Mesa’s TJ Millington corks buildings to improve energy efficiency while also helping others through charitable efforts. His Mesa-based business, Armor Plate Coating Systems, applies Vipeq Thermal CorkShield™ to homes and commercial structures throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area. In the last five years, 60-plus homes in the Valley have been treated, saving the owners on their energy bills and improving the appearance and value of their real estate.
The cork product offers thermal insulation, a water barrier, and sound dampening. Sprayed on, it adheres to all surfaces including wood, masonry, and steel, as well as roofs, where an elastomeric coating is added. The cork has 16 integral colors, and color matching is available to the customer’s sample, Millington explains.
“Traditional insulation, such as rolled batting or blown-in fiberglass, protects the inside walls, but cork adds protection to the outside, where the summer sun in Arizona can create enormous perimeter heat,” he says. “Stopping that heat build-up at the first point of contact is a successful way to reduce the temperatures the inner insulation is designed to repel. Inside and outside, they work together as a system.”
In July 2020, Millington and his business partners, Bart and Justin Higley of Carefree, acquired the sales, marketing, installation, and distribution rights for most of Arizona through Vipeq, a 30-year-old company. The Higleys’ company, Home Select, has been installing flooring, cabinets, and countertops for 43 years. The men also recently acquired the exclusive rights in California, Nevada, and New Mexico.
Armor Plate Coating Systems is committed to serving those in need, donating money and other services to organizations such as Phoenix’s Teen Lifeline, which combats youth suicide, and Scottsdale-based Childhelp, which is dedicated to freeing children from abusive environments.
Millington and Scottsdale-based Childhelp connected about five years ago through Pat Bondurant at the Bondurant High Performance Driving School in Chandler.
“His company was looking to find a charitable organization that was making an actionable and tangible difference in the lives of children,” says Michael Medoro, chief development officer. “TJ wanted to help identify and create new ways to generate both revenue and awareness for Childhelp’s services––and specifically for those children at risk but unable to break free from the horrors of their abusive environment.”
The company invested in a nationwide campaign to support the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (1.800.4.A.CHILD), the only hotline operating anywhere in the world with trained professional counselors, serving individuals in crisis 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in more than 170 different languages.
“Because of that annual commitment and investment, Childhelp has been able to expand its reach into more than 25 new markets around the country, most of which would never have heard of Childhelp,” Medoro explains, noting that more than $1.5 million has been received so far in direct support for the hotline. “TJ wanted to see more children and families in crisis be able to connect with this professional lifeline of support, and his investment in our cause has helped to bring this life-saving service to thousands.”
A Green-Conscious Valley Company Begins
“I was part of sales/marketing for Vipeq a few years ago, and I immediately saw the amazing benefits of cork applications back then,” says Millington, who left his native Minneapolis 20 years ago to live in Arizona (for the last five, he and his family have lived in Mesa).
Millington previously raced cars, motorcycles, and, finally, Chevy trucks in NASCAR competitions from 2004 to 2007. While racing, he also became involved with the business side of racing.
“That really taught me about how quality relationships make any transaction a win-win for everyone,” he says, noting that meticulous customer service is central to Armor Plate Coating Systems. He visits each jobsite daily, for example.
Calling his product “the most advanced green energy product on the market,” Millington explains that before he became a regional owner, a Vipeq crew corked a 6,000-square-foot home in East Mesa in 2015. Before application, the client’s utility bills were $790 to $810 per month June through September, he says.
“Since the cork was applied, the homeowner has shared with us that his utility bills have never been over $400 per month,” he reports.
Installation cost is very competitive compared with stucco and quality paint. For an existing home, he says application begins at $3.80 per square foot up to $4 per square foot, depending on whether it’s a one- 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,” Millington says.
Recently, Mike Holmes, general contractor and television host, had Vipeq cork spray his sheet-metal Canadian garage, and he says it has significantly helped, especially in the extremely cold northern winters.
“When it comes to building materials, I think this is the product of the century,” he recently tweeted.
Valley customers have also responded favorably.
“The product works. A while back, I first visited a contemporary home in Desert Mountain in North Scottsdale. The owner had been fed up with all the stucco cracks on his wall; no matter how many times he fixed and painted, they reappeared,” recalls Frank Aazami, a Valley homeowner and principal of the Private Client Group at Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Real Estate, Scottsdale.
To fix the issue, the homeowner had the cork applied to his walls; after two years, the cork looked as if it had been applied yesterday, says Aazami. As a result, the Realtor® had the cork applied on an older Valley luxury home he and his wife recently acquired.
“The walls look fresh, and the insulation from the outside is already saving us on utility bills,” he explains. “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. I love this stuff.”
For one, the thermal insulation helps your home feel cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, reducing energy costs, Millington says.
In addition, cork is mold- and water-resistant, and is a fire-retardant—it will melt under direct flame but has zero flame spread. Another advantage is acoustic insulation––it works in the same way as when a sound studio incorporates cork to reduce sound reverberation.
And, because of the flexible properties of cork, it expands and contracts depending on the weather and will absorb impact. Millington provides a 15-year warranty against cracking, chipping and peeling when his certified installers apply it.
The environmental benefits are also notable. For one, countries are planting new cork trees, increasing the number worldwide.
“In those areas, as the bark is trimmed,” he says, “the cork tree releases large amounts of oxygen, replenishing the air we all breathe.”
For more information, visit www.armorplatecoatings.com.