PaintPRO Vol 1, No 1

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Related Readings:
New VOC Regs
Low-VOC Paint Market
Protective Deck Finishes
Exterior Acrylic Stains
Exterior Bull-Body Stains
Gel Stains
Other articles in this issue:
Quality Architectural Paints
Interior Wood Stains
Working with Vinyl Wallcovering
Faux Crackle Finish
Contractor Profile: Alvin Willmett
Ladder Safety
Paint Product News
Painting Tips
Q & A

PaintPRO Archives

Interior Paints, Architectural Paints

Top quality paints will provide your customers with added protection and a paint job that will look good for years, both of which will enhance your reputation for doing quality work.
by John G. Stauffer

Advances in stain technology mean finishes that are far faster and easier to apply while promising greater consistency of appearance on all substrates

Today’s booming economy is driving both residential and commercial customers to demand ever more elegant interiors. Chief among these are wood, or wood-like, architectural elements, paneling and cabinetry, which offer the richness and warmth that typify life at the end of the millennium. Smart project managers, specifiers and builders are now promoting wood elements as a high-style — and highly profitable — upgrade to a standard interior package.

Pushing the Maple/Oak/ Walnut Wood Stain Envelope
Too Much Brown Making You See Red? Try Blue Instead.

Who says interior wood stains have to be limited to “brown” shades? Today, the aesthetic marriage of translucent tint over intricate grain is being turned up several notches by bold bursts of paprika, violet, pink, jade, gold and teal.

These zesty colors not only saturate wood surfaces with vibrant personality, they also add high-wattage design interest to the overall interior space.

While there’s certainly a market for the calm appeal that varnished oak floors or whitewashed pine paneling can provide within a residential or commercial property, consider how floors coated in bright, watercolor accents or paneling done up in gold and paprika can complement more traditional wood finishes, particularly within restaurant, hospitality and retail settings. These not-so-ordinary shades put a “thinking-outside-the-box” spin on natural materials like wood, as they punch up the visual impact of an interior setting.

According to color analysts, trends for the year 2000 and beyond represent a paradigm shift as the reserved neutrals of the ‘80s and ‘90s give way to the fresh, clear, “comfortable” tones of the new millennium. So, when designers and contractors are challenged by clients who want the look of wood, yet finished with colors that move beyond maple, walnut and cherry, these chromatic alternatives to “brown” are the ideal solution. And, like their cherry or pine relations, these vivid cousins to traditional wood stain shades are being produced with next-generation technology to apply as easily, grain as readily, dry as quickly and perform as beautifully. They’re well worth a second look. And no doubt, that’s exactly what they’ll get.

At the same time, today’s economy means expanding business opportunities for professional painting contractors, eager to take on all of the myriad projects they are offered. But because time is money, painting contractors may be leery of bidding on interior wood staining and finishing projects. For too many contractors, wood finishing seems to be an unproductive use of their valuable time. They worry about messiness of stain application, its lengthy drying times, and the problem of achieving grain and color consistency across various wood and non-wood substrates.

Painting contractors, contending with end-of-project deadlines and tight occupancy dates, need to be sure they can deliver what they’ve promised: a high-quality job, done on time and within a budget that allows for their own profitability. And they only want to deal with wood finish products that lets them meet that goal.

The Taste for Wood in Upgrades
Meanwhile, customer demand for wood continues. In fact, according to the Wood Moulding & Millwork Producers Association, use of wood architectural elements has been on the rise for the past decade. Demand is so great that the WM&MPA reports some 90 million board feet – a board foot being a 1”x12”x12” section — of wood moulding and millwork are being produced each month.

And the WM&MPA notes that much of the current push for wood comes from the remodeling market. Homeowners today are looking to enhance their familiar interior spaces with elegant additions like crown moulding or chair rails. According to the association, such enhancements mean the value of a home can increase by $10,000 for every $2,000 of wood moulding or millwork products installed.

Commercial markets mirror this trend to remodeling, now pegged at about one third of the total commercial construction market. And, just as in the residential market, natural wood or wood-like fixtures such as cabinetry, paneling and flooring are a frequent choice of property managers, building owners or building occupants who want to improve the look of their interior spaces. This is especially true for restaurant, hospitality and health care settings, where the look of wood provides a rich, traditional and home-like setting.

Creating Consistency
This multiplicity of substrates in a remodeling venture also means that, in a single area, wood paneling may be made of maple, with a chair rail of southern yellow pine and crown moulding of white fir. And all of these must look virtually identical when coated with a natural cherry stain. That’s not done easily, nor is it done quickly.

Add to this the problem of the variety of non-wood substrates found in a typical remodeling project. Tight budgets, structural needs, fire codes and other safety regulations mean that many existing interiors include steel or fiberglass doors, concrete floors, and window frames and trim made of resin or engineered wood products. But no matter what the substrate, contractors hoping to please today’s customers have to know how to turn any substrate into “real” wood, using quality stains applied with a graining tool wielded by an expert hand. In short, it seems, with lots of tedious, time-intensive labor.

