Solid foundation for industrial wood coatings

The global market for industrial wood coatings is expected to grow at 3.8 % CAGR between 2022 and 2027 with wood furniture the highest-performing segment. According to PRA’s latest Irfab Industrial Wood Coatings Market Study, world market demand for industrial wood coatings was estimated to be around 3 million tonnes (2.4 billion litres) in 2022. By Richard Kennedy, PRA, and Sarah Silva, contributing editor.

Water-borne products continue to gain market share
Water-borne products continue to gain market share Image source: romaset -

The market for comprises three different wood coatings segments:

  • Wood furniture: Paints or varnishes applied to domestic, kitchen and office furniture.
  • Joinery: Factory-applied paints and varnishes to doors, window frames, trim and cabinets.
  • Pre-finished wood flooring: Factory-applied varnishes applied to laminates and engineered wood flooring.

By far the largest segment is the wood furniture segment, accounting for 74 % of the global industrial wood coatings market in 2022. The largest regional market is Asia Pacific with a 58 % share of the world’s demand for paints and varnishes applied to wood furniture, followed by Europe with about 25 %. The Asia Pacific region is one of the major markets for wood furniture supported by the increasing populations of China and India, in particular. 

Energy efficiency a key consideration 

Production of any type of furniture is usually cyclical, influenced by economic events and by the developments in national housing markets and household disposable income. The wooden furniture industry tends to be dependent on local markets and manufacturing is less global than that of other types of furniture.

Water-borne products continue to gain market share, driven largely by VOC regulations and consumer demand for environmentally friendly products, with a shift towards advanced polymer systems including self-crosslinking or 2K polyurethane dispersions. Mojca Šemen, Segment Director for Industrial Wood Coatings in the Kansai Helios Group, can confirm the high demand for water-borne coatings, which offer several advantages over traditional solvent-borne technologies “They have a faster drying time, reduced production time and increased efficiency. Moreover, they are more resistant to yellowing and can provide a better finish, making them an ideal choice for high-quality wooden furniture.” Demand continues to grow as “more consumers prioritise sustainability and environmental responsibility in their purchasing decisions.”

However, acrylic dispersions, solvent-borne technologies continue to dominate the wood furniture segment. UV-curable coatings are increasingly popular for furniture (and flooring) due to their superior performance, speed of cure and high energy efficiency. The move from conventional mercury lamps to LED lamp systems will further boost energy efficiency and reduce lamp replacement costs. Šemen agrees that there will be a growing trend towards LED curing, which offers faster curing times and lower energy consumption. She also predicts greater use of bio-based components as consumers seek coating products with a lower environmental impact, a trend that is driving the incorporation of plant-based resins and natural oils, for example.

Although 1K and 2K water-borne coatings enjoy popularity due to their environmental credentials, Kansai Helios makes an important note: “Regarding 2K PU coatings, we expect that their consumption will slowly decrease due to the limitations on hardeners that will take effect on August 23, 2023. However, it will take some time for this transition to be fully realised.”

Alternative materials present tough competition

The second largest segment is coatings applied to joinery with about 23 % share of the global industrial wood coatings market. The Asia Pacific region is the largest regional market with about a 54 % share, followed by Europe with about 22 %. Demand is largely driven by new build construction and to a lesser degree by the replacement market. The use of wood in residential and commercial properties faces increased competition from alternative materials such as uPVC, composite and aluminium doors, windows and trim, which offer lower maintenance and are more competitive in price. Despite the environmental advantages of using wood for joinery, growth in the use of wood for doors, windows and trim in Europe and North America is relatively weak compared to growth of these alternative materials. Demand for wood joinery is much stronger in many countries in Asia Pacific due to the expansion of residential housing programmes and accompanying commercial building construction, such as offices and hotels, responding to population growth, household formation and urbanisation.

Solvent-borne coatings are widely used for coating joinery items such as doors, windows and trim, and solvent-borne polyurethane systems will continue to see usage in high-end products. Certain window manufacturers still prefer one-component solvent-borne coatings due to concerns with timber swelling and grain lifting caused by using water-borne coatings. However, as environmental concern increases and regulatory standards become more stringent around the world, coating applicators are exploring more sustainable water-borne alternatives, particularly polyurethane-based systems. Some door manufacturers employ radiation-curing systems. UV-curable varnishes are best used on flat stock, like doors, providing improved abrasion, chemical resistance and stain resistance: some pigmented coatings on doors are cured by electron beam.

The wood floor coatings segment is by far the smallest of the three segments with about 3 % of the global industrial wood coatings market, with the Asia-Pacific region accounting for about 55 % of the global wood floor coatings market.

UV coating technologies preferred choice for many

In today’s flooring market, there are basically three types of wood flooring, which compete alongside other forms of flooring, such as vinyl flooring and ceramic tiles, in residential and non-residential properties: solid or hardwood flooring, engineered wood flooring and laminate flooring (which is a wood-effect flooring product). All the engineered wood, laminate flooring and the majority of solid or hardwood flooring are factory finished.

Polyurethane-based coatings are commonly used on wood floors owing to their flexibility, hardness and chemical resistance. Significant advancements in water-borne alkyd and polyurethane technology (particularly polyurethane dispersions) have aided the formulation of new water-borne coatings that can match the properties of solvent-borne systems. These improved technologies comply with VOC regulations and have accelerated the shift towards water-borne systems for wood flooring. UV coating technologies are the preferred choice for many businesses due to their applicability to flat surfaces, providing fast cure, outstanding abrasion and scratch resistance.

Construction driving growth but there is greater potential

In common with the architectural coatings market in general, the key drivers for industrial wood coatings are new construction of residential and non-residential properties, and property refurbishment (which is in part supported by increasing disposable income in many regions of the world). The need for more construction of residential properties is supported by global population growth and increasing urbanisation. For decades, affordable housing has been a major concern in most countries of the world and can only really be solved by increasing the housing stock.

From a manufacturer’s perspective, Mojca Šemen cites a major challenge as ensuring the quality of the materials used as the best possible end product relies on high-quality raw materials. Quality assurance is a strong response to the fierce competition from alternative materials. However market research shows relatively weak growth in the use of wood joinery and wood flooring, both in new construction and when it is time to maintain wood features: the wood door, window or flooring is often replaced with an alternative material product rather than a wood one.

By contrast, wood is by far the most dominant base material for furniture, especially domestic furniture, and is less affected by competition from alternative material products. According to CSIL, the Milan-based furniture market research organisation, wood accounted for about 74 % of the value of furniture production in the EU28 in 2019, followed by metal (25 %) and plastic (1 %).

The global market for industrial wood coatings is expected to grow at 3.8 % CAGR between 2022 and 2027, with wood furniture coatings growing faster at 4 % CAGR than coatings for joinery (3.5 %) and wood flooring (3 %).

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