Wood Coatings, Stains & Finishes

By Tim Wright | February 6, 2007

Wood coatings manufacturers continue to develop new products and technologies for both interior and exterior applications, addressing DIYer demands and increasingly strict VOC regulations.

To be successful in today's market, wood coating manufacturers must pro-actively develop products that meet or exceed government regulated VOC levels while offering consumers the same high level of quality wood finishes that they have come to expect. Additionally, the industry must continue to find new ways to attract new DIYers to the category by offering products that meet their needs and are easy to use.

The VOC issue is the most prevalent factor impacting the wood care segment today. "The availability of VOC compliant formulas that deliver the same product efficacy is of particular importance in those areas of the country that are experiencing regulatory changes," said Paul Genovese, senior product manager, Minwax Stains. "California's South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) regulated the VOC levels for varnishes to 350 g/L effective July 1, 2006. At the same time they eliminated the small can exemption on the affected products. The impact on wood coatings manufacturers is great in that there is now a need to invest valuable R&D resources to develop a compliant product or lose the business in that area."

Mark Boufford, senior brand manager, Rust-Oleum Wood Care, added that the recent SCAQMD VOC regulations are extremely restrictive. "This is driving the industry to look at resolutions involving both waterborne technologies as well as exempt solvents," he said. "Waterborne systems are gaining in momentum. Much of this is obviously the result of the VOC regulations, but consumers are also discovering that waterborne systems perform far better than they did five to 10 years ago. In fact, today they perform on-par with oil-based products and even surpass them in some areas."

"There continues to be an acceptance of water-based products, particularly clear topcoats," added Genovese. "Technology has improved dramatically, allowing products including water-based polyurethanes for floors to deliver virtually the same durability and richness as oil-based polyurethane, with all of the benefits of a water-based product including fast recoat time, low odor and easy cleanup."

New Products & Technologies

As today's consumer becomes more sophisticated, they are continuing to look for wood finishing products that are easy to apply, are fast-drying and low odor.

Addressing interior wood care, Boufford said that while the housing market is definitely starting to cool off, that is just a portion of the sales for wood care. "Refinishing pieces, building furniture and other projects all require interior wood finishing products," he said.

However, he said that most retailers are reporting that their interior wood care category is at best flat. "Many view that lack of growth as stagnation of the marketplace and category," he said. "Paint is hot. New materials are being introduced and there is a general feeling that there is a lack of innovation in wood care."

For interior applications, color choice is one of the most important factors in a consumer's purchasing decision. "At the end of the day, almost every wood care project starts with the consumer's idea of what color they want the project to be such as golden oak, cherry, dark walnut, red, brown and so on," said Boufford. "They may not know the exact color name, but they know the picture they have in their minds."

Minwax Hardwood Floor Reviver provides a protective, clear topcoat.
Also discussing the color trend was Genovese. "Adding custom color stains on wood as part of an overall design and decorative scheme continues to be a trend," he said. "This trend is evident in the home from kitchen cabinets and bath vanities, as well as furniture, molding and trim. These water-based stains in greens, blues, reds and yellow among other colors add decorative color without obscuring the beauty of the wood's grain."

Minwax has introduced Minwax Hardwood Floor Reviver, a protective, clear topcoat that rejuvenates scuffed, scratched and dull hardwood floors in one application. A clear, non-ambering water-based finish, Minwax Hardwood Floor Reviver restores shine and provides a layer of protection to any unwaxed, polyurethane-finished floor without sanding or special preparation. Fast-drying and easy-to-use, Minwax Hardwood Floor Reviver can be used to refresh floors from everyday use every three to six months. The product is available in low and high gloss sheens.

Arch Wood Protection launched FrameGuard coated wood for framing to protect against mold and other pests. The FrameGuard chemicals enable wood in interior locations to resist mold, termites and fungal decay. It is applied by spray or dip at a wood treating plant, OEM plant, lumber mill, distribution yard or other facility where coverage can be better controlled than at a jobsite. The solution is a water-based, proprietary combination of patented and EPA registered active ingredients that protect against mold and wood-destroying organisms, which can cause deterioration, odor and complaints. In addition to its use on lumber and plywood, the coating can be applied to oriented strand board, parallel strand lumber, laminated veneer lumber and wood I-beams.

Rust-Oleumn's one-step stain and polyurethane helps consumers save time.
"Mold is a hot topic for builders and homeowners alike," said Scott Hoffman, business manager for interior treatments at Arch Wood Protection. "FrameGuard coated wood has been shown to be an effective method for preventing the growth of mold and fungi. It can also help to protect suppliers and contractors against litigation claims."

Most recently, Rust-Oleum Wood Care introduced its new Varathane One-Step Stain & Polyurethane product. A first for the category, the product offers consumers the time saving attributes of a one-step stain and polyurethane, with the convenience of soap and water cleanup. In addition, it is very low odor and can be used inside, anytime of year and in any room.

Decking Remains Hot

With too many popular DIY television shows to name, it is evident that home improvement continues to be a hot trend. "Homeowners are upgrading their outside living and garden areas with unrelenting zeal," said Kurt Denman, product manager, Benjamin Moore. "They're adding terraces, decks, patios, cabanas, pool houses, gazebos and outdoor kitchens to the tune of $40 billion annually, according to the U.S. Census Bureau."

