So last week I was manipulated into making some kick ass outdoor cabinets. A little wine, some clever yet devious methods employed by my equally clever and devious wife, all combined to awake the ancient god of Machismo which had been dormant in me for quite some time. What the hell, if you’re going to do something, might as well do it right, right? Of course I’m right – I am El Macho. So let’s get to it, as I can already feel El Macho being replaced by El Nap-o. Let’s go over some different outdoor situations you might be building in, and what materials you can use with a Euro style of cabinet construction.
Major Exposure Situation for Outdoor Cabinets
if you’re going to get rained on, and there’s a chance water may get into your cabinets, you have to go full-on PVC construction. They make three quarter inch thick sheets that you can cut like plywood. Not cheap, and if I may give a little hint here…. Push them through the saw as fast as safely possible. I wouldn’t even edge band the case, because whoever sees the edge? It’s dark, you’re barbequing , sucking up some suds… Don’t waste time and money to edge band something that doesn’t need it. Now, your friendly neighborhood designer is going to want the edges to look the same as the exterior faces. That’s the rule of thumb indoors, and I’m down with that. But this is outdoors…. function wins out way over form so get outta my face designer, go away, go home.
Semi-Exposed Situation for Outdoor Cabinets
For me, laid up laminate panels with 3mm PVC edge banding works here. Note: If there is a can of contact cement within a mile of your shop, when working on outdoor cabinets, furniture, or anything, throw it out! When I say laid up, I mean pressed by a laminating facility that can cold press your panels with water resistant glue. Call out for some water resistant MDF, like Medex. I like to use Dynamic Laminating located in Gardena, California. The owner, Brent, is a very funny guy, in the sense that he still thinks he can play basketball at age thirty five. But all’s good. (After he got whacked in the jaw during a particularly brutal five-on-five tournament in Vegas, the plastic surgeon did a wonderful job, even though the additional nip and tuck (Yes, Brent, we all noticed!) was unnecessary in my book.) How is that all relevant? It’s not, now that you mention it.
Anyway, for your edge banding, use a hot glue edgebander. If you don’t have one, then go to a cabinet shop that does. It will be worth it.
Outdoor Cabinet Options When They’re Protected From the Elements
Here you can get away with some pre finished maple or birch, or maybe even some melamine, but be aware that any moisture that penetrates the core will be a disaster. Just bite the bullet and use laid up panels like I described above for semi-exposed areas.
The Enemy in Outdoor Cabinetry: Water
As you may have figured out by now, water is our enemy in outdoor cabinetry. I have heard that housekeepers can be deadly to cabinets with wet mops and excessive water everywhere. (We do not have that problem in our home. We are very careful. I was very well trained. )
Now change out the housekeeper for your friendly mow and blow gardener who uses the garden hose as if he’s practicing to put out a major brush fire and you have the potential for a real disaster. Did I say gardener? Sorry, Landscape Maintenance Expert.
So we know what we’re up against as far as the elements go. We’ve picked our materials. Let’s make some sawdust. Or as my wife likes to say, “Are we going to get started on that project like sometime this year?”
Next we’ll go into some specifics on installation, hardware, and finish that will make your outdoor entertainment arena the pride of the neighborhood. Everyone will want to party at your house and you will never have to hear again, “Don’t the Lundquists have a nice outdoor bbq?”