Lance Blanchard

steam resistant finishes...???

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Hi,

new member here and fairly new woodworker with question that I hope someone here will have some experience with.  I am converting a walk-in shower to a steam shower and am replacing home builder's doors with doors that I am building myself.  The doors are teak, and the door jams are Ipe.  All the hardware will be stainless steel.  They will be exposed to water/soap splash daily and occasionally to steam (maybe once or twice a month.  The steam system will limit the max temperature of the room to 120F.  One of the doors has an exterior face, but it is under a balcony and will not be exposed to direct sunlight.  The local climate is long hot summers and short mild winters (Dallas, TX).  My primary questions are: what finish will 1) best protect the wood from water that will cause it to warp/swell or otherwise change shape 2) be transparent enough to show some grain 3) not require frequent maintenance.  

I have been recommended Waterlox, but spoke to their tech support dept and was told 120F was too hot for that product.  I considered epoxy, but label on the one brand I researched states 120F is max temp.  I've tried to do some research online, but have gotten lost in a sea of terms like poly, epoxy, polish, oil, shellac, wax, varnish, urethane etc etc etc.  I haven't been able to find anything specific to steam shower doors, or 120F ratings, and every page I've found seems to just be a pitch for whatever is being sold on that page.  I don't really aspire to become a chemistry expert.  I'm just hoping to find whatever best prevents these doors from warping and swelling.  Any insights are greatly appreciated.

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I am no more an expert than you are, but maybe you are over-thinking this. A couple of years ago I made a small set of shelves for the kitchen out of oak & pine with dovetails and dadoes. These are on a wall immediately above the area where the kettle sits. Multiple times per day we use the kettle and steam goes straight up onto these shelves. I expected there to be problems with warpage & cracking but there is no visible sign of any problem. I finished the shelves with some brushed-on shellac followed by bees wax, nothing fancy.

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Red oak shelf stained to match contractor grade bathroom cabinets and sprayed with rattle-can poly.  Been in a bathroom where folks shower for many years.  Looks fine . . . or as fine as "golden oak" stained red oak with poly on it ever does :rolleyes:

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I would look in the direction of exterior finishes. Surfaces in full sun can reach those temperatures . Exterior & marine finishes tend to need renewing every so often and they are usually a softer coating to deal with expansion & contraction. It's not like bathroom doors are going to be at 120 near as long as a boat deck.  Oil would be another possibility.

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I should update this with a new picture of the bench. I made this out of Ipe and it gets washed twice daily and i haven't seen any change in the finish yet. Except for getting covered in hardwater deposits. i used watco butcher block oil finish. Despite it's name it does cure hard and takes a fair beating. The thing is the air and steam may be a hot 120 degrees but it takes a lot of energy to heat the wood up so it's not going to see the temps that you think it might. If the steam shower was running for long periods of time like multiple hours this may be different but for a home residential use i don't think the temps will have much of an impact. I feel your biggest concern are goign to be the moisture and humidity changes.

 

 

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Teak and Ipe will be absolutely fine in those conditions as long as no part of them holds the water that falls on them. As long as it sides down and dries occasionally, you're safe. As for finish, you just need it to be flexible, so marine varnish is probably best, or you could go for oils and other finishes you can just reapply as they wear out.

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