Refinishing your Spa Cabinet
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A spa cabinet, or the outside staves of a hot tub, begin to fade and splinter after some time in the good 'ol outdoors. Even manufactured wood spa cabinets begin to show their age after a while. You should avoid staining and sealing the inside of a hot tub, but the outside, or steps and cabinets around a tub or spa is an easy way to rejuvenate your spa or hot tub!
At some point, your spa cabinet will lose the luster it once had, and you will decide to do something about it. This post is about how to rehab your cabinets around a spa or hot tub - and protecting it, before winter sets in.
Keeping your Spa Cabinet Clean
To keep your spa cabinet clean, you have to think about the area surrounding the spa.
- Shield from sprinklers or roof runoff water.
- Shield from direct sun if longer than a few hours.
- Spray any weeds, keep plants 6" away from cabinet.
- Cover bare ground around spa with gravel, mats or decking.
- Don't let your spa overflow, or allow heavy splashout from the spa.
Refinishing Spa Cabinets
Spa cabinets can be made of wood, typically cedar or redwood varieties, but common nowadays are composite plastic materials, in colors, with grained or patterned finishes. These finishes don't require re-finishing, usually a cleaning with a stiff brush and a bucket of soapy water is all they need. If you do want to spiff up your non-wood cabinet, you can use spa cover conditioner to restore a darker, glossy finish, and remove minor scuffs.
Wood cabinets can become faded, chipped and over time, begin to rot. Even cedar and redwood cabinets, more resistant to insect and bacteria damage (rot), will eventually begin to deteriorate. Regularly cleaning and sealing your cabinet, and taking care of those 5 things listed above, will keep any wood spa cabinet looking good for a lifetime.
Step one: clean it
Cleaning a wood spa cabinet with a stiff brush is the first step. If you don't have a heavy, short handled brush, you can use a toilet brush (lol), or unscrew the handle from a push broom, or floor scrubber. Fill a small bucket with a gallon of water and some dish soap. Then, just like cleaning a car, go around the cabinet and give it a good scrubbing, top to bottom.
Notice how the water drains off, and if it pools in any spots on the cabinet or below the cabinet. Lightly hose off the surface with a hose spray nozzle, or wipe clean with a wet sponge, going with the grain as you wipe. Let your cabinet dry for a good 24 hours before the next step.
Step two: repair it
You may be able to skip this step, I hope. But if your wood spa cabinet has some areas of wood rot, with hollow loose areas that you can practically poke your finger into... Look for any loose nails or screws, or any bowed sections, anything unusual.
Chipped, rotted or decayed sections can be cut out with a razor knife, and filled in with wood filler or any exterior wall repair patch. This will slow the deterioration of the wood. Just lay it in there with a putty knife and allow it to dry.
Rough areas, or splintering wood cabinets can be lightly sanded with a medium grit sandpaper. Wrap it around a dry sponge to make a sanding block.
Step three: stain it
If your wood has visible damage, or severe fading, a solid cover stain will hide more imperfections than a transparent or semi-transparent stain. If it is in very bad condition, with advanced fading and color differences, you can use an exterior paint, but this will hide the natural tone of the wood, and could require frequent repainting.
Take a picture of your spa color as you go to your local hardware supply to try and match the stain color as close as possible. When in doubt, always select a lighter colored stain than what you think you have. The smallest jar of stain (4 oz) is often enough for a spa cabinet. Tear off the can label after use, and tape or staple it somewhere inside your spa cabinet, so you can remember the stain color 5 years from now.
Despite some other spa bloggers that suggest that you use Linseed Oil (blogger war!), I would stay away from this unless you have a very dark colored cabinet. It can be hard to control the mix and application, and you could end up with a black spa cabinet. Other than a problem with darkening, Linseed Oil does make a nice wood preservative.
For best results in staining, use a clean, textured kitchen sponge, strained of excess stain. Be sure to use a drop cloth, wear rubber gloves, and keep a rag handy to wipe up any pooling.
Step four: seal it
Sealing the stained wood is a most important step for protecting your restored finish. While your browsing stains and sealers, you'll notice that there are many products that are stain-and-sealer in one (!). These are fine to use - I like to use the Mixwax PolyShades line of all-in-one, but there are others.
If you don't use a combination stain and sealer, you can find several polyurethane sealers or waterproofing products. Look for a product that won't need reapplication twice per year, but something that is more permanent. Choose your finish - matte, satin or glossy. After your stain dries, you can apply the sealer, with a sprayer, rag or sponge.
>>> Most spa cabinets will need a refinishing every 5 years or so. So, what are you waiting for? Clean it, Stain it & Seal it!
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