The Wood Coatings Market

By Kerry Pianoforte | August 11, 2005

Waterborne technologies and an increased interest in DIY projects continue to drive growth in the wood coatings market

Despite recently adopted�and pending�VOC legislation in a number of U.S. states, wood coating manufacturers Coatings World spoke with anticipate a healthy year, bolstered by the influx of water-based and low VOC products now available to both professionals and DIYers. Another factor driving growth is a favorable housing market and an increased interest by DIYers to take on more complicated wood coatings projects.

"We continue to see growth in housing," said Jacquelyn Ferrara, director of marketing, Minwax. "Strength in the housing market benefits our business, as well as the coatings market as a whole. In addition to sales of both new and existing homes, consumers are continuing to invest in their homes by updating and remodeling."

Low interest rates are fueling remodeling, but home improvement shows, magazines and Internet sites are giving consumers the aplomb of professionals. "We have seen tremendous growth in the media in DIY programming," said Ferrara. "This increase in information makes consumers really confident to take on a project. It takes some of the scariness out of the DIY project. It's also forcing all of us within the DIY industry to provide more user-friendly products."

DIYers are more confident thanks in part to today's modern media. "As people have more information, they are more willing to undertake a project because they feel empowered," Ferrara said. "Quality information and instruction reduces the risk of trying something new. This is exciting, because it continually introduces new consumers into the DIY category."

"An interesting trend is consumers' growing use of the Internet to help them gather information and plan their projects," said Janet Krakow, director of marketing, Thompson's Company. "We launched our web site about six years ago, and traffic has increased exponentially for the past three years. 2004 was our most active year ever, and we continue to add more information and features online."

Thompson's site features detailed product information, interactive screens to help customers build customized shopping lists and discussion forums for sharing questions and advice with other DIYers.

Return to top

New VOC Restrictions
Another important issue that continues to affect the wood coatings market is VOC restrictions. "As of January, the District of Columbia and six other northeastern states�New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and northern Virginia�adopted stricter VOC regulations similar to those previously in effect in parts of California and Arizona," said Gary Finseth, vice president of marketing, The Flood Company. "Additional states will be adopting stricter VOC regulations as 2005 progresses, so it will be interesting to see how the industry responds."

Sikkens has developed a number of new wood coatings that incorporate hybrid alkyd/acrylic formulation designed to give the advantages of both a solvent- and water-based coating."The decorative coatings market in North America adopted similar VOC legislation as the state of California," said Tim Stephens, marketing communications manager, Sikkens. "The trend is toward tighter regulations. These new products meet the performance requirements as well as environmental regulations. They have been used and tested in Europe, where the regulations are more stringent."

"VOC requirements will continue to play a big factor in the market," agreed Krakow. "We monitor any VOC issues on an ongoing basis, and we have always been able to help our retailers respond in a timely way. The VOC changes in some states this year were announced several years ago, and The Thompson's Company has been prepared."

Both Thompson's Water Seal Advanced line and Thompson's Water Seal Deck & House Latex Stain line are VOC-compliant nationwide, and VOC compliant formulas are available for all Thompson's Water Seal products, Krakow added.

Of course manufacturers must factor in the additional cost of developing compliant technologies and staying one step ahead of legislation. "Re-engineering of formulations caused by these stringent restrictions comes at great expense of resources, raw materials and labor to any committed manufacturer," said Jean-Yves Gourlay, Cabot's technical director. "Even so, Cabot is steadfast in preserving the availability of all of our products."

"These changes continue to impact the wood coatings category," said Ferrara. "Minwax continues to develop lower VOC and water-based products. We continue to invest in R&D to develop new products and technologies to meet these changing regulations."

These recent changes in accepted VOC levels and the adoption of new regulations among the Northeastern states will have a significant impact on coating offerings in the near future, agreed Leslie Juhn, category manager, Wolman Wood Care Products. "Wolman is fortunate to have a strong stable of low-VOC water-based products that are already compliant with these new measures, but ongoing R&D is being conducted to address solvent-based technology."

Return to top

Home improvement shows and the Internet have led to an increased interest in many kinds of DIY wood projects.

Waterborne Gaining More ground
In response to these environmental regulations, wood coating manufacturers have developed a wide variety of water-based and VOC-compliant products.

"Waterborne has been gaining in demand," said Stephens of Sikkens. "There still will always be oil-based coatings, mainly used by professionals and for higher-end applications. The newest generation of products contain emulsions that mix the best of both worlds, combining the properties of oil-based and water-based together. The alkyd/acrylic emulsions launched by Sikkens have been used in Europe and have been brought over and adapted to the North American market. These represent the newest technology in the North American market for decorative coatings."

Designed for exterior wood surfaces, Rubbol siding finish utilizes Sikkens' hybrid alkyd/acrylic formulation specifically engineered to give the advantages of both an oil- and water-based coating.

This new hybrid formula combines the quality of an oil-based coating with the ease-of-use in a water-based solution, according to the company.

Rubbol siding finish is recommended for exterior surfaces such as siding, shakes, shingles, fences, log siding, cedar, pine, spruce, fir or exterior plywood (T 1-11 board). It has the ability to overcome most recoating challenges, excels in covering weathered surfaces, and is available in 53 colors, according to Sikkens.

