and abrasion resistance and increased water and chemical resistance. Ceridust TP 6721 is a newly designed amide-modified polypropylene blend providing excellent surface lubricity and scratch resistance. Due to the high content of originally polymerized polypropylene wax, temperature stability is excellent for many applications. Contact: Clariant, Mike Harris, (800) 411 -7113; E-mail: email@example.com.
Ceridust 3831 is a slightly oxidized, modified polyethylene wax. This product is an efficient way to impart outstanding surface slip without affecting the gloss properties of powder coatings. Since it contains no PTFE, it is an affordable alternative to PTFE-modified products while offering the same or better performance. Contact: Clariant, Mike Harris, (800) 411 -7113; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This unique micronized Montan ester wax shows various extraordinary properties when applied in powder coatings. Pigment dispersion and feed rate can be improved significantly due to its polar chemistry and excellent compatibility with typical binder systems. It will not show haze on the surface of the coating. Contact: Clariant, Mike Harris, (800) 411 -7113; E-mail: email@example.com.
Sanduvor 3326 powder UV-absorber is for all kind of clear coats, varnishes and glazes. Due to its favorable absorption curve, it gives the best substrate protection. Compared to traditional benzotriazoles, it gives better UV-A shielding. Contact: Clariant, Mel Wilson, (704) 331 7035, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Season Approaches
As the next exterior wood care maintenance season approaches, companies are launching new products for the DIY/professional market that not only incorporate new raw material technologies, but also address style elements and trends stemming from the growing "outdoor" living category.
In the U.S., Ace will add a new latex solid color deck stain to its Ace WoodRoyal exterior stain line. "As decks age, homeowners find that solid deck stain provides an attractive alternative to clear or semi-transparent finishes for their decks," said Jane Brill, marketing promotion manager. Sold in four ready-mix colors and 60 custom shades, Ace expects the latex product will win over DIY users with its easy clean-up attributes and wide selection of colors.
Resene, based in New Zealand, has added a trio of new wood coatings-related products, including new waterborne Woodsman exterior wood stain and waterborne Color-wood interior wood stain ranges. "Both color ranges include bright, limed and traditional colors satisfying customer demand for the non-traditional bright and limed hues," said Karen Warman, marketing manager, Resene.
The Woodsman series of 38 shades includes Totem Pole red and Embers orange as well as more traditional cedar, all of which impart color but allow the wood's grain to show through. The company is currently touting test samples of the product through its web site. In addition, Resene now offers Kwila decking stain, a solventborne product for new or old Kwila, cedar and other exterior timber decks and furniture. It can be applied with a brush, spray or roller to stain or rejuvenate wood surfaces.
Still, not every company is convinced it needs to offer wood coatings for every niche of the exterior market. For example, Rustins decided not to add deck finishes to its roster. "We did not feel that the market in England was going to be consistent because of our bad weather and some of our customers have told us that deck finishes are not selling," said Mr. Rustin. (The UK's love affair with gardening is having a positive affect on some wood care niches. See "Garden Variety," on p. 37.)
Seed companies and hoe fabricators are not the only ones benefiting from the popularity of gardening. Garden-specific care products that impart color, offer protection and even novel packaging are some of the newest entries sprouting up from wood coatings manufacturers in the UK.
Rustins now offers garden furniture oil, which contains UV absorbers and fungicide protection, two key raw materials for this type of application.
Cuprinol has also added new products for garden aficionados. The company, which says it is the top seller in garden wood care in the UK, has added new shades to its Ducksback line, a hardwood garden furniture oil and a new rollable shed and fence treatment. The latter enables consumers to dip a special roller directly into the container, eliminating the need for a separate paint tray or pan.
While companies selling to DIYers and contractors rely on consumer loyalty and home decor trends to increase their odds for success, on the industrial side of the wood coatings market, forging relationships is key, say many industry executives.
Customers are demanding more from their suppliers, and for wood coatings companies this often means going beyond simply supplying stains. A coatings manufacturer must be able to offer guidance and expertise to their customers in many areas.
One area in which this trend has been most visible has been in the switch to new environmentally sound technologies. Although sales of water-based products are moving swiftly in the consumer market, the technology had been slower to take hold in the industrial wood coatings market. Customers were comfortable with solvent-based technology, its performance and finishing results on their furniture, cabinetry and windows and engineered wood building products. However, solvent emission regulations-combined with increasing competition-are forcing wood product manufacturers to explore and incorporate new technologies into their manufacturing processes.
"Because of tough competition in the furniture industry, our customers need a tight relationship with suppliers that can be the partner for all technical issues concerning lacquering techniques and in the question of changing their production lines to fulfill the coming EU regulations on solvent emissions," said Jarmo Porokuokka, business manager for wood finishes at Tikkurila.
To help furniture manufacturers make that switch, Tikkurila has launched Luminol, a line of water-based UV-curing paint and lacquers for furniture and kitchen manufacturers with outstanding chemical and mechanical resistance, according to Mr. Porokuokka.
Albert Wells, vice president and general manager, protective products division, Kop-Coat Inc, said partnerships in some industrial wood care markets can mean selling other wares. More than ever, companies need to tailor products and services they offer, addressing the entire application/manufacturing process. In addition to its traditional wood coatings/wood care products, Kop-Coat also provides equipment to some of its customers, according to Mr. Wells.
Speed and increased demand for pre-finished products are other factors affecting the relationship between wood coatings manufacturers and their industrial customers.
"The building industry is asking for faster and faster solutions," said Mr. Porokuokka. "This has led to a module-of-components thinking in Scandinavian markets."
Mr. Porokuokka also pointed to the growing popularity of ready-to-use, ready-painted wooden components such as wooden panels or wooden moldings for interior or exterior use.
Another market that holds potential for industrial coatings is engineered wood products, many of which are being sold with factory applied finishes and protection. Building products-giant Georgia-Pacific recently added two new colors to its Mount Vernon pre-finished decorative wall products line. The Mount Vernon line features a medium density fiberboard (MDF) substrate with a simulated wood grain and a decorative finish. (The panels are finished with a product called Acryglas topcoat, according to Georgia-Pacific.)
Another engineered wood product might provide avenues for further growth. Oriented strand board (OSB), a product similar to plywood which is made with waterproof heat-cured adhesives and shaped wood strands, is used in commercial and residential construction. OSB is also seeing increased acceptance with upholstered furniture makers, according to APA, the Engineered Wood Association, based in Tacoma, WA.
According to Mr. Wells, manufacturers of OSB are making products water-repellant and rot-resistant in the factory-and could turn to specialized coatings manufacturers for solutions. The result is music to a wood coatings manufacturer's ears. "It is a developing market," Mr. Wells said, "and the potential is very great."
West European Industrial Wood Coatings
Summary of Changing Market by Technology
2000 to 2005
(Tons and Percentage Share of Market)