The Flood Company, Hudson, Ohio
The Flood Company, which sells wood-care products and additives around the world and through some 15,000 U.S. home centers, lumber dealers and other retailers, began its transformation from painting contractor to product manufacturer during the Great Depression.
by David Thompson
, which sells wood-care products and additives around the world and through some 15,000 U.S. home centers, lumber dealers and other retailers, began its transformation from painting contractor to product manufacturer during the Great Depression.
While the disastrous economy of the 1930s put many contractors out of business, it presented an opportunity to Cleveland painter Earl D. Flood. As the Depression wore on, Flood noticed that the cargo holds of the ore carriers plying Lake Huron were turning burnt orange with rust because the ships' owners had decided to defer routine repainting.
Flood's father, Earl F. Flood, who started the family painting business in 1847, had created an additive that would become known as Penetrol, a blend of oils and alkyd resins that helps oil-based paint bond to tough surfaces. For years the Flood family cooked up batches of Penetrol for its own use on tricky jobs.
Earl D. Flood knew that Penetrol, which works its way into steel's porous surface network and seals out moisture, would prevent rust. So he approached the ships' owners and convinced them that by mixing paint with Penetrol, they could not only make a gallon of paint go further, they could better protect their hulls from rust and save money on maintenance. The owners were sold, and Penetrol helped keep the family business — not the mention the ore carriers — afloat.
Painting continued to be the company's mainstay for decades, with the manufacture and sale of Penetrol remaining a sideline. But Penetrol began coming into its own with the advent of pressure-treated lumber in the 1970s.
“Pressure-treated lumber was originally pitched as a maintenance-free way to build a deck, and from the standpoint of wood rot it was true,” says Patrick Coughlin, Flood's manager of new product development. “But from the standpoint of ensuring that wood would withstand weathering and maintain appearance characteristics, something else was needed.”
Using Penetrol as a key ingredient, The Flood Company designed a clear finish for pressure-treated lumber. It came up with a product it calls CWF, which was well received by the market.
Encouraged by Penetrol's success, the company then created a derivative to address the bonding and penetration shortcomings of water-based paints. The result was Emulsa-Bond, which does for latex paints what Penetrol does for oil-based paints.
A one-to-one mix of latex paint to Emulsa-Bond creates a coating with bullet-proof adherence to chalky, weathered, or other latex-unfriendly surfaces, such as aluminum siding, hardboard siding and sand-blasted masonry. Penetrol and Emulsa-Bond helped The Flood Company transform itself from painting contractor to full-time product manufacturer, and the additives became staples for generations of painters. “It's the older-type painters who are most aware of what Penetrol and Emulsa-Bond can do, and they are totally committed to their use,” says Coughlin. “Now we're re-energizing the effort to let newer painters and newer contractors know that these products exist.”