Wood Coatings Market

By Kerry Pianoforte | August 10, 2005

How will upcoming VOC legislation and the ban on CCA-treated wood affect the wood coatings industry?

While the wood coatings market is keeping a careful eye on increasingly strict environmental legislation, including the demand for low-VOC coatings and the impending ban on CCA-treated wood, the market is growing as demand for new innovative products remains high. A healthy housing market fueled by all-time low interest rates and an increased preoccupation of consumers with beautifying and redecorating their homes inside and out, has led wood coatings manufacturers to focus on developing high performance water-based products that offer new color options.

Regulatory pressures, shifting demand for water-based products over oil and low-VOC limitations are some of the greatest challenges facing the wood coatings industry today. "All of these issues force the reformulating of proven products and making compliant all Cabot products," said Gregg Riskin, vice president marketing, Cabot. "Cabot has water-based formulations for virtually all oil products. We have reformulated to meet all VOC regulations without detriment to quality. And naturally, we must also remain vigilant of the changing face of retail."

The change in formulation is, in part, led by consumers' desire to have easier to use products. "The move from solvent-based to water-based coatings has been consumer led," agreed Mark Burgin, marketing manager, Ronseal.

In response to this demand, many companies are investing R&D time into developing compliant products that will be both cost effective and high performing. Ronseal has developed Quick Drying woodstain, the first water-based exterior range available in the UK; Quick Drying Varnish, and Quick Drying Floor Varnish, a water-based, high-performance coating for timber floors.

"One of the biggest factors that is looming over the wood coatings market is the potential VOC regulations," said Bob Hammond, category director, Minwax. "Right now it is hard to say exactly where those regulations are going to net out. They are looking to put constraints that could be very challenging. In some cases, the technology to comply does not exist. As a result of this, we have been investing in R&D to develop low-VOC products that will perform to consumers and contractors expectations."

The company's efforts have led to a new water-based polyurethane for floors. According to Mr. Hammond, the formulation enables consumers to take advantage of the benefits of a water-based coating-fast dry time, low odor and low VOC�and an oil-based coating-durability and warmth and richness of color. "This new product is two to four times more durable than competitive products and currently available in the DIY channel of trade," he added.

VOC regulation is not the only environmental legislation affecting wood coatings. With the upcoming ban on chromated copper arsenate (CCA)-treated wood for residential use in 2004, consumers are becoming aware of the detrimental effects of exposure to arsenate. Currently the EPA recommends that existing decks and other outdoor structures built with this pressure-treated wood be protected with a regular application of an oil-based coating. As such, the demand for these protective finishes is expected to increase. The Flood Company reports that several of its products, including CWF-UV clear wood finish, FloodPro penetrating oil and Seasonite are effective in protecting consumers from exposure. "In many cases our wood finishes are able to substantially reduce exposure," said Pat Coughlin, manager product development, The Flood Company.

"The biggest factor affecting the wood coating market today is the change from CCA pressure-treated wood formula to new alternative formulas such as alkaline copper quat and copper azole," said Rick Mendenhall, manager, Wolman Certified Contractor Program. "We have been testing these new formulas to make sure our products will continue to preserve and protect wood into the future."

An increased interest in home decorating has created demand for a variety of new colors for wood coatings.

Housing Boom
Favorable housing markets, both in the U.S. and in areas such as Britain, have contributed to an increased demand for wood coatings.

"We have seen tremendous strength in the housing market," said Mr. Hammond. "We have benefited from the strength of the housing market due to strong housing sales and low interest rates. It benefits our business when people invest in their homes."

"Market demand has been buoyed by a very active house market in the UK, where levels of property purchases continue to rise despite inflationary prices," said Mr. Burgin of Ronseal. "Another key influence on the consumer is a plethora of television programs featuring room makeovers, DIY and gardening."

According to Mr. Burgin, DIY product development at Ronseal has driven sector growth in the areas of color and increased convenience and ease-of-use in interior and exterior wood care.

Gardencare, its new exterior woodcare offering, consists of four products, garden furniture stain, hardwood furniture stain, hardwood furniture oil and Fencelife. The products are available in eight colors including rustic oak, autumn redwood and contemporary colors such as summer sage and harbor blue.

Time-saving products that dry quickly and can be applied in a single coat are also becoming popular. Spa-N-Deck basecoat, The Flood Company's newest product, is part of a three-coat system that is specially formulated to be applied directly to a wet surface, saving contractors and DIYers time. "It's really beautifully suited for new wood applications," said Mr. Coughlin.

Flood has also developed Easy Mix E-B Emulsa-Bond, a stir-in bonding primer formulated for exterior wood. It's ideal for chalky or dusty surfaces and offers the time-saving benefit of being a strong bonding, mildew-resistant prime coat and first coat in a single application, according to the company.

According to Wolman, the upcoming ban on CCA-treated wood for residential use will have a significant impact on the wood coatings industry.

Not Your Mother's Brown
Today's consumers are also demanding more color options from their wood coatings. No longer satisfied with standard browns, consumers are looking for blues and reds to brighten wood products and decorate their homes.

