The Wood Coatings Market

By Kerry Pianoforte1, Editor | February 7, 2013

As the U.S. economy continues to recover, wood coatings manufacturers reported growth in 2012 and are optimistic this trend will continue into 2013.

For wood coatings manufacturers 2012 turned out to be an improvement over the previous year. Decreased unemployment and growth in the housing market were both cited as reasons for growth in the wood coatings market.

Overall, Minwax reported modest growth in 2012. “We’re seeing more positive signs, like growth in the housing market, and those have us optimistic for continued growth in sales in 2013,” said Jacquelyn Ferrara, director of marketing, Minwax, Sherwin-Williams Wood Care Products. “This recovery is certainly taking its time, but several factors, including decreased unemployment and projected increases in housing sales and housing starts, should help grow sales in 2013.”

Rust-Oleum also continued to see strong growth in the wood coatings market. “The market ahead will heavily depend on the state of the housing market,” said Mark Wilgen, Rust-Oleum brand manager. “At the current time, homeowners are staying in their homes longer and are investing more in the upkeep of their floors, decks, fences and siding. Well-maintained wood surfaces add to the value of the home and saves money in the long term.

“Homeowners will spend more to ensure the products they use to finish their wood surfaces will not only look good, but will also last,” Wilgen added. “They don’t want to invest time and money on a product that will only hold up for one season. They want a product that beautifies while also protecting the surface for years to come. Consumer spending is growing as the economy continues to recover. The professional market is soft, but showing signs of stabilization.”

Thompson’s Water Seal reported that that the market for deck cleaners and waterproofers did see a measured level of growth in 2012. “Housing prices appear to be on the upswing in many markets, but housing starts are still uneven,” said Mike Kozlowski, director of marketing, Thompson’s Water Seal brand. “Deck cleaners and coatings represent an affordable way for homeowners to improve the look of their outdoor spaces and protect their investment at the same time. For homeowners who do want to put their property on the market, a beautiful deck can be a real selling point.”

According to Benjamin Moore, third party research suggests, the wood coatings market saw a decrease in 2011, however the company saw an increase in market share. “It is too soon to know how the industry did in 2012, but once again Benjamin Moore had a great year and saw an increase in this category of product,” said Rob Sheehan, director exterior stain, Benjamin Moore. “We are optimistic for 2013 given the plans we have put in place for a strong 2013.”

DIYer Continues to Drive Growth
Improvements in the housing market have certainly given the wood coatings market a boost and construction remains a key market.  The DIY market has also been instrumental in driving growth. While in the past, the DIY market was driven by a desire by consumers to keep costs down. There are now indications that consumers are undertaking these projects for fun and a sense of accomplishment.

“Construction remains an important piece of the puzzle and should help increase the overall market for stains and finishes as that sector continues to improve,” said Ferrara. “We’re also seeing a growth in the DIY market and have noticed an interesting trend. Whereas in the thick of the recession consumers turned to DIY as a means to save money, we’re now seeing more consumers take on projects because they want to. They like being able to create one-of-a-kind pieces with stain and finishes that they choose, and they’re realizing that today’s products are easier to use than they may have thought. We’ve heard this phenomenon referred to as a ‘maker’s culture,” and another things is happening with these consumers: they’re taking to social media to share their projects with others – friends, family members and other like-minded individuals – which create further interest in the category.”

According to Ferrara, the rise of the DIY blogger is another key trend affecting this market. “These bloggers are very active, vocal consumers of wood staining and wood finishing products, and they run the range of experience levels – from those tackling their first projects to others who are designing, building, staining and finishing complete furniture pieces and architectural elements in their homes. These online influences are another way that the DIY market continues to grow, as their readers become inspired to try their own hand at wood staining and finishing.”
Minwax has reported a cultural trend that relates to color – the growing movement to “reuse, recycle, and repurpose” – and are finding that it informs the way people are decorating. “DIYers like what they’re finding in nature – the natural ‘graying’ of wood, for instance, or the rustic nature of weathered oak that might be reclaimed or repurposed from an old barn into a new piece of furniture,” said Ferrara. “Our two newest colors of Minwax Wood Finish interior wood stain, Classic Gray and Weathered Oak, play into this trend well.”

One of the most popular trends in the exterior wood stains and deck category is the growth of water-based formulations. “This is an area Benjamin Moore prides itself on,” said Sheehan. “Arborcoat has proven to be a success time and time again. Another trend is maintenance. Homeowners are seeing the true benefit in maintaining their exterior wood space and gaining longevity of the product used. In terms of color we are seeing more and more decks with a two-tone scheme. For example, the railing and deck would be one color and the spindles a different color, which is a great way to bring design to your outdoor space.”
Another trend cited by wood coating manufacturers is the increased use of outdoor spaces for entertaining.

“We believe the driving force behind wood coatings is the fact that the outdoor space is actually an extension of one’s home,” said Lara Toomin, exterior stain project manager at Benjamin Moore. “Homeowners take pride in their homes including outdoor spaces. Many use their decks for parties and gatherings. Homeowners are maintaining and staining their traditional wood decks to give them a new look.”

The Thompson’s Water Seal brand focuses primarily on existing homeowners, providing products to help them beautify and protect their exterior wood. “One noteworthy market is first-time homeowners entering the market, and the need to help educate and support them in their projects,” said Kozlowski. “Research indicates many of these first-time homebuyers desire a great outdoor space for their families.

