The Wood Coatings Market

By Kerry Pianoforte | August 11, 2005

Wood coatings manufacturers have had a tepid reaction to CCA-treated wood�s replacements. Can these new generation compounds perform as well as its predecessor?

As of December 2003, chromated copper arsenate- (CCA) pressure treated wood has been phased out for most U.S. residential uses, replaced by several chemical compound treatments, namely alkaline copper quat (ACQ) and copper azole. There has been much concern regarding the performance of these so-called "next generation" woods as compared to the time-tested CCA-treated wood.

Do They Measure Up?
Reactions to the new treated wood have been mixed. "We have found that these alternative compounds resist rot and decay like traditional CCA, but may create some undesirable side effects during the first few months of weathering," said Rick Mendenhall, technical service supervisor, Wolman. "Inherent problems most noticeable to new deck owners may be early checking, cracking or splitting, and pronounced mildew or mold formation on the surface."

According to Mendenhall, Wolman RainCoat clear water repellent-oil based formula was specifically developed for immediate application to new pressure-treated wood, and is especially helpful on the "new generation" pressure-treated lumber. "When applied right after outdoor installation, when wood is still wet from the treating process, checking, cracking or splitting is greatly reduced and mildew and mold are dramatically suppressed," he added.

A number of wood coating manufacturers have reported that they have had to reformulate their products to perform on these substrates. "Tests have proven ACQ to be an inferior material for decks and other substrates," said Greg Riskin, vice president marketing, Cabot. "Still, without many options, Cabot products have been tested, tweaked and evaluated on this new material. The results are promising in that the coatings remain superior, even though the substrate has an adverse effect on the quality of the decks being built."

Some companies have reported that their products have performed well on tests with ACQ-treated wood. "We have seen no effect due to the ban on CCA-treated wood," reported Hugo Sandberg, product marketing manager, The Flood Company. "We are testing our products with ACQ wood and have found no change in performance or incompatibilities so far."

Another issue is how these new pressure treatments accept finishes. "Research and exposure tests are under way to confirm the finish-friendliness of the new pressure-treatment methods," Sandberg added.

Not only do wood coatings manufacturers have to deal with new compounds, but they are also contending with current and impending VOC regulations.

"Water-based coatings are clearly the wave of the future for Cabot and much of the coatings industry given the continuous restrictions in the manufacturing and distribution of oil-based coatings," said Brett Reily, marketing manager, Cabot. "VOC laws that are in effect and proposed for 2005 will put significant pressures on coatings manufacturers should they consider to compete in the oil-based coatings market. This, coupled with the fact that recent water-based technologies are superior performers to their oil counterparts, make Cabot's efforts in water-based technology a necessity to grow the business."

"The greatest challenge facing consumer wood coatings manufacturers today is without question volatile organic compounds, and the legislation in place and afoot that limits amounts of VOCs in architectural coatings," agreed Riskin. "Come 2005, these companies must reach a determination regarding their direction in the marketplace. Stringent and often unreasonable legislation in California�and soon in thirteen states in the East�limit the amount of VOCs in some oil-based products below 250g/l. To understand how that translates is to say that long time- tested formulations are forced to be re-engineered in order to meet these limits."

According to Riskin, this comes at great expense of resources, raw materials and labor at the manufacturer level. "In some instances, product performance, cost and manufacturing logistics are adversely affected and it is this reality that manufacturers and marketers need to mitigate. At the state level, the varied paces and approaches to adapting to new legislation can be frustrating. Several states have proven proactive and embraced new laws whereas others are waiting for some to lead the process. As a result, we follow the leaders and anticipate others to follow suit," Riskin said.

A More Sophisticated Customer
Further challenges to makers of wood coatings come from a more demanding consumer. With a steady exposure to home remodeling and DIY shows, web sites and magazines, today's consumer is much more savvy and discriminating when choosing a wood coating.

"Today's consumer is more astute and will research product recommendations before making a purchase," said Hugo of Flood. "In addition to manufacturer's literature, the Internet is a widely used source of information. Retailers have the ability to set themselves apart by being knowledgeable about these issues and being ready to address problems and concerns that consumers may face."

These discerning consumers are demanding higher performing wood coatings, available in a wide spectrum of colors and finishes. "We are seeing an increasing use of alternative substrates such as exotic woods and composite and plastic woods," added Hugo. "These substrates each have their own unique issues. We are finding that contrary to consumer belief, composites are not maintenance free and will at some point require treatment due to issues such as mildew and or fading."

The Flood Company has added FloodPro solid color deck and siding finish and FloodPro semi-transparent penetrating oil finish to its existing penetrating oil finish WoodTone and Spa-N-Deck 100% acrylic finish lines. The solid color finish, which carries a 15-year warranty against peeling on siding and a five-year warranty on decks, comes in three tint bases as well as a bright white premix in both gallon and five-gallon pails. The solid color finish can be used on all woods as well as stucco and fiber cement.

In addition, Flood has also added a new honey gold color to its CWF-UV line, which already included clear, cedar and redwood finishes. "We test-marketed this product in 2003 and found it to be a very popular finish color," Hugo said.

Cabot's latest offering is its solid color oil decking stain.

Wolman has also added a new color to its RainCoat tinted water repellant. The new hickory-colored RainCoat tinted water repellant possesses water-based qualities with an oil-based appearance and is an ideal color for protecting new or weathered wood from UV graying and water damage while letting the natural wood grain, texture and color show through, according to Wolman. The company has also revitalized the packaging design for the entire product line.

Cabot has been active too, adding a solid color oil decking stain to its lineup. This 100% alkyd formulation which offers consumers one-coat solid color coverage dries in about eight hours. Among its attributes are its resistance to heavy foot traffic and wear, outstanding UV protection and tintability, according to the company.

Wolman's DuraStain features an alkyd/acrylic water-based formula designed to provide long-lasting color retention and protection against water absorption, mildew and UV damage.

A Triple Threat
Wood coatings manufacturers have to ask themselves three important questions: will their wood coatings work with the new generation wood treatment compounds, are they compliant with current and pending environment regulations and do they provide the performance demanded of them? The only way to ensure success in this market is to constantly test and reformulate these products.

"Being able to provide alternative formulations for a variety of surfaces in most of our lines has been essential to our success in providing unlimited choices for today's wood care industry," Reily said.


Alternatives to CCA-Treated Wood

There are two major alternative wood preservatives to CCA-treated wood: alkaline copper quartenary (ACQ) and copper boron azole (CBA).

CBA is a copper-based preservative with an organic fungicide. The treated wood is a dark honey brown color and turns a silver-gray after it weathers. The brown color can be restored by lightly sanding the outer layer. CBA is clean to the touch, not corrosive to metal hardware, and extends the life of wood. It provides long-term resistance to termites and fungal decay in ground contact and aboveground applications. CBA-treated wood can be used for most applications where CCA is used such as decks, walkways, gazebos, picnic tables, play structures, etc. It can also be used in fresh water applications, however it is not approved for saltwater use, round structural poles or wood foundations.

ACQ is a mixture of copper and quat. Like CCA, the copper and quat act as biocides to keep bugs and fungi from attacking the wood. Quat is used in many products that humans touch, from swimming pool chemicals, shampoos, to hospital mopping systems. Wood treated with ACQ has a light tan to olive color. ACQ-treated wood can be used in above ground, ground contact and fresh water immersion applications, but has limited used in saltwater applications.

Information from Green Resource Center: www.greenresourcecenter.org

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