THE bespoke finishing of wood surfaces in flooring and interior joinery has certainly been taken to a new level over the past few years. Flooring manufacturers are finding themselves in a unique situation where each new project needs to shout uniqueness and individuality.
This demand from developers, customers, interior designers, and architects has driven the flooring industry to be evermore creative in manufacturing and creating new product ranges, with even more complex finishes, which in turn has driven the wood coatings manufacturers to be more creative with their product ranges to deliver on these expectations.
Tim Denholm, director at Ciranova Finishes Limited (UK), says:
The need for training and investment in academies has never been more so than it is now, no longer are finishes just about applying an oil or a lacquer. Combinations of products and systems in finishing are now becoming the norm. A good floor fitter and finisher is now having to educate themselves on a wider range of finishes to cater for this demand and the manufacturers are constantly chasing and pushing the boundaries to achieve the latest look and finish.
Wood preparation techniques, investment in manufacturing or application machinery and understanding the effects of all of these things on the finishing process too, is vital in achieving good quality high end bespoke finishes. The synergy between equipment manufacturers, wood coatings manufacturers and the manufacturers of the finished floor, has never been more important than it is today.
We still have a ‘cottage’ type industry in the UK wood flooring market, which really is a great thing, there is a lot of help out there between competitors and it really is a lovely to see when two ‘competitive’ manufacturers are sharing application secrets or product solutions to help each other keep the high quality and standards expected in the marketplace.
New finishing products often bring new application techniques and the understanding of these is vital to achieving a high-end, durable result in bespoke finishing. Some products have multiple uses and purposes and these need to be explored in a creative way, the creative finishers who have invested in their own R&D are certainly pushing ahead rapidly in the market.
The best advice we can give anyone looking to explore the bespoke finishing market is to experiment, test and trial for yourself, make a product or finish your own, by putting your own creative flair into it. Mixing, blending and colour creativity, combined with wood preparation techniques are certainly the main drivers in bespoke finishes at the moment.
There are many different types of finishes in the market too, each with their own qualities and benefits. Reactive stains and UV oils have become a big part of the finishing market owing to their unique look and ability to shorten lead times and deliver a reliable bespoke finish.
There is a movement by some manufacturers back towards air drying hard wax oils and waterborne finishes, which require more time and more space with drying racks but arguably are a preferred finish for those wanting a more natural finish and look.
The ‘naked wood look’ or products which pale the oak and give an invisible natural look and feel are very popular at the moment too, environmentally sustainable and in some cases, plant-based resin formulas, are finding their way into the market by manufacturers investing heavily in future technologies and solutions, as global sustainability solutions become high on the agenda across everything we consume.
Personal preference takes over where product selection is concerned. UV or airdry hard wax oils? Everyone has their own answer as to which they prefer and where they can find their segment in the market.
One thing is for sure, if you invest the time, knowledge, and research, you’ll be able to deliver a quality result and bespoke finish for your customer using either solution.
With all high-end bespoke finishes, there needs to be an understanding that there must be the correct maintenance regime and products for the finish. We hear every week, noises from the market about maintenance products. There’s no ‘one solution fits all’ for bespoke finishes. We walk on these surfaces; they take a hammering but are expected to stay looking great with the minimum of maintenance and care. We heard recently about the care instructions of some matt paint on a high-end car brand. And we thought: nobody would do that or pay the huge extra sums of money for something they’ve got to spend so much time looking after.
But the reality is, if you want something that looks unique and bespoke and you want it to stay looking fantastic, that’s what needs to be done. We need more understanding and education in bespoke finishes on wood and how to maintain and care for them, there isn’t a one-stop solution and yes, it can get quite complicated but there’s also an opportunity to improve this area of the market for the customers benefit.
The sums of money being paid for high-end bespoke wood finishes mean these are investment decisions for people’s homes, let’s help people look after their investments and deliver the expectation of a truly high-end bespoke finish and product with the service to match.