Vianova Resins Inc. was searching for an opportunity to demonstrate its technology for deck stains in the North American market. Lab tests and exposures showed excellent results and employees were very happy with the applications to their own decks. Vianova President Mike O’Shaughnessy was confident that their technology would work. The stains, based on the company’s Resydrol® technology, had already been popular in European systems for over 10 years.
To increase their “real life” experience with the deck stain formulation, he began looking for additional test sites. On the way home from work one day, O’Shaughnessy heard a radio advertisement for Archadeck, the Backyard Co. The company, a Charlotte-based franchise of U.S. Structures, builds exterior wooden structures for a very discerning client base. Several of O’Shaughnessy’s neighbors had decks built by Archadeck and he was aware of their attention to detail and overall quality.
“At the time, we were only looking for additional exposure sites and knew that the designs used by Archadeck would make great publicity photos for our literature,” said O’Shaughnessy.
That phone call was the beginning of a relationship that would take Archadeck into the stain business. After some initial discussions, Klemons involved Rick Provost, president of U.S. Structures, the franchisor.
Founded in 1980 in Richmond, VA, U.S. Structures is not like most “construction” companies. Since its founding, the Archadeck network has built over 40,000 projects, which include wooden decks, screened porches, sunrooms, gazebos, trellises, arbors, privacy screens, fences, planters, benches and even boat docks. They have over 60 locally owned and operated offices in 21 states.
“Our customers have very high expectations and a lot of our business is referrals,” says Provost, “so every facet of the job is important. That’s why we pay as much attention to the aesthetics of the wood as we do to the design and structural layout. All are important in creating a satisfied customer, who is, in many cases, our best advertisement.”
In the first meeting between Archadeck and Vianova, they discussed the technology that gives Resydrol its unique performance properties. The resin’s lower molecular weight and fine particle size allows it to penetrate into the wood. Then, because it dries by oxidation, the resin polymer reacts to form a protective coating that is intertwined and locked within the wood fiber. When they understood that this interlocking adhesion ability was combined with Resydrol’s erosive failure property, Klemons and Provost realized that most of the deck surface preparation now required before re-coating would be a thing of the past.
“When [Rick and I] first saw the panels Vianova had prepared I was impressed with how the stain highlighted the grain. This was important to us as we select lumber for its appearance. You want your stain to beautify and highlight the grain,” said Klemons.
Provost said, “I was really impressed while touring the Vianova Resins exposure sites and viewing panels that had been exposed to accelerated weathering. The coating kept the wood looking new, which is exactly the type of system we wanted on our decks.”
“Even in clear systems the performance was wonderful and could allow our customers to see the beauty of the wood grain for years and years,” Klemons said.
Summing up the visit, Provost said, “We felt that these stains and varnishes were going to make highly pigmented systems obsolete.”
In addition to bringing out the natural beauty of the wood, the fact that Resydrol stains would penetrate while still leaving a protective film was the key feature that got the Archadeck testing program started. “Based on this information, we were excited to begin the testing because we knew we had something different,” Provost said.
The testing began when Vianova delivered the first five-gallon containers to Klemons’s office several years ago. The stain is a honey-colored semi-transparent deck stain formulated primarily with their Resydrol AY 586, a core shell waterborne acrylic-alkyd.
If successful, the tests could fulfill an opportunity that Klemons and Provost had been looking for. Klemons was interested in building on the good relationships he developed based on their high level of customer satisfaction. Both he and Provost had been looking for an opportunity to continue selling to his loyal customer base, but most people are satisfied with one deck, one gazebo, one sunroom, etc. The re-selling opportunity for the Archadeck affiliates lay in maintenance — the demand for staining and re-coating that is inevitable with any outdoor structure. By offering high value protective coatings in the Archadeck brand, he reasoned that he could improve profitability both with his own applications and as sales to do-it-yourselfers.
Most people might stop there and simply spec in the winning formula, and make arrangements for a regular supply, but not Klemons and Provost. “After observing the performance of the Resydrol stains on their projects, we sent some for testing to the manufacturer of Wolman-brand chemicals, which are used for pressure treated wood. Even under harsh accelerated weathering, this product had the performance and quality which was worthy of the Archadeck name,” said Provost.
O’Shaughnessy said the test results reinforced that this core shell acrylic modified alkyd dispersion could protect pressure treated deck wood the same way it protects wood and metal in a number of other exterior applications.
“And, because it is waterborne, cleanup is easy, dry time is quicker than current oil-based systems and it has low odor. Also, our technical team had been working closely with Archadeck and were aware of the good results they were getting,” he said.
This month, the first cans of Archadeck Professional Grade Sealer will be put on the shelves. The first of the series will be offered in the most universally popular stain, a light honey color. Slated for introduction next is cedar, then redwood.