Development of new and improved waterborne technology continues at all firms.

"We continue to look to develop new water-based products and new technologies that deliver the product efficacy, ease of use and beautiful results that our consumers expect from Minwax wood-finishing products," said Ferrara of Minwax, which already has a complete line of water-based stains, both wood tones and tint bases for mixing custom colors, as well as water-based clear protective finishes.

Most wood coatings manufacturers have developed their water-based products in advance of regulations. "Waterborne coatings for decks, fences and other outdoor wood are not new to Wolman; we have offered low-VOC, fast drying water-based alternatives in transparent, 'clear' finishes and semi-transparent stains for many years," said Juhn. "Our waterborne products, such as RainCoat tinted water repellent and DuraStain semi-transparent stain, provide three-year performance guarantees for water damage protection, and their color durability ranks among the best in their respective categories."

DuraStain is an alkyd/acrylic blend that penetrates like oil and protects like acrylic, providing optimum scuff resistance and color longevity in a fast drying coating that can be cleaned up with water, according to the company.

Wood coatings manufacturers contend these waterborne products are able to perform on par with their oil-based counterparts. "Waterborne coatings based on 100% acrylic technology have proven to be superior in color retention, chalk resistance and flexibility," said Gourlay. "The more than 125 years of experience that Cabot brings to its formulas is reflected in the confidence and guarantees of performance of our waterborne technology. Of course, oil-based technology continues to keep Cabot on the forefront of wood care product excellence as well."

The Thompson's Company has developed a number of water-based exterior waterproofers. "Our Thompson's Water Seal Advanced Wood Protectors represent the benchmark in deck protection and consumer convenience," said Krakow. "They deliver the highest level of water repellency available, and a formula that can be applied two hours after cleaning wood." She said the patented formula enables the line to deliver "maximum-strength waterproofing for exterior wood surfaces."

For semi-transparent or solid wood stain applications, Thompson's has developed a latex exterior stain line, Thompson's Water Seal Deck & House Latex stain. "While these stain formulas have significantly lower VOC emissions, consumers don't sacrifice any performance features," said Krakow. "We've identified a synergistic combination of formula and processing changes that allow us to retain our waterproofing strength and durability. This is important because cracking, flaking and peeling caused by wood contractions through moisture absorption and evaporation is the greatest cause of stain failure."

Getting the most out of waterborne coatings has been a goal at Flood. "Flood has extensive experience with waterborne coatings and has found that paint conditioners, such as Floetrol, come in very handy," Finseth said. "Floetrol is a great tool for waterborne coatings, because it 'adjusts' the paint to meet difficult conditions. Whether you're working with waterborne coatings or tough VOC regulations, Flood additives provide professionals with solutions to optimize their painting performance."

Another challenge to the wood coatings industry is time. Despite greater interest in wood projects, there is a reluctance by DIYers to undertake projects due to a lack of time, leading wood coatings manufacturers to develop more time-efficient products. "Our research shows that more consumers than usual have recently delayed their deck maintenance projects, so many decks are overdue for a cleaning and waterproofing," said Krakow. "We have to convince them that exterior wood care isn't just a chore, it's a good investment of time with a tangible pay-off. We have to deliver products that provide beautiful results as quickly and easily as possible, such as the 'one-day makeover' that you can achieve with our Thompson's Water Seal Advanced waterproofer line."

Return to top

Getting Adventurous
In addition to fast acting products, wood coating manufacturers are offering products in a variety of colors, as more consumers are looking for bolder shades to redecorate wood cabinets and furniture, and the interest in exotic wood and alternative products continues to grow.

According to Ferrara, two color trends are emerging. Consumers are turning to chocolate browns, rich reds and red/brown combined tones, which can be attributed to a return to nesting or cocooning. Also, consumers looking to bring warmth into their homes are using custom decorator colors on wood throughout the home. "We are seeing color on cabinets in kitchens and baths, and in media rooms, as well as on furniture. Consumers want to add color to wood without taking away from the natural grain of the wood. Sales of our water-based line of custom colors continue to grow," Ferrara said.

The use of exotic woods in the home, as well as the use of "alternative" wood composites on outdoor decking continues to rise. Wood coating companies have developed a number of products for these niche markets.

"We are seeing beautiful floors and furniture crafted from woods from around the world," said Ferrara. "The color and grain patterns are just beautiful, and further enhanced with rich wood stains and clear protective topcoats."

In March 2005, Wolman will be launching Wolman EHT exotic hardwood treatment. Due to the emerging market for decking made from tropical hardwoods such as mahogany, ipe, ironwood and others, Wolman has created a water-based coating specifically designed to adhere and penetrate these extremely dense woods for maximum durability and color fastness. "The modest film that EHT provides, coupled with a concentrated combination of UV blockers and absorbers, allows it to resist premature UV graying/silvering and retain its color significantly longer than typical oil-based coatings for exotic hardwoods," said Juhn. "It is a one-coat product that can be easily applied by stain pad, brush or spray, can go onto dry or damp wood, and will dry to touch in one to two hours, so the user can clean and coat in one day."

