Cabinets for a Pool Area

Selecting durable wood, hardware and finish coatings for cabinets intended for an indoor swimming pool area. March 20, 2006

A customer is building a house with an indoor swimming pool and they want a bar area. I was going to use cypress for the frames and doors. I wasn't sure what plywood to use for the boxes. Will the moisture affect the hinges and drawer slides? Should I use a water sealer for the finish or something else?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor F:
Better do some research before doing that job. All that moisture is one large concern. Another big concern is the chlorine. The chlorine will corrode most metals very quickly. Go overkill on your allowance for seasonal wood movement. Finish the wood with the best varnish available.

From contributor M:
I have done this in the past using marine-grade ply, stainless hinges and coated slides (anything other than uncoated zinc). Ditto on the movement, although the constant humidity will keep everything pretty well swollen.

From contributor D:
Will varnish keep the chlorine from doing any damage? If not, how many coats would you recommend?

From contributor F:
I am not sure I understand you. I am recommending varnish because it stands up to saltwater, which is also very caustic. I would use the coating schedule on the product label.

From contributor F:
I forgot - use a very water resistant adhesive.

From contributor A:
I would go with stainless hardware. Thanks to Taiwan, it's a lot cheaper than even a couple of years ago. As for the boxes, I can't imagine they are going to actually get wet. It's probably a good idea to shy away from inset doors of any kind. I would not warranty any of the work for more than a month. They could be calling you back once a week for years to come.

From contributor E:
Use teak and sell them a lifetime supply of teak oil.

From contributor D:
I was asking about the chlorine because I have a client who wants wood flooring but has a pool, and I'm afraid of wet/chlorinated feet constantly on the floor. Any suggestions?

From contributor F:
I would suggest waterproof flooring. If there is no way around that one, then I don't really have the answer. You might call a varnish maker tech line and ask about how it would react to chlorine.

From contributor D:
By waterproof flooring, are you referring to… tile? Because I don/t make a dime off that!

From contributor F:
Sorry I stepped on your profit margin. I think waterproof flooring is a better idea in a wet area - that's all. You won't make many dimes if the wood floor buckles up.

From contributor S:
Only species I know which will withstand prolonged saltwater immersion and not cost too much is iroko. It's used for lock gates and marine piling, so it's pretty resistant, but way cheaper than teak. Really requires oil finishing, as it's a naturally oily timber.

From contributor W:
The cypress should be fine in that covered environment. We have done several outdoor sets like that. We used the UV coated birch ply for boxes. We found out from our supplier that the regular pre-finished ply that we use is an exterior grade (made with exterior glue). Marine ply is overkill (and ugly) in this application. Marine ply is rated for contact with water (like a boat hull). A good conversion varnish or spar varnish for the finish would be best. The exterior hardware (knobs) should be stainless or bronze. The standard zinc hardware for the interior is fine. It is protected inside the box. You should be clear that the warranty should be for a short, prescribed time (like 1-3 months) due to uncontrolled conditions. The most likely failure over time will be the joints of the doors.