If you told me 20 years ago that I would be working with coatings instead of practicing law, I would have thought you were crazy. Look, nothing wrong with coatings, but I spent 10 years of my childhood staining and varnishing cabinets for my father’s cabinet making business. Not only was the smell harsh, but my hands were riddled with wood splinters and as stained as the cabinets. Coatings were the reason I told my younger self to go to law school. But after having my son almost die from a scorpion sting, I’ve traded a legal career for a paint brush.
Exactly three years ago, my co-founder Aaron and I moved into our first warehouse. After we were handed the keys, we sat on the ground and shared a toast to our future company. I’m certain that our vision for our company bore no resemblance to the business today. We were going to be installers or technicians. Who knew that we were going to become “coaters?” Not Silicon Valley “coders,” but the guys who brought coatings to the pest control industry.
When DuPont discovered “Tyvek” in the 1950s, they had no idea that the product that would be used in nearly every home across the world as a house-wrap protector. They knew this product was versatile, but it still took over 30 years before it began being used it in the construction industry. Today, if you drive past a new home being constructed, you will likely see Tyvek’s white “HouseWrap” between the sheathing and exterior siding, or under the roof’s shingles, amongst other places. In a nutshell, Tyvek has become a necessity to the construction industry for both water shedding or resisting, and UV protection. We now believe that coatings will bring a similar transformation for the pest control industry.
Like Tyvek, coatings have been around for a long time. Though mostly used as a barrier to protect or preserve a substrate, coatings have also been used to create smooth surfaces. When my partner was collecting scorpions and putting them in a glass jar, he noted the scorpion’s inability to climb. A glass surface was too hard and too smooth to allow the scorpion to get a foothold. He thought if he could create this same surface on a home, he could stop scorpions from climbing up and into his home. He knew that he needed a product that can adhere to a vertical surface and would be hard and smooth, but a long search proved fruitless. Of course, he thought about metal and even glass, but both would need to be glued or nailed onto the vertical substrate, and there would always be a gap between the metal/glass and the vertical surface. Coatings can adhere to a vertical surface, and if you can build up the viscosity, you might be able to create a surface smooth and hard enough that a scorpion, or any crawling pest, would fail in its invasion. If that surface is clear, you won’t see any change to a home’s exterior. Of course, this was the beginning of 95 Applications, LLC dba Averzion/Slick Barrier.
When we started to design a clear coating, we faced many challenges. First, most coating are meant to penetrate and preserve a surface. This means a typical clear coating cannot be applied in several coats to create an ideal surface for pest control. The ratio between the solvent and the materials must be correct. The hardness, yellowing, cracking, the smell, flammability, and VOC levels are all also important. Even once the product seems ideal, everything can go wrong. Trial and error results in constant improvements to the product as it is used it in the field. In an effort to make an eco-friendly product that is easy to use and safer for the environment, creating another water-based coating was also a goal. This was challenging because water-based clear coatings are fairly new, and getting them to emulate the solvent-based products while keeping VOC below 100 is a huge feat. The next step required testing against crawling pests and university tests to conduct efficacy, as well. Lastly, patents are secured. It is quite the process. Nevertheless, Averzion persevered.
Coatings are the future of pest control, and operators and homeowners are already adapting to this reality. Most homeowners who use regular pest control will tell you that they have less pest activity. However, as innovation in insecticides and pest control tools have evolved, so too has the overall success of keeping pests out of homes. The key is innovation; doing things differently or improving what is already there.
Pest control coatings are true innovation. By targeting a crawling pest’s inability to climb a smooth surface, a physical barrier around a home can be created with a coating. Simply apply the clear coating to the bottom exterior of a home, or a few inches off the ground, and any part of a home that touches the ground (even conduits, water, and gas lines). The coating dries hard, smooth, and slick - like glass. It can last for years, depending on weather exposure. This physical barrier will stop any pest that cannot climb glass and keeps crawling pests from getting inside. For homeowners, it reduces use of household pesticides, saving them money, while also preventing most bites and stings, which tend to happen indoors. It saves pest control operators’ time by reducing their callbacks and retreats, which mostly happen when a homeowner sees activity indoors after their home is serviced.
New Mexico State University did a study that found that using a clear coating enhances some outdoor pesticides and makes them up to 40% more effective. This happens for two reasons:
- Pesticide sprayed onto a substrate that has a clear coating will be better preserved, making it last longer since it will not penetrate that substrate.
- As pests attempt to climb a vertical surface that has a clear coating, that pest will struggle and walk along the structure trying several times, all the while being exposed to the pesticide, improving the chances at being exposed to the pesticide on the clear coating.
Like Tyvek, coatings may not have been developed for pest control, but when used the right way, and under the right formulation, coatings can now be used to stop crawling pests from getting into your home. Perhaps someday the construction industry might adopt such coatings for use on any and every structure. Painters are already offering the clear coating to homeowners repainting their homes. Soon, homeowners will be able to stop in at their local hardware store and buy this product. Sharing successes and continuing to innovate is a key business strategy.
My decision to join my partner and start our business happened because a scorpion stung my son. Now, we found a way to keep our loved ones safe in their own homes.