“According to a study called Millennials At Home, Millennials (people born between 1980-2000) may outnumber their Boomer parents,” Kozlowski continued. “It’s a market of approximately 80 million Americans. Almost half of this market is in the “home initiation” phase and the rest will enter that phase over the next 15 years. Millennials think a lot about their homes and gather significant amounts of information prior to any major or minor investment. They consistently mention customized landscaping when describing their dream homes, and one recurring theme in their vision is the concept of the outdoors. Millennials believe that kids need space, nature and a big back yard. Many new homeowners want to decorate their outdoor spaces in more original and less traditional ways, and this should only fuel the desire for more color options in deck coatings. Retailers who can provide expert how-to support can find great sales opportunities for deck care products with these new homebuyers.”

The most current Thompson’s Water Seal consumer attitude and usage research shows that there are two factors that tie as “most important” in consumers’ minds. “They are that the product is long-lasting and that it protects against water damage,” said Kozlowski. “The third-most important factor was that it was easy to use. More than 90% of consumers rank those three as important attributes. The foundation of the Thompson’s Water Seal brand is waterproofing protection, and all of our coatings deliver superior, proven waterproofing power. Independent tests prove that our Thompson’s Water Seal Advanced line is number one against water damage, along with the convenience of application to damp wood so you can clean and treat your deck in the same day. Consumers who want more color for their exterior wood can get rich, beautiful color plus powerful waterproofing protection from Thompson’s Water Seal Deck and House stains.”

According to Wilgen, customers are expecting quicker dry times and easier application. “For the professional, a quicker dry time provides their client with a faster return to service,” added Wilgen. “Products must also be compliant with increasing regulations while delivering enhanced performance. To align with these expectations, Rust-Oleum is focused on the development of new innovative technology.”

“The one thing that every one of our customers expects is beautiful results, whether they are undertaking their first wood staining or finishing project or have completed countless projects,” said Ferrara. “Many of our customers enjoy the traditional process of prepping, staining and protecting their projects, achieving a gorgeous, durable finish what will last through many generations.”

For those projects, Minwax offers products like its Wood Finish stains and Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane. Another popular staining option is Minwax Gel Stain, featuring a non-drip formula that is useful for vertical surfaces.

“Of course, there are also plenty of customers who are either just starting out with wood staining and finishing, or perhaps have just a few projects under their tool belts,” continued Ferrara. “They still want beautiful results, but they are also concerned with ease of use.  Many of those DIYers are looking for fast drying time, low odor, and easy soap-and-water cleanup. In that case, we’d direct them to our line of Minwax Water Based Wood Stains, with more than 50 colors to choose from – both wood tones and designer colors. Minwax Express Color Wiping Stain and Finish is a one-step product packaged in an easy to use tube.  Apply it to bare wood with a soft, clean cloth, wiping away any excess in the direction of the wood grain, and the project is complete.  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.  It is available in eight colors – four popular wood tones plus four designer colors.”  

Minwax has taken its PolyShades one-step stain and polyurethane – and made it easier to use by putting it in a convenient aerosol spray can. It is available in Pecan, American Walnut, Classic Oak, Mission Oak and Classic Black, in both gloss and satin sheens. PolyShades aerosol is ideal for working on hard-to-reach areas and can also be applied over existing stained or polyurethane-coated finishes for a quick wood and furniture update, according to Ferrara.
Another new product just starting to roll out is Minwax Express Clear, a protective wiping finish that adds both protection and a beautiful sheen. It is as easy to use as Minwax Express Color – users wipe it on with a cloth, let it dry for an hour, apply a second coat and are finished.
The new Rust-Oleum stain line is Ultimate Wood Stain. According to Wilgen, it gets the job done faster than the competition. “It enables the customer to achieve the desired color in one coat and apply a polyurethane topcoat in one hour,” he said. “To complement our Ultimate Wood Stain, Rust-Oleum launched a new matte sheen polyurethane. This first to market Matte Polyurethane has the appearance and feel of a traditional wax finish with the durability and protection of polyurethane.”

The latest wood product launched by Benjamin Moore is its Composite Deck Cleaner, prep product that removes stains including mold, mildew and grease. This product also prepares the composite deck for stain, such as Arborcoat Solid for composite decks.

Ease of use, combined with outstanding waterproofing protection, is a key feature of two newer Thompson’s Water Seal products. Thompson’s Water Seal Easy Stain is an exterior stain packaged in an eight-ounce tube, making it ideal for small projects like wood benches, Adirondack chairs and picnic tables. This product recently received the Seal of Approval from Handy magazine. They gave samples of the stain to selected readers, who tested it in their homes. The brand did not have any contact with the testers. After trying the product, ninety-eight percent of them said they would recommend it.  And their favorite features were the ease of application and easy cleanup.

“This finding was reinforced when Handy readers tested Thompson’s Water Seal Wood Stain, an aerosol stain for outdoor projects,” said Kozlowki.Without prompting, sixty-eight percent of those testers said the product’s ease of use and convenience were their favorite features. Although it’s not designed for use on wood, we have gotten great feedback on a new product designed for use on “deck-cessories.” Thompson’s Water Seal Fabric Seal provides maximum strength waterproofing protection for outdoor fabric surfaces such as patio cushions, pillows and umbrellas. Sales of outdoor furniture are projected to continue growing through 2015, so the market for these type of accessories should also grow, creating a new sales opportunity for retailers. The formula contains UV inhibitors in order to resist color fading caused by the sun. Thompson’s Water Seal Fabric Seal penetrates below the surface to protect against moisture damage without leaving surfaces discolored, stiff or sticky.”

Thompson has  re-packaged and re-launched another convenient aerosol waterproofer, Thompson’s Water Seal Sport Seal Protectant.  The product delivers maximum strength, long-lasting waterproofing protection for everything from tents and sleeping bags to outerwear and footwear. The clear formula repels spills and stains while allowing fabrics to breathe, including canvas, nylon, polyester and cotton. The product enhances the water repellency of performance fabrics and factory-applied treatments as well.

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