As the use of composites grows, wood manufacturers now see this as an opportunity to develop specialty products for these wood alternatives.

"There are more and more alternative materials to wood out there being used," said Stephens. "It looks like a threat to the wood market, but we look at it as an exterior surface that will need a coating over time. We fully test our products and make sure they are compatible to the alternatives to wood-composite wood and fibercement siding."

"The use of composite decking material continues to increase, and it's an area that The Thompson's Company is watching," said Krakow. "While composite materials are positioned as low maintenance, they do require some upkeep. They can become dirty or mildewed, so cleaning is necessary. They're also prone to discoloration and fading, so consumers may want to add or change color by using stain products. We offer both cleaners and stains that perform well on composites."

By focusing on these niche areas and keeping ahead of environmental regulations, wood coating companies can expect another prosperous year as they continue to develop new products.

Return to top


Web Exclusive
New Products

Wood coating companies have launched a wide variety of new products for the market, from water-based environmentally-friendly technologies and fast-drying formulations to coatings for exotic woods and composites.

The Flood Company recently launched CWF-UV5 Premium Wood Finish. CWF-UV5 maintains the rich, warm appearance of exterior wood while protecting it from the damage caused by moisture and ultraviolet rays. CWF-UV5 is fortified with Flood's Penetrol, which provides superior penetration for maximum protection. Unlike coatings that use wax and silicone for temporary water beading, CWF-UV5 penetrates deep into the wood grain for a lasting, mildew-resistant finish that won't crack, peel or flake. CWF-UV5 also incorporates trans-oxide pigments for extended UV protection.

Specially formulated to guard exterior wood from water and sun, CWF-UV5 is ideal for decks, siding, shakes, shingles, lattice, fences and outdoor furniture and playsets. CWF-UV5 is guaranteed to protect against water damage, peeling, blistering and graying of the surface due to ultraviolet light exposure for five years on siding and three years on decks.

"We've just launched our most powerful deck cleaner to date, new Thompson's Water Seal Maximum Strength Deck Stripper," said Janet Krakow, director of marketing, Thompson's Company. "The cleaner is formulated to remove oil- and water-based solid stains as well as long-lasting, hard-to-remove semi-transparent stains and waterproofers. "

The product also takes off dirt, mildew, algae and fungus stains and removes years' worth of ugly contaminants, restoring the wood's natural color and beauty and leaving the wood in optimal shape for a new waterproofer or stain.

Also new this year is Thompson's Water Seal No Drip Gel Stain. It provides a new option for people with small projects, such as more intricate surfaces, or surfaces where the 'no drip' feature is a plus. Thompson's Water Seal No Drip Gel Stain delivers the control and ease-of-application associated with interior gel stains in a formula designed to stand up to outdoor elements, according to the company. It comes in four shades, which match their counterparts in the Thompson's Water Seal Deck & House stain line. This allows consumers to treat a deck or siding with the traditional, non-gel stain, and get a color match on railings, windowsills, furniture and other "deck"sessories from the gel stain.

Minwax's newest product offering is Minwax Clear Brushing Lacquer. Traditionally lacquer is applied by spraying, which isn't very user friendly for DIYers. This product is formulated to have a slightly longer open time than traditional lacquer, which allows it to be applied with a brush. It's friendly from a DIY perspective � easy to apply, drying in 30 minutes and recoatable in 2 hours. "We did not have a brushing lacquer in the Minwax line and we felt that it would be a perfect addition to our protective clear finish brands," said Jacquelyn Ferrara, director of marketing, Minwax.

S�P�F Deck & Fence Finish for wet or dry wood and

S�P�F -1 Cleaner & Conditioner is the latest launch from Cabot. The water-based product with ultra fast dry technology, allows for job completion-cleaning and coating in one day just hours after rain or surface washing. S�P�F provides a level of water-repellency and UV protection beyond conventional wood treatments, according to the company.

This year Sikkens launched four new products under the banner of Next Wave Technology. These high-end wood coatings, Rubbol siding finish, Cetol Log & Siding, Cetol DEK Finish and Cetol Door & Window, were developed using Sikkens Next Wave technology, a proprietary method that incorporates the best quality ingredients and the most specialized dyno-mill purification processing, according to the company.

Both Cetol Log & Siding and Cetol DEK Finish offer optimum protection and a premium look, combined with an easier application process requiring less time and hassle. These translucent, satin finishes are used for the exteriors of log homes, wood siding and decks. The time-saving two-coat finish leaves a furniture-like appearance, creating a protective film that gives a premium look while preserving the natural character and grain of the wood, according to the company.

Cetol Log & Siding is available in natural light, natural, natural oak, cedar and western grey. Cetol DEK Finish is available in natural, natural oak, cedar and mahogany.

Cetol Door & Window is a high-performance coating for specialty applications, such as doors and window trim, and is available as a clear satin, clear gloss or in four colors in a satin sheen. Its protective film creates a durable surface barrier yet retains flexibility and breathability. Cetol Door & Window is available in light oak, natural, mahogany and dark oak.

Return to top

Related Market & Technology:

Related Raw Materials: