Photo Courtesy of Stauf USA

While it is clear that virtually every area of floor covering has felt the sting of rising fuel prices over the past year, one area particularly hard hit is adhesives. Companies involved in this category note that petro-chemicals are more than just an important ingredient in their products. Resin and other fuel-derived raw materials often form the base of the compounds used to hold flooring in place. Add to that the fuel used to facilitate the manufacturing process and the cost of shipping heavy product loads to distributors and end users, and in competing in the adhesive arena continues to increase sharply.

"Prices have rising steadily over the past 18 months," said Jack Raidy, president and ceo of WF Taylor, a Fontana, Calif.-based manufacturer of adhesives and epoxies for resilient flooring, carpet, wood, ceramic tiles, and vinyl composition tiles. "I suspect we'll continue to see rising prices in raw material. This is something we're all trying to cope with."

The most obvious strategies, of course, involve developing adhesives that lessen-or even eliminate-the need for petro-chemicals. Also high on the agenda for manufacturers is to develop products that break new ground or have a value-added equation. All the while, like everyone else in the flooring industry, adhesive makers are under pressure to market products that are environmentally friendly.

Judging from the brisk activity seen in the adhesives area at last month's Surfaces show, manufacturers are aggressively pursuing a variety of strategies aimed at expanding their market share. The goal, manufacturers agree is to market a product with a clear point of difference. The thinking is, once an installer or other decision maker develops an affinity for a certain type of product, they will stay with the product for a long time.

For Taylor, a large part of the approach can be found in the company's Meta-Tec line of adhesives, which Raidy noted, is derived from bio-source chemicals. He added that the line has received certification as environmentally friendly and its use can earn LEED credits (Leadership in Environmentally Engineered Design).

David Ford, vp of sales and marketing for Memphis, Tenn.-based adhesive manufacturer Stauf USA, noted that part of his company's philosophy is to market products that can save installers (and their customers) time and money. He pointed out that Stauf's SMP-960 is a one-step process. Because it is engineered as both a moisture barrier and adhesive, it eliminates the need to return to a job on a second day.

"There is an opportunity cost involved when you have to return to a job," said Ford. "Instead of going back to the job the installer can be on another job. So there is a cost savings because you are using one product instead of two and it also frees up installers because they are spending less time on a job."

One of the newest products from Stauf addresses another common concern. The company's SMP-940 is designed to perform like urethane yet can be washed off of hands as easily as water-based paint.

Making life easier for installers while addressing environmental concerns led APAC to develop TacAbate Surface Tack Abatement Coating, which is designed to lessen residual tackiness without the use of scraping. Also new from the company is a ceramic tile adhesive, 456 Dual Purpose Floor and Wall Ceramic Mastic. Although the product is designed to spread easily and can be cleaned up with water, it also "sets up early and has strong wet strength that keeps tile from slipping," the company said.

"We are in the problem-solving business," said Steve Chase APAC's vp of sales and marketing. "We know there are a lot of products out there, and we want the flooring manufacturers and installers to see our products as the ideal solution." He noted that the company, which has moved away from private label products and toward its own branded items, grew its sales by 38 percent last year.

One of the newer players in the adhesives market is DeGussa, which has focused extensively on moisture mitigation with its line of products. The company's national sales manager, John O'Deen said he was very pleased by the reception the company received at Surfaces. Having offered products for wood, rubber and cork floors, the company is expanding to vct, carpet and sheet vinyl.

"We are relatively new in the adhesive market but we are seeing a lot of opportunity," said O'Deen. "At Surfaces we saw a lot of interest from distributors. The challenge is to bring better products to the market and address concerns in a number of areas. We feel we have the products and the technology to do that, and that is a major reason we are expanding in this market."

MAPEI supports ISO Standards

With an eye toward helping specifiers select the most compatible products possible, MAPEI Corp. said it is committed to supporting the recently passed standards set by the ISO (International Organization for Standardization).

"The industry is approaching a new horizon," said Tom Cassutt, the company's director of R& D and product services. "Evolutions in tile and complications in installation conditions, along with the ever growing demand for performance requirements associated with tile and stone installers in the building industry today, have brought difficult challenges to architects, designers, contractors and installers."

He added that the standards are likely to aid those in the industry. "The recently passed ISO Standards for Adhesives and Grouts (ISO-13007, 13007-2, 13007-3 and 13007-4) have been developed and approved for international use in order to help the industry address these issues. The new standards will play an important role in helping specifiers select the most compatible products for the best results regardless of the complexity of the tile and stone installation or the type of product," said Cassutt.