For painting contractors, these challenges can mean inconsistent, less-than-ideal results and increased risk of callbacks. They can also slow productivity and, too often, wreak havoc with profit margins. How can contractors overcome the quality and productivity problems associated with wood staining projects, so they can profit from America’s preference for wood finishes?

Heavy Stains: Easier Application, Better Looks
Some wood stain developers have kept a close watch on wood trends. They have developed new technological solutions, engineered wood stain systems that can improve the appearance of wood interior projects while overcoming application problems that can impede contractor productivity.

High Quality Results, Environmentally Responsible
Because Sherwin-Williams recognized that painting contractors are often asked to produce high quality finishes on unfinished wood cabinetry, fixtures and trim packages at the job site, the company developed the Wood Classics® System, a line of interior wood staining and finishing products. Using Wood Classics, according to Sherwin-Williams, contractors can get the kind of rich, deep color and nuance of grain that once was thought only achievable with dye stains.

While dye stains can deliver a premium aesthetic, they also have higher VOC emissions than do most wiping stains, including Wood Classics stains. Sherwin-Williams – which also makes dye stains – says its dye stain products are best suited for high production finishing shops, while Wood Classics stains are an environmentally considerate alternative appropriate for most field-applied commercial and residential projects.

These new stain products — already available from Sherwin-Williams – can help reduce the “messiness” of wood staining projects. Their heavier body formulas give them a consistency similar to that of latex paints, so they splatter, drip and run less. For contractors, this saves time, speeds the job and lowers labor costs, helping them to preserve profits. Less time needs to be spent on preparation, including masking, draping and taping. During application, there is a remarkable absence of lapping and, after the project, fewer hours are spent on clean up.

From an aesthetic standpoint, denser stain formulas enhance wood grain as well as or better than the thinner formula products. Plus, the denser products, unlike the thinner stains, easily allow even a minimally experienced stain applicator, using an ordinary graining tool, to achieve the appearance of wood graining on non-wood substrates.

These new stains have been developed to create uniform color and texture across several types of wood. For reasons of economy, architects, specifiers and builders often designate several different species of wood within a single interior space and rely on painting contractors to deliver a uniform mahogany or cherry finish throughout. In fact, until now, painting contractors have often had to create various stain “recipes” that could turn the different varieties of wood in a space into the same desired shade of finish. This is a major challenge, even to experienced painters. Why? Because different species of wood and non-wood substrates absorb stain pigment at varying rates. To get a uniform aesthetic, impromptu stain “chefs” must test and re-test their “recipes”, until all of the interior elements in a given project have a consistent appearance. This is a time-consuming nightmare for deadline-pressed painting crews — who generally don’t even begin their work until the entire project is nearly completed. It can have a negative effect on job productivity — and therefore on a contractor’s bottom line.

But new wood stain products now give contractors the chance to match finishes among varying wood substrates more successfully, without this time-consuming trial-and-error approach. The work gets done on time, and the color and grain matching is superb.

Picking Performers
What should contractors look for in an interior wood stain system supplier? Here are a few suggestions: first, work with a supplier that can offer fast delivery of product, easy access to technical support and local service. Second, pick a supplier that understands and supports contractor needs for productivity and profitability, and which engineers products accordingly. Third, opt for a supplier that offers a tint-based stain system, one that’s similar to tint-based paint systems. Such a system allows not only broader range of color and hue, but also increased subtlety of palette within a given stain family. Fourth, select a supplier that can demonstrate — via fan deck, draw-down samples or brush-outs — how stain products will look across a variety of wood species. This will save time and “guesswork” at the job site.

Shorter Drying Times Mean Meeting Deadlines
However, while assuring consistent grain and color throughout a project with varying substrates can be a challenge when it comes to meeting deadlines, delivering such consistency can seem like a cinch when compared with the impact that ordinary stains’ extensive drying times can have on a project’s completion date.

Conventional stains require almost a whole day to dry before topcoats can be applied, and these topcoats have drying times of four to six hours. What’s more, during the first half of that time, there can be no dust, dirt or other airborne particles that might adhere to the finish, or else it must be sanded clean, and another coat of finish applied.

But the new chemistries that have created a heavier breed of stain systems have also given wood finishing systems a far speedier drying time. For example, new products offered by Sherwin-Williams can reduce the lengthy staining, sanding and varnishing job to one that takes just eight hours overall. Crews apply a stain that dries within two hours, then a coat of fast-drying sanding sealer that can be sanded just one hour after coating, followed by a quick-drying varnish that can be recoated or scuff-sanded within just four hours. Even better, the varnish dries to the touch in 15 minutes — virtually eliminating airborne particle adhesion problems and improving quality.

A Cost-Effective Alternative
Are such problem-solving products costlier? Not significantly. Since material expenditures average just ten percent of a project, the amount contractors invest in the stain system itself can be returned in a faster, more efficient application process. These uniquely engineered staining systems are an ideal solution for painting contractors who are striving to leverage occupant and project team expectations against productivity and expense.

In an era where the appetite for interior wood products, fixtures and elements continues to grow, contractors need products that consistently meet their own expectations in order to tap into this booming market. This new breed of interior stain systems, which offers the optimal blend of aesthetics, application and performance characteristics, may well be the ideal solution.


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