After weathering a number of challenging years, wood coatings manufacturers are reporting some signs of improvement. As the economy and housing market continue to struggle, more people are foregoing costly renovation projects and are instead focusing on smaller do-it-yourself (DIY) projects.
“People are engaging in more DIY projects,” said Jacquelyn Ferrara, director of marketing, Minwax, Sherwin-Williams wood care products. “They are focusing on repair projects as well as smaller projects that improve their home’s aesthetic appeal in an economical fashion. The current economy, and the very tentative recovery, is causing consumers to adjust to a new normal in which they are not able to move into a newer or bigger home.”
This trend is turning many consumers into DIYers who are focusing on smaller home improvements projects that increase the enjoyment of their home, even if it does not increase the value. “The bottom line is we see more people entering the DIY market, some because they want to, many because they have to,” said Ferrara.
2010 was a difficult year for the paint industry as a whole and the stain market was no exception, according to Jeff Spillane, senior product manager at Benjamin Moore. “However, Benjamin Moore still recorded a strong year with nice growth that was due, in large part, to the exterior stain market,” he said. “With a slight improvement in the housing market we expect a strong year in 2011.”
For Thompson’s Water Seal, a brand specifically geared toward cleaning and waterproofing exterior wood, the economic downturn did not hit as hard as in other categories, according to Mike Kozlowski, director of marketing, Thompson’s Water Seal. “Consumers may not be building elaborate outdoor kitchens, but they can spend under $100 to restore the deck that they have,” he said. “We did see positive sales in 2009 and 2010, and we expect positive sales again for 2011.”
Key Markets Driving Growth
Although there are a number of alternative substrates available, wood still remains a top choice for both residential and commercial structures.
The availability of wood, its flexibility in fabrication and decorative beauty causes it to be present everywhere, which also requires maintenance to maintain it’s beauty and usefulness, said Timothy O’Reilly, director of marketing wood care, Rustoleum Corp. “Commercial maintenance is constant whether on the waterfront or in the shopping mall, each environment brings it’s own performance requirements,” he said.
“New construction has always been an important segment which continues to be a challenge,” said O’Reilly. “However, house painters, disaster restoration contractors, remodelers and flooring contractors all regularly require wood coatings. DIYers represent a sizable segment for exterior stains as well as interior wood finishing products. The woodworking enthusiasts are also a passionate group interested in natural appearances and traditional finishes.”
Decks are still a large market and even with the introduction of synthetic substrates, wood still accounts for 80 percent of all decks. “At Benjamin Moore we have also seen a greater demand for more exotic woods like Ipe and Mahogany,” said Spillane.
The Thompson’s Water Seal brand is primarily a DIY brand. “One of the growth areas of our segment is exterior wood cleaning. While deck cleaners are not new, the changes in waterproofing product formulations and the changes in the types of products that consumers have made it more important than ever to offer consumers exterior wood cleaners geared for their projects,” said Kozlowski. “The consumer needs a different product to remove a solid deck stain than they would need to clean a deck that is dirty but doesn’t have any coating. High-extractive woods like redwood and cedar also require a specific cleaner to optimize their naturally beautiful color.”
The switch to low VOC water-based products is a key trend in the wood coatings market. However, consumers are not willing to sacrifice product performance. Wood coatings manufacturers need to offer environmentally compliant products that are equal to or better than their oil-based counterparts.
“Consumers and painting contractors are always looking for products that will last longer and are easier to be applied,” said Spillane. “With alkyd-based product being the backbone of the exterior stain market, people have begun to look for water-based, more environmentally-friendly products.”
According to O’Reilly, consumers are looking for durability, speed of use and lower odor in their wood coatings. “National companies are looking for nationally compliant products that perform,” he said. “The market is shifting as advances in technology push water well past the durability thresholds of oil.”
“DIYers are looking for superior quality products that simplify their project, both in terms of time spent doing it, and in the application itself. But they will not sacrifice performance for ease. They want it all,” said Ferrara. “The same is true for experienced wood workers and wood finishers. They are always on the lookout for products with improved performance, but demand the same professional results that they’ve come to expect from the Minwax brand.”
In order to succeed wood coatings manufacturers need to meet their customers’ needs and stay one step ahead of the next trend. Keeping on top of the next big thing in terms of color is very important.
“The ability to offer innovation and advances in technology that translate into simplicity, ease of use and time reduction will ultimately drive incremental business and impact mature markets even increasing incident of use,” said O’Reilly.
“High-quality, performance-driven low-VOC products continue to be important, not just for their regulatory compliance, but because many of them, specifically those that are water-based, have features and benefits that 21st Century DIYers want including low odor, fast dry times and easy soap-and-water cleanup,” said Ferrara. “When it comes to color, wood tones remain very popular. We are also seeing the return of lighter colors, as seen in the cabinetry and furniture categories.”
According to O’Reilly, interior traditional colors always do well, such as Golden Oak, Early American and Traditional Cherry. “For the last few years we’ve been trending toward darker colors and shades of burgundy such as Espresso, Kona and Cabernet,” he said. “Reducing wait time is important for the time consuming process of staining. On the exterior, toners are always appreciated with solid and semi-transparent wood tones dominating decks, fences and furniture while the ability to customize is critical for siding. Reducing maintenance, whether it be traffic durability, color retention or coating life, people want to appreciate wood longer between maintenance cycles.”
