Future of Finishing

I asked George Palmer, a manager at Premiere Finishing and Coating to update his review of green finishing issues and he kindly responded with this guest post. Take it away, George:

There has been very little change in the topics we discussed here quite some time ago. Hyping your typical flooring offerings with tough and durable finishes has about run its course. The green finish will always be popular but more as an entry level requirement than a big plus for finishes. Having “green characteristics” is really the default for finishes now, rather than something special. And as you know, I believe that factory-finishing, where you are providing a fully cured floor to the homeowner, will always be the better choice if off-gassing is a concern. (Although site-finishers might suggest I have a bias!)

I think that you could say we have reached a plateau where the “oil invasion” has carved out its niche and leveled off. I think the most interesting news from our standpoint is the rapid growth of specialty colors in flooring.

It brings to mind the fragmentation we have all seen in certain markets over the years. Take the soft drink business, for example. Remember when soda was pretty much Coke, Pepsi or maybe 7-up? Now, look what’s out there – dozens of drinks in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Coke and Pepsi even had to develop some new offerings such as Fresca and Fanta in self-defense. Look what’s happened to the plain cup of coffee. How boring next to Starbucks and their imitators! And what about Craft Beer? It’s the same thing. The original, core products are still around in mass production, but the excitement (and margins) are in the specialty products.

Now, I see a similar phenomenon in flooring. To be fair, I have to credit the oils in part for promoting this trend as part of their packages. At any rate, it is a wave that still shows no sign of cresting. The days are gone when flooring is almost universally expected to be a neutral walking surface that will not clash with the more important décor of wallpaper and furniture. In many instances, flooring is now a showpiece component of the home or office environment. It is becoming a signature example of the buyer’s taste and flair.

All of a sudden, flooring is being sold with physical distressing, oxidizing, hand-shaped edges and more. It is the kind of thing once relegated to high-end furniture. There are many companies out there now, including mine, that specialize in these complex creations. Some offer color standard selections, but the majority of what we do at Premiere is a one-off duplication of someone else’s creation. It is difficult and time-consuming, but it is worth it. It is more rewarding to create something of style than mass producing commodities. We have embraced the trend as are enjoying it.

So if I’m looking at the future of finishing, I think performance factors are largely similar—the quality of material that we all use is very high, both for site and factory finishing, so they aren’t likely to a significant marketing differential. I think the green attributes are also going to be very similar and therefore also be less of a factor in marketing. So it’s all going to come down to how well you use the excellent products we have available to us.

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