Rubio Monocoat brings the high quality, environmentally-friendly, oil-based wood finishes manufactured in Belgium by its parent company Muylle-Facon to the United States marketplace. The results are a beautiful, natural finish available in any colour.
In the early 1900s, Muylle-Facon began processing linseed oil for use as a lubricating agent for mill parts and other industrial applications. By the mid-1960s, the company realized that there was a secondary market for it as a wood finish. It began offering this product throughout Europe, but as demand grew over the coming years, the company expanded into international markets. The success of its wood finish products prompted the company to focus effort on researching better finishes.
In 2000, Muylle-Facon engineers began working on innovative oil-coating technology. This invention would become Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus, the first product to exist with the Rubio Monocoat name, and its success was so great that, by November of 2008, Rubio Monocoat USA was established to bring the product to the North American market.
Rubio Monocoat USA was originally located in Southern California, but in January of 2018, the company moved its corporate headquarters to Austin, Texas. This meant it could receive product shipments faster as it is more centrally located in the American marketplace, and it could better serve customers overall. Over time, the company has worked to expand its reach into a varied range of market sectors including flooring, furniture and cabinetry, exterior siding, wall and deck planks, and much more.
Today, from its base of operations in Austin, the company’s expert team of inside and outside sales representatives and a warehouse workforce serve hundreds of customers across the country.
Central to the company’s success is the technology behind the Rubio Monocoat product. As a wood finish, Rubio Monocoat is relatively unique in the United States market because it is a hardwax oil finish rather than the more traditional polyurethane type. The product requires only a single coat application. The oil is specially designed to bond with the raw cellulose in the wood to which it is applied. The oil strengthens the wood, and the cellulose strengthens the oil. This results in a new surface that is fully cured and liquid resistant within five or six days. The surface can be lightly used after 24 to 48 hours.
Traditional polyurethane finishes require multiple coats. There is a primer coat that goes down first to prepare the surface, a sealer that penetrates the wood to create a protective layer, a stain to add colour, and then the polyurethane itself which often requires multiple coats. Applications can take four or more visits before a job is complete.
“What that means for them,” says Rubio Monocoat’s Marketing Manager Keith Hardisty, “is that they’re not moving onto other jobs tomorrow or the next day. With Rubio, you apply it once, and there’s no second coat. Finish one house in a day or two, and you’re onto the next job. You’re going to significantly decrease your labour costs while giving your customers what we feel is a much better product.” The single-coat application is one of the product’s key selling points, but it has many more advantages than traditional solutions.
With a polyurethane finish, repairing scratches and scuff marks is a substantial endeavour. The entire surface has to be sanded down and refinished by a professional. It is expensive, time-consuming, and in most cases, the homeowner will have to be out of the house during the process. The reason that the entire surface has to be repaired, rather than just the spot with the damage, is that when wet polyurethane overlaps dry polyurethane, it dries darker. This creates unsightly lap marks that ruin the look of the floor or surface.
The oil in Rubio Monocoat has been specially designed to only bond with the raw cellulose in the wood, where the old finish has been scratched or scuffed off, so it will never bond with itself. This means that any overlap can be wiped away. “With our product, you just apply a bit more oil, and it will only bond to the wood and not to itself. So you won’t get a lap line or a dry mark,” says Hardisty.
Another key feature of Rubio Monocoat is that it is a 0%-VOC product. Competing polyurethane-based finishes emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as gases into the air at room temperature. This happens primarily when the finish is being applied, but also for some time after it has dried. These fumes are toxic and harmful for both the contractors applying the finish and for the homeowner afterward.
“The majority of our competitors’ products have a high level of VOC,” says Hardisty. “Some have low-VOC, but we’re the only ones that are truly 0%-VOC.”
Even low-VOC products off-gas toxic compounds into the air. While the quantities might not be high enough to be dangerous to the homeowner, it is still an environmental concern. “These things are becoming more and more important to people, and our 0%-VOC product fits into that.”
In January of 2018, concurrent with its relocation to Austin, Texas, the company focused its vision with the following theme: Reach, teach, and serve. This three-part mission brought to the fore a commitment to expand the business by reaching new customers, and most importantly, by educating all parties on how to best use its products. To accommodate this vision, the company built a training center in its new corporate headquarters, and a significant amount of effort and investment has been put toward teaching.
“The most important thing is that we’re focused on education,” says Hardisty. “We want to train people who are reselling the product, manufacturers who are using it, installers who are installing it, everyone involved in the sale or application of the product. The goal is to make those people proponents of the product.”
Rubio has built a number of dedicated training areas into its warehouse building where it invites small groups of twelve to fifteen people at a time. They are trained on everything they need to know to be successful with Rubio Monocoat products. The class sizes are kept small so that each of the attendees gets valuable hands-on practice and individual coaching alongside classroom lessons, and the company partners with some of the top professionals in the world to make their training sessions some of the most respected in the industry. In moving to Austin Rubio has set itself up to make education a key component of the business so that those offering and using the product do so in the most effective way possible.
One of the most significant challenges for the company has been dealing with public perception in the United States of how wood finishes should appear. The traditional American standard for floors, furniture, and other wood surfaces is the shiny finish that results from a polyurethane coat. Oil-based products like Rubio Monocoat result in a more natural, matte finish. The market seems to be shifting toward accepting an aesthetic that Rubio Monocoat fits perfectly, but it has been a challenge to combat the perception of what a protected surface looks like.
“We sell to businesses, so we don’t always have direct contact with end users and homeowners,” says Hardisty, “so it’s been a real challenge for us to convince people that the dry, aged, natural look is actually a protected surface and that there are benefits to using an oil over a polyurethane finish.”
In Europe, roughly sixty to seventy percent of floors use an oil-based finish, and the remaining thirty to forty percent use a polyurethane. The matte aesthetic of an oil finish is widely recognized in that part of the world. Unfortunately, in the United States, roughly ninety-eight percent of floors have a polyurethane finish, so the general perception of what protected wood looks like is based on a glossy surface. To provide customers with what the company considers to be a far superior product, it must overcome that perception and inform the people that, while oil-based finishes look different, they are, in many ways, a better option.