07 July 2021
Leading the world in eco-friendly credentials is only the beginning for Weathertex and its Managing Director Jason O’Hagan.
Five years after its flat sheet and weatherboard products were lauded as the first manufactured product to be granted a platinum rating by Global Green Tag for its natural range, Weathertex continues to be at the forefront of sustainability as word of mouth spreads about its products among builders, carpenters and architects here and overseas.
A natural evolution of the Masonite production process, Weathertex was first manufactured in 1964 and has changed little since then – including using much of the original machinery, such as the world’s only Mason guns, in the 1939-built factory at Raymond Terrace in New South Wales’ Hunter region.
The secret to the firm’s success lies partially in its century-old manufacturing process that requires no toxic or polluting chemicals, and creates less carbon than the timber can absorb and store.
Explained in full on YouTube videos, the process also minimises waste by creating compost, using offcut board for briquettes and also recycling it as packaging. Even the on-site water management system reduces usage by treating and recycling processed water.
Perhaps most importantly, all Weathertex products are 100 per cent natural, made from 97 per cent hardwood and 3 per cent paraffin wax.
Rather than using sawn timber, the process uses waste timber sourced from Australian-based PEFC-certified (Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) forests.
The third factor is its sustainability practices continually being enhanced by globally accepted certification, such as CodeMark, Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) and the Product Health Declaration (PHD).
Executive chairman Paul Michael says the combination shows Weathertex was a unique product that had been years ahead of its time.
“Many materials and products that claim to be ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ often do not live up to their claim,” Paul says. “But we believe (with the independent certification) we’ve made it easier for the architect, designer and the builder focusing on sustainable building practices.
“In feedback, various people have praised us by saying that we’re ‘a sustainable timber cladding solution at no extra cost’ because when many think of sustainable products they think they have to pay more.”
Repeat business has helped create what Jason calls “exponential growth”, with turnover more than doubling in the past decade and production volumes mirroring the growth.
“One of the things that I was told back in 1998 by the people associated with the company was that once a builder or an architect, designer or chippie uses Weathertex, they’ll use it forever,” Paul says.
“We’ve found that 80 or 90 per cent of those who use it for the first time will always come back to it because it’s environmentally friendly (the timber cladding also is the only product of its type containing no silica, artificial glues, resins or formaldehydes) and it’s easy to use.
“(In our industry) The stigma that fibre cement has acquired, with asbestos and silica in recent times, has definitely helped Weathertex because it is timber, and we all know timber is the ultimate renewable material with a better-than-zero carbon footprint.”
Being voted the most trusted brand in the biennial architectural design survey (2016 and 2018) “totally blew us away”, especially since the category included industry heavyweights such as Dulux, Colorbond and James Hardie.
But Weathertex refuses to rest on its laurels, particularly amid the pandemic.
Jason says innovations, such as the virtual visualisation tool “to put our products on plans or photos to see how the project would look”, have helped maintain that reputation for excellence.
And its agility in responding to lockdowns through its podcasts and webinar series have helped keep clients informed.
Now exporting to more than a dozen countries, including New Zealand, India, Iran, France, New Caledonia, Holland, Italy, South Korea, Dubai, Israel and Indonesia, the 100 per cent Australian-owned and-operated firm is eyeing the US for more opportunities.
But Jason says the company will remain true to its roots in meeting the ever-increasing demand for affordable building materials that don’t risk health or the environment. In other words, tapping into the same formula that has brought Weathertex success over many years.
“It's an old factory and the sheds have been here for 60-odd years, but we’ve refitted our offices with all our cladding products. We do what we can to enhance the well-known benefits of using timber where we can,” Jason says.
“We haven’t changed how we acquire the timber. We’ve continued to manufacture like we always have because it’s a truly sustainable product.
“We’re the only place left in the world that has Mason guns, because it’s a lot cheaper to pulp chip with the thermal mechanical process. But you can’t make Weathertex without Mason guns. They’re incredibly expensive to maintain and to operate, but the finished product and feedback proves they’re worth it.”
Weathertex, a better cladding choice… naturally!