Getting in on the Ground Floor

By Contributing Writer,

  Filed under: Feature

Floor coatings are on the rise

by Josh Bohm

Josh here again, and first off I want to thank all of you readers for not stringing me up by my toes as I try to navigate through the wonderful world of paint and sundries! Today I’m going to take a well-deserved break from refereeing the ongoing WWE Raw match between my dog and my new cat to dive into an often overlooked facet of our industry…and chances are you’re standing or sitting on that facet right now. I’m talking, of course, about floors!

The floor coatings industry is undergoing radical changes in technology and applications and as dealers selling to paint pros, it’s a good time to get ahead of the curve so you can ride the wave in! Now as a new face in this industry, you can be pretty certain that I don’t know all of this by myself, but as is wise, I asked some experts in the field what they thought this rapidly expanding segment has in store. What they have to say might just…floor you!

 

The Writing’s Not on the Wall Anymore

The first and most obvious question a consumer is going to ask you is, “What’s the difference between a floor product and a wall product?” Our friends had some solid explanations. Mike Mundwiller, field integration manager at Benjamin Moore, begins by saying that while both floor and wall coatings are utilized for protection and aesthetics, the similarities end quickly from there. “The heightened exposures and abuses under which floor coatings must perform can be much more extreme,” he pointed out.

Dan Cohen, executive vice president of ICP Construction, agrees. “The biggest differences come from the need for abrasion and chemical resistance on a floor surface,” he said. “Depending on the need and environment, a floor coating can require extreme resistance to weight, tires, and abrasion. It also can be required to handle spills and puddling from cleaners, chemicals and acids.”

 

 

The Science of Scuffs

These coatings have a tough go of it! To be able to withstand everything they take on a day by day, hour by hour basis, there is a lot of research and technology that goes into producing them. There have been so many advances and new trends in floor coatings in the last 15 years that it’s almost hard to keep track (see photo above), but luckily it’s our experts’ job to do that!

Mike Mundwiller started us off. “We see strong industry trends in concrete floor coatings, and some studies predict that it should continue through 2024,” he said. “For Benjamin Moore, innovation has come from continuous improvement in polyurethanes, epoxies, and polyaspartics.”

Not to be outdone, Brian Osterried, product marketing manager for PPG, continued the thought. “Like many paint products, floor coatings are certainly evolving, providing updated features and benefits that allow for an easier user experience,” he said. “Concrete floor coatings have recently seen improvements in durability, lower volatile organic compound (VOC) levels, quicker dry time, and formulations that allow for faster application on fresh concrete. These features allow professionals to complete jobs more quickly and with less disruption to inhabitants and their clients.”

ICP Construction has the unique position of having a very successful…um…track record in athletic coatings; Dan Cohen mentions that they’ve used this to their advantage. “We have learned that technology that has been developed for high level athletic performance is very transferable to the needs of many residential and commercial environments,” he said. “This technology has provided us insight into unique performance products for anti-slip, water, heat, and extreme wear conditions.”

 

     

Pour Me a Strong One!

“Concrete, one of the oldest building materials in history; is constantly changing in its use. To match the current uses, the coatings industry is constantly evolving,” says Tom Murphy of Nationwide Protective Coating Mfrs. “With the addition of diamond grinding and polishing, concrete has found its way from structural uses to such areas as aesthetically pleasing countertops and flooring,” he continues.

As both Mr. Mundwiller and Mr. Osterried mentioned, concrete has been getting an ever-growing piece of the floor coatings pie. Bob Gianoni, also at Nationwide, informs us that more of your customers are now asking for a slice. “Many homeowners choose to coat concrete for aesthetic purposes,” he said. “Garage floors, basements, and pool decks get considerable attention across the United States. At the same time, these products can protect the surface and increase the time it can remain in its pristine condition.”

He also addressed some danger of leaving concrete uncoated: “Water can have extremely damaging effects upon concrete, especially in colder climates. It will penetrate, freeze and break apart the substrate unless it is waterproofed and sealed to stop the intrusion.”

Cohen at ICP hammers in another warning sign: “Sealing moisture out of concrete is a critical component to its longevity and integrity,” he said. “The migration of water into masonry surfaces causes a multitude of problems from reinforcement rusting, spalling, efflorescence, cracking, discoloration, and…more.”