New Technology Innovations
Rustoleum’s Varathane brand is a unique interior stain formula in a squeeze tube that offers fast working time, lower odor, less mess and great control. “Formulated with cling for use on vertical surfaces simply squeeze the stain directly onto any surface and spread with a brush, wipe excess with a clean, lint-free rag,” said O’Reilly. “A companion line of polyurethane in the same tube packaging is also formulated for vertical cling and offers great control. Both stains and polyurethanes clean up quickly and easily with soap and water.”
Rustoleum also extended its line of NanoShield clear finishes offering professional flooring contractors two-pack performance in a one-pack system into a full stain. Twenty-three on-trend colors have been uniquely formulated to allow target colors to be reached in one coat and finishing to begin in as little as two hours. NanoShield’s Furniture grade pigments deliver results with commercial duty NanoShield clear floor poly.
Sherwin-Williams recently launched Minwax Express Color Wiping Stain and Finish, for DIYers who want a fast, easy way to stain and protect their project in one step. “Using Express Color couldn’t be simpler. Just apply to bare wood with a soft, clean cloth, wiping away any excess in the direction of the wood grain and the project is complete,” said Ferrara. “For an even deeper color and sheen, wait an hour and then wipe on another coat. Let dry overnight, and the piece is ready for use. Express Color is offered in four classic wood tones—Oak, Walnut, Mahogany and Pecan—and four vibrant decorator colors—Emerald, Crimson, Indigo and Onyx.”
Another recent introduction from Minwax is Water Based Helmsman Spar Urethane, a crystal-clear, water-based finish that is specially formulated to protect wood against nature’s toughest conditions. Water Based Helmsman forms a protective barrier against rain and moisture and the ultraviolet absorbers found in Water Based Helmsman reduce the graying and fading effects of the sun. The non-ambering finish is ideal for use on doors, windows, trim, bathroom cabinets, bar tops, kitchen countertops and outdoor furniture.
For the wood market Benjamin Moore most recently introduced Arborcoat exterior stains. The products are based on two different waterborne platforms. The transclucent, transparent and semi-transparent products combine the use of water dispersible alkyd and acrylic resin. The alkyd portion offers excellent penetration and the acrylic resin add additional UV protection. The line also includes a protective clear coat, semi solid and solid color stain that are 100 percent acrylic-based products. All finishes can be used on siding, decks and fences.
Thompson’s Water Seal Waterproofing Exterior Wood Stain in a 12-ounce aerosol is new for 2011. The product is ideal for small projects like wood chairs, picnic tables, planters, mailboxes, benches and more. This aerosol is fast and easy-to-use, provides superior fade resistant color, all in a coating that resists UV damage and it is available in four wood tones.
Dow Coating Materials has two new acrylic/polyurethane binders for wood coatings: EXP-77 and EXP-4414. According to the company, each offers early hardness development, improved block, print and dirt pickup resistance and warmth when applied to wood. These properties make it suitable for factory- and field-applied waterborne interior wood finishes on applications such as kitchen cabinets, residential and office furniture, DIY interior wood coating projects, interior joinery and general wood finishing. Both can be formulated into high performance and lower VOC coatings. They are recommended as a sealer and topcoat in clear coatings, and give clarity and warmth over both dark and lighter woods, the company said. EXP-4414 and EXP-77 are APEO-free and NMP-free. They utilize self-crosslinking chemistry responsible for the development of chemical and stain resistance, are quick drying, which allows for early sandability, and have high levels of water resistance. Both products are based on Designed Diffusion Technology, which offers a new paradigm in waterborne polymer film formation, according to Dow. This technology gives customers a system for formulating at low VOC levels. It also shows potential for producing coatings that provide lower TVOC, a measure of VOC emissions that are released from a coated surface after a certain period of drying, the company said. An important aspect in wood coatings, low-TVOC formulations can contribute to overall improved air quality in residential or office environments.
According to research from the Chemark Consulting Group, the wood coatings market is poised to make a huge shift from solventborne coatings to radiation curable and waterborne coatings. "Currently three-quarters of wood coatings volume is solventborne," said Phil Phillips, president and managing director of Chemark Consulting. "Radcure is going to grow dramatically and so is waterborne."
Chemark Consulting Group provided the following data on the wood coatings market.
Furniture Factory Applied Wood Coatings
• EU: 37.4M gallons, valued at $520M
• Asia-Pacific (including China): 83M gallons, valued at $1.08B
• China: 53M gallons, valued at $691M
• ROW: 41M gallons, valued at $533M
• EU: 6.7M gallons, valued at $104M
• Asia-Pacific (including China): 16.5M gallons, valued at $255M
• China: 11.55M gallons, valued at $161.7M
• ROW: 5.5M gallons, valued at $82.5M
Wood Furniture and Fixtures
• U.S. and Canada: 44.7M gallons valued at $621M
Prefinished Wood and Composition Flat Board
• U.S. and Canada: 9.1M gallons, valued at $140M
Architectural DIY Segment
• U.S. and Canada: 8M gallons, valued at $150-$160M (estimated)