TJ Millington of Las Sendas said his Mesa firm, Armor Plate Coating Systems, can help reduce energy costs with his special CorkShield coating on homes and other buildings. (Special to the Tribune)

David M. Brown, Tribune Contributor

TJ Millington says cork isn’t just for wine bottles and lighter fishing lines.

Through his new Mesa business, Armor Plate Coatings Systems, the Las Sendas resident and his crew of 17 installers are applying Vipeq Thermal CorkShield to homes and other structures throughout the Valley.

More than 60 homes have been treated in Arizona during the last four and a half years with his product, helping owners save money on energy bills while improving the appearance and value of their homes and commercial buildings, he said.

Millington exploiting the natural benefits of cork, which offers thermal insulation, a water barrier and sound dampening.

As a foam, it can be applied to all surfaces – including wood, masonry and steel as well as roofs, where an elastomeric coating is included.

And the product can be painted with 16 integral colors available as well as matches to the customer’s sample.

In July, Millington and his business partner, Bart Higley of Carefree, acquired the sales, marketing, installation and distribution rights for most of Arizona through Vipeq, a 30-year-old Canadian company.

Higley owns Home Select, which has installed flooring, cabinets and countertops for 43 years.

The business partners are negotiating the acquisition of the remaining Arizona rights, and they are looking to hold exclusive rights in California, Nevada and New Mexico.

“I was part of sales and marketing for Vipeq a few years ago and I immediately saw the amazing benefits back then,” said Millington, a Minnesota native who moved to Arizona 20 years ago.

He raced cars and motorcycles and then Chevy trucks in NASCAR competitions from 2004-07 – a time when he also became involved with the business side of racing.

“That really taught me about how relationships are key to making any transaction a win-win for everyone involved,” said Millington, adding that meticulous customer service is central to Armor Plate Coatings Systems.

He visits each jobsite daily, for example.

His wife, Rebecca, an East Valley native, is a Realtor for Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty.

Their three daughters, ages 19 to 23, are all in college and graduates of Red Mountain High School.

Locally focused, his company supports a number of local charities, including Teen Life, Childhelp and Wings of Humanity.

Calling his product “the most advanced green energy product on the market,” Millington said that before he became a regional owner, he was impressed with the work of a Vipeq crew that corked a 6,000-square-foot home in East Mesa in 2015.

Before the application, the client’s utility bills were $790 to $810 per month in summer.

“Since the cork was applied, the homeowner has shared with us that his utility bills have never been over $400 per month,” said Millington.

Installation cost is very competitive compared with stucco and quality paint.

For an existing home, he said application begins at $3.80 per square foot up to $4 per square foot, depending on whether it’s a single- or two-story home.

For new construction, that range is $5.80–$6.35 per square foot.

“We follow the same processes with synthetic stucco on a new build: We apply paper, then wire, brown coat and cork. No caulking is required.”

Mike Holmes, general contractor and television host, had the Vipeq cork sprayed on his sheet-metal Canadian garage, which he says has helped in the extremely cold northern winters.

“When it comes to building materials, I think this is the product of the century,” he said.

Valley customers have also responded favorably.

“Their product works. I first visited a contemporary home in Desert Mountain in north Scottsdale who had been fed up with all the stucco cracks on his wall: no matter how many times he fixed and painted, they reappeared,” recalled Frank Aazami, a principal of the Private Client Group at Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Real Estate in Scottsdale.

To fix the issue, the homeowner had the cork applied to his walls. After two years, the work looked as if it had been applied yesterday, said Aazami. 

As a result, Aazami had the cork applied on an older Valley luxury home that he and his wife recently acquired.

“The walls look fresh and the insulation from the outside is already saving us on utility bills,” he said. “I bet we don’t have to paint for another 12–15 years and the cracks are gone. 

“The Vipeq crew were in and out in five days,” he added. “I love this stuff.” 

The thermal insulation helps houses feel cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, reducing energy costs, Millington said.

In addition, cork is resistant to mold and water and is a fire retardant. It will melt under direct flame but has zero flame spread.

Another advantage is acoustic insulation. In the same way a sound studio incorporates cork to reduce sound reverberation, Vipeq’s treatment does the same for a building.

Milligan added that because of the flexible properties of cork, it expands and contracts depending on the weather and will absorb impact.

A 15-year warranty against cracking, chipping and peeling is standard with every application by certified installers.

The environmental benefits are also notable as well, he said.

Countries are planting new cork trees, increasing the number worldwide.

“And, in those areas, as the bark is trimmed,” he said. “The cork tree releases large amounts of oxygen, replenishing the air all of us breathe.”


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