"The entire category will see sales growth nationally in 2007," predicted Mike Kozlowski, director of marketing, The Thompson's Company. "Outdoor living continues to be a particularly hot part of home improvement and the deck is integral."

"The trend critical to our business is the evolving use of exotic hardwoods and plastic/wood composite lumber products for deck building," said Leslie Juhn, category manager, Wolman/Woodlife products. "We follow closely and continually test our current and future products on these emerging substrates to ensure we deliver surface preparation and coating products that are compatible and achieve long-term performance."

Benjamin Moore's Exterior Stain collection.
In terms of new products for exterior applications, Benjamin Moore rolled out a new generation of products last year. Responding to the growing focus on the expanded outdoors lifestyle, Benjamin Moore launched its Exterior Stain Collection, which includes a full selection of finishes varying in opacity including clear, transparent, semi-transparent, semi-solid and solid color stains. Available in a wide array of hues inspired by the outdoors, performance and color are the foundation of the new system.

"While many people like a 'weathered' look to wood, aesthetics aside, all wood deteriorates from exposure to the elements without some type of coating to protect the surface," said Denman. "Water and UV rays are the two major culprits. Our stain system is designed to provide the desired look while protecting the wood."

In addition, Denman noted that Benjamin Moore also introduced a full line of prep products. "I cannot emphasize enough how critical proper preparation is to realize a successful staining project," he said. "It's the ultimate determinant on how long the beauty of a job lasts."

Minwax has launched 350 VOC Helmsman "R" Spar Urethane, sold in gallons, and designed to meet the regulatory guidelines of the OTC states. It is a specially formulated, oil-based finish that protects wood against sunlight, rain, moisture and temperature change.

The Thompson's Company recently introduced its new Thompson's Water Seal Oxy Foaming Action Exterior Multi-Surface Cleaner, designed to remove dirt, mildew, algae and fungus stains. It is an oxygen powered cleaner concentrate that is biodegradable and gentler on wood than a chlorine bleach-based formula, according to the company.

"There is a strong consumer market for 'oxy' products, which are oxygenated formulas that foam or bubble when applied to an unclean surface," said Welch. "This is our most versatile cleaner to date. It can be used to clean wood and composite decks, fences, roofs, siding and outdoor furniture."

Wolman Wood Care Products has recently launched several new products. The most recent is its DeckStrip-ASR Acrylic Stain Stripper targeted to the professional contractor or homeowner for exterior wood care. It is designed to remove solid and semi-solid 100% acrylic stains with a "safe-to-handle" formula that is easier to use than methylene choloride, the active ingredient in common paint strippers, according to the company.

The company has also launched DuraStain Solid Color Stain, a 100% acrylic with a modified polyurethane, which makes the acrylic stain more flexible, so it resists cracking, peeling and water repellency is enhanced.

Lastly, the company rolled out Wolman DecoWhite Decorative Deck & Porch Paint for the retail market. "DecoWhite was the first 'deck care' product made available to DIYers and contractors to achieve a decorative, two-tone look on their decks and porches with a bright white railing contrasting to the sealed or stained floorboards," said Juhn. "DecoWhite was designed to cover tannin bleed and green discoloration from new pressure-treated lumber. A user can apply it to a brand new cedar or treated deck or porch railing and not encounter tannin bleed through later in the season."

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ICA Group applies nanotechnology to UV Coatings for parquet floors to enhance quality and improve resistance to abrasion

ICA Group, headquartered in Civitanova Marche, Italy, has invested heavily in nanotechnology, developing UV coatings for parquet floors that take full advantage of the miniscule particles-as small as 20 nanometers (nm)-to boost performance and resistance to abrasion.

The UV products that ICA has formulated on the basis of nanotechnology, and all of which are suitable for roller application, include transparent UV filler for grouting machines (UVS5065D); transparent UV filler for prefinished parquet floors (UVS5120); and matte top coat for parquet floors (UVO5059).

One of ICA Groups' UV coating laboratories.
These UV coatings for parquet floors have been developed on the basis of the positive results achieved through the use of nanotechnology to increase performance and resistance to wear-and-tear. By adding particles of silica to the resin used in the formulation, it is possible to exploit fully the virtues of the new compounds created, according to the company.

Achieving the correct balance between the chemical and mechanical characteristics of the various coats that comprise the coating cycle is an essential element to optimize the final result, the company said.

The range of UV coatings for parquet floors developed by ICA Group also makes it possible to achieve low levels of emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Alongside UV coatings for parquet floors, ICA Group has also been applying solutions derived from the use of nanotechnology to water-based exterior coatings as part of an ongoing project to develop innovative products that provide effective protection from ultraviolet rays as a result of the filtering power of UV nanofilters and to their increased capacity to distribute themselves uniformly inside the coating.

The nanometric dimensions of these filters make it possible to create a coating film with more evenly distributed filtering power than is provided by traditional UV filters, the company said.

In addition, the insertion of nanocompounds into these products renders them entirely impermeable to water vapor and to water, a characteristic that is as important as resistance to ultra-violet rays for products intended for outdoor use, and to improve their resistance to blocking.

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