But this isn’t just gloom and doom— these companies have products that can make all that worry go away! “We have garnered attention with our industrial strength, high gloss, two component, waterborne epoxy, Enviropoxy™,” said Gianoni. “It can be useful in protecting shower stalls, factories, parking garages, and many more surfaces where a highly cleanable, chemical and solvent resistant coating is needed.”

PPG throws its hat in the ring with Perma-Crete Color Seal™ water-borne interior/exterior acrylic concrete stain. “This product is a film forming, tintable, water borne, acrylic concrete stain ideal for use on interior/exterior, above-grade, vertical and horizontal surfaces,” the company describes.

So you could say that when it comes to concrete, our experts have it covered.

 

Knock on Wood

One of the first things someone might think regarding floor coatings are products designed to protect their beautiful hardwood floors. Just because concrete’s been getting the attention lately doesn’t mean that wood floors have been left out of R&D! “In regards to deck renovation coatings, we have incorporated linseed oil water-based urethane resins for maximum performance with Deck Guardian,” says Gianoni at

Nationwide. “Our Wood Guardian™ contains high technology nano cerium and zinc particles along with UV stabilizing tinuvins that provide added protection.”

And this is only some of the innovation taking place in the wood sector of the field. PPG’s Break-Through® can be used on wood and to a variety of other surfaces. It promises “excellent adhesion, hardness, and block resistance to a variety of residential and commercial surfaces. In addition, it provides a flexible and smooth finish that withstands cracking and peeling, higher viscosity for easy handling, improved sag resistance, quick drying time of 17-20 minutes to touch, as well as two hours for recoat.” That’s some pretty strong stuff!

There are even more wood floor ideas to share with your customers. Remember when all of those interior wood floors were painted? Then people walked all over them. But that look is back, and due to technological advances, they won’t be getting worse for wear very quickly.

Dee Schlotter, PPG senior color marketing manager, was quick to talk about how to integrate this into a room’s décor. “Flooring is such a dominant part of a room or space’s color scheme and it can dictate the palette or provide the perfect complement,” she said. “While many professionals and consumers still value and showcase the look of natural or stained wood flooring, there is certainly a trend to white-wash wood floors using paint. Those who are especially creative will also use stencils and floor paint to create pattern and visual interest to an existing floor, whether it be hardwood or other substrates.”

While these types of coatings provide endless possibilities for adding excitement to interior spaces, exterior wood is also getting an overhaul, as Tom Murphy of Nationwide Protective Coating explains. “Custom manufactured wood products are becoming prevalent within the market,” he says. “Newer coatings, epoxies, and some even harder more durable coatings, in colors and clear, are becoming available to harden and protect the surface. With these new technologies, the potential for personalization becomes just as vast as with exterior surfaces.”

 

Smooth Sailing Selling

All of this is fine (and dandy, too), but all the technical information in the world isn’t going to sell the product for you. Since it may be a bit difficult to stay on top of all these developments and sell them to your customers, our panel has some ideas to help you get their products out your door.

Tom Murphy jingles two keys to selling: knowledge and listening. “Know what your products can and cannot do. Why is your product and company the best choice for your prospective customer?” he asks. “Know your competition. Learn to be quiet and listen to your customer. What do they expect? Can you answer to their wants and needs? Learn to guide your client, not just sell them. Become a partner with them in the project.”

Benjamin Moore’s Mundwiller shares some similar sentiments. “Gain knowledge in types of floors, types of surface preparation, application methods and of course, products,” he adds. “No two floors are the same, but there are inherent challenges based on geographical location and climate, so be sure to gain an understanding of these and offer guidance to your customers. With this knowledge, you will become a trusted advisor for both contractors and consumers.”

If you are knowledgeable about this product category­—and if you can make yourself a resource as well as a retailer—your customers will buy with confidence and keep coming back to you. When someone comes in for wall paint, it’s a great time to let them know they don’t have to stop there. I’d love to stay more and evangelize about selling these innovative and unique products, but I hear the bell for the next round of WWE, and I fear that the second dog-cat match of the night is about to start. After that, I’ll need some new floor coatings myself.