A few years ago, Minwax launched a line of water-based wood stains with 60 custom decorator tint colors, including vibrant reds, blues, greens and yellows. "We are seeing a growth with these custom decorating colors," said Mr. Hammond. "We are seeing tremendous growth within this whole water-based stain line-including the traditional wood tone colors."

To capitalize on this trend, Minwax has added two new colors, English chestnut and Sedona red, to its Wood Finish stain line. "These are the first new colors we have launched since 1995," said Mr. Hammond. "For the last year to year and a half we looked at trends in the marketplace, such as furniture manufacturer trends and decorating trends, and identified the opportunity to launch these two new colors."

Cabot has also been busy developing new color options for its customers. "We have formulated tintable bases for all our major product lines allowing for vast selection," said Mr. Riskin. "We also have put great emphasis on developing better performing clears and natural toned products to meet consumer demand for a long-lasting natural look."

Among Cabot's latest launches is a solid color stain�Pro. V.T.�formulated exclusively for contractor use, featuring one-coat coverage, low temperature application, excellent sprayability and special packaging, said Mr. Riskin. In addition, Cabot recently launched Cabothane, a 100% acrylic urethane that imparts a rich glossy look to wood shingles, siding, doors, trim and most other exterior details.

Wolman has expanded its color offering with two new products, DuraStain semi-transparent wood stain and RainCoat water repellent with toner (natural hickory). DuraStain is an alkyd/acrylic water-based blend that provides greater longevity, durability and scuff resistance than the standard exterior oil-based stains. According to Wolman, it beautifies wood with a richly pigmented, semi-transparent finish. It is available in six premixed colors and 16 custom tints.

"DuraStain was created because of the increased desire from DIYers for a semi-transparent stain that maximizes color retention, water repellency and mildew resistance," said Mr. Mendenhall.

The new natural hickory color for Wolman RainCoat water repellent with toner line "was created from a desire to have a deeper brown color in our water-based toner line," Mr. Mendenhall said. Wolman RainCoat toner is an exterior water-based, water repellent toner product, which protects wood against water damage and mildew growth while providing UV protection.

With so many new performance- enhancing features and color options available, these new wood coatings are ready to meet the increasing demands of today's consumer.

New Wood Care Products
A variety of new woodcare products are being launched for both interior and exterior use. U.K.-based Ronseal has developed Diamond Hard varnish, its toughest interior varnish that offers consumers the ultimate in color and protection of wood in high wear areas, according to the company. The new levels of hardness and abrasion resistance achieved by Diamond Hard varnish make it more impervious to scratching, heat and water. The polyurethane formula is water-based, making it very quick drying. It is touch dry in 30 minutes and can be re-coated in 2 hours, allowing projects to be finished in one day.

Ronseal Trade Fencing and Landscaping stain protects and decorates all new rough-sawn timbers with normally one coat and gives up to 5 years color retention, according to the company. Because it is a waterborne formulation, it is quick drying and low odor, as well as being harmless to plants and animals. The high opacity, matte finish is available in 14 traditional and contemporary wood colors.

U.K.-based Sandolin has launched Clean & Protect, a new way to treat weathered garden wood. The product can be applied using a Hozelock hose end connector attached to a standard garden hose. Clean & Protect not only cleans the wood surface but also provides a translucent colored finish. This product can be used on fencing, sheds and decking and is available in clear as well as six colors.
CCA-Treated Wood Fact Sheet From Flood
In response to the EPA's 2004 ban on chromated copper arsenate (CCA)-treated lumber for residential use, The Flood Company has released a wood fact sheet to help consumers understand the risks associated with CCA-treated lumber and the steps they can take to reduce their risk of exposure.

The EPA does not recommend that consumers replace or remove existing structures. Rather, it suggests consumers take the precaution of applying an oil-based coating to exposed surfaces on a regular basis.

Flood reports that the simplest way to reduce exposure and the risk of arsenic leaching is to apply penetrating oil coatings on a regular basis to CCA-treated wood. These products include Flood's Seasonite, FloodPro Penetrating Oil and CWF-UV Clear Wood Finish.

Other suggestions listed in the fact sheet include:
Take precautions against inhaling airborne sawdust when cutting CCA-treated wood.
Never burn CCA-treated wood in open fires, stoves, fireplaces or residential boilers.
Always wash hands thoroughly after contact with any wood, especially before eating and drinking.
Never place food in direct contact with treated wood.

Structural Wood Panels and Engineered Wood Forecast
According to Jack Merry of the APA-Engineered Wood Association, U.S. and Canadian production of structural wood panels is expected to total 40.2 billion square feet in 2002. That volume will represent a three percent increase over 2001 and come close to matching the all-time production high of 40.3 billion feet set in 2000.

Mr. Merry reports that while the economy in general has dampened demand in several markets, industry production for the year will be near the record mark largely because of the surprisingly strong housing market. Residential construction accounts for approximately half of total market demand for structural panels.

According to APA's latest forecast, North American production will rise by 500 million feet to 40.7 billion in 2003, based on expectations that housing starts remain in the 1.6 million range and economic recovery will spur demand in the industrial and nonresidential construction markets.

For more information, go the APA-Engineered Wood Associations web site, www.apawood.org.

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