In the past, any exterior paint or stain project would be fraught with risks. Rain could ruin fresh applications. Temperatures too high or too low could affect drying times and the overall durability of the coating. How things change. The latest paints and stains are moisture and temperature resistant. They are faster to apply. They have new features, designed to make them more durable and useful. All those advancements make exterior projects less time consuming and maybe more lucrative for contractors.

A Step Forward for Health, a Step Back for Stains

Today’s exterior paints and stains are a lot different from the ones that were on the market not so long ago. About six or seven years back, the federal government changed the regulations for volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Those are the solvents that would give many a painter a headache as he or she went about a job. VOCs are suspected carcinogens, so no wonder the government cracked down on them, forcing paint makers to reduce the VOC levels in their products.

That changed the game for the paint and stain industry. “We had to move away from a pure alkyd or oil-based product and everyone jumped into water-based technology,” recalls PPG Architectural Coatings senior marketing manager David Machum. Water-based coatings certainly were better than the oil-based products in some respects, such as VOC levels, but they were not universally superior. “A nice advantage is you have soap and water cleanup,” he says. “But depending on the application, there were some disadvantages. For example, in stains, you didn’t get as much penetration into the wood, so you lost some durability initially.”

That was then. “Since that time, the technology has improved,” Machum says. “All the companies have been working on water-based or hybrid products to make them VOC compliant. That push in technology led us to develop new features and benefits.”

Photo courtesy of PPG Architectural Coatings

Today’s water-based and VOC-compliant hybrid products perform at least as well as the alkyd products of the past in terms of durability, which is important. “When you’re doing an exterior project, you don’t want to be redoing it every year,” Machum points out.

PPG now touts additional features of the modern-day water-based options. For example, PPG’s Olympic Maximum line is marked “Weather Ready,” which means you can apply the products right after a rainfall without having to worry that the stain will seal in moisture (which could then cause the stain to peel and crack too soon). The Weather Ready line allows the wood to breathe so moisture can escape; that is what makes this coating so durable. Weather Ready products are also rain resistant some eight to 12 hours after application, which is about 12 to 16 hours sooner than typical stain products, so now, you no longer need to worry that your finished stain job will be ruined by an unexpected rainfall.

Another benefit: since the products are moisture friendly, you can apply a durable coat even on especially hot and dry days, when non-moisture-friendly stains could dry too quickly and not penetrate the wood deeply enough to last. With Weather Ready, just mist the wood with water to dampen it. Then apply the stain. Result: deep penetration and a durable coating.

Faster Application in All Kinds of Weather

Now that manufacturers offer all-in-one paint/primers, you can avoid spending time applying as many coats as you might have done in the past. Machum points out that the latest paint/primers are designed to expand and contract with temperature variations, making the coatings especially durable. They are shower resistant in as little as 30 minutes. They are mildew resistant, yet they are breathable to prevent cracking and peeling.

Photo courtesy of PPG Architectural Coatings

“This is what I call my biggest challenge in the industry,” Machum says. PPG keeps making longer-lasting products. Of course, that means customers do not need to buy as often, which could be bad news for PPG’s bottom line. Machum says his company has a new pitch for contractors and their customers: now that paints and stains take so little time to apply, you can afford to update colours more often, letting you freshen the look of your property whenever you feel ready for a change.

Cold Outside? No problem!

Andrew Fedele is marketing product specialist for PARA Paint and General Paint at Sherwin Williams. He points out that paint manufacturers have gone high-tech with their products to make them more durable and easier to apply across a wider range of environmental conditions. “For a couple of years now, exterior paint manufacturers have been formulating their products for lower-temperature application,” he says, noting that many PARA and General paint products can now be applied at 2 degrees Celsius. In the past, the temperature limit would have been closer to 10 degrees.

“It started with the masonry and cement companies,” Fedele says, explaining how the paint industry evolved its products for lower-temperature application. “Twenty or 30 years ago, the masons and bricklayers would be laid off when the weather turned cold. So the product manufacturers started to formulate mortar with an additive so they could apply it at lower temperatures.” Paint makers recognized that they could use the additive to extend the painting season, too. Now, many paint companies use such a coalescing solvent to that end.

On the whole, the contractors and do-it-yourselfers that are the paint-buying market seem to be taking advantage of this weather-resistant technological advancement. Fedele says that over the past several years, the paint industry and its clientele have come to a whole new understanding of the times of year during which the weather is likely too cold for painting. In the past, people would say that once kids are on their way back to school in September, the temperatures can dip too low for paint application. Now, the cutoff time is closer to October. That means pro painters can extend their working season, and hopefully extend their sales, too. It also means painters can keep pace with the masons and bricklayers, who now work much later into the fall than they used to.

Photos courtesy of Sherwin Williams

Technology Trickles Down From the Docks

Fedele sees more technological advancements on the way. For example, he notes that Sherwin Williams’ Deck & Dock line of coatings uses technology that reduces surface temperatures. That makes the Deck & Dock coatings popular with cottage owners who want to apply darker colours but worry that doing so would make their decks and docks unbearably hot to walk on once the sun really gets going in July and August. Other technologies built into the Deck & Dock products make them especially resistant to cracking and peeling even though they are often used on surfaces that suffer through extreme changes in temperature and moisture levels. “I can see that technology trickling down to the PARA and General paints in a couple of years,” Fedele says.

It seems likely that the recent advancements in the paint and stain industry will continue to result in new features and new products. Future improvements could make for even more durable, weather-resistant and colourfast options. That is good news for painters and contractors, and good news for their clients, too.