Refinish a Wood Hot Tub Cabinet

4313831500_83bc54c2dc_zSome of the most beautiful (and costly) hot tubs are made with a real cedar surround. The wood is beautiful and its oils naturally resist insects and moisture. However, constaexposure to the sun can dry it out and cause the wood to lose some color and natural ability to resist rotting. For that reason, most modern hot tub cabinets are made with a plastic composite or synthetic wood because it is virtually maintenance free.

If you do have a cedar surrounded spa that has begun to lose its color and is showing some serious wear and tear, don’t fret! It’s not that difficult to refinish a wood hot tub cabinet and cedar is easy to bring back to life. You’ll need a few supplies, a weekend full of sunshine, and a few hours of your time.

14 Easy Steps

1) Pick a weekend when you’re not expected to have any rotten weather. The whole process is contingent on having time to let the wood dry between coats.

2) Prep the area, whether your hot tub is inside or outside, by laying down a drop cloth around the area of the hot tub. This is especially important if your hot tub sits on a deck where any falling paint/stain/bleach could drip and leave residue on your deck. It could even stain a cement pad if not washed immediately.

NOTE: if you’re inside, make sure the room is well ventilated.

3) Get extra thick painter’s tape and use it to section off any acrylic or fixtures you want protected. Remove the cover and set it somewhere it won’t get damaged during the project. This is a good project to conduct if you have recently drained your hot tub for a normal cleaning.

4) Prep the wood by mixing ½ cup of bleach in a gallon of warm water. While wearing heavy duty gloves, a mask, and clothes you don’t mind getting sullied, use a rag to wipe the wood down with the bleach solution. Wash it off with a hose after finishing, careful not to wash it into the flower beds or furniture. Let the wood dry completely before going on to the next step.

5) Next, you’ll want to sand the bleached wood with sandpaper or a small handheld sander to remove any remaining stain, dings, dents, splinters, and other wood roughness. Go over the surface first with a lower grit sandpaper (60-80). Go over the surface a second time with a higher grit paper (120+ or higher). Wear your mask and do this job meticulously—don’t rush!

6) After sanding, vacuum the cedar with a shop vac to get rid of any remaining dust or debris. Wipe down with a tack cloth or rinse again with the hose. Let dry completely before preceding to the next step.

7) You have a few options when it comes to coloring/resealing the wood on your hot tub cabinet. You can go with a traditional wood stain or use boiled linseed oil* mixed with turpentine (which enhances absorption and speeds drying time). This combo is half the price of wood stains and gives it a natural look. If you’re looking for a specific look or deep color, go with stain.

8) Once you’ve made your choice, put on your gloves and clothes you’re okay with getting dirty and get mixing. If you’re using a stain, shake the can according to the directions. You can put it in an easier to access container or use the stain just from the can.

9) If you’re using the linseed oil and turpentine, use a large measuring cup and mix 2/3rds cup boiled linseed oil with 1/3 cup of turpentine (a 2:1 ratio) and stir slowly.

10) Dip a lint-free rag or a quality brush into your linseed/turpentine mixture and rub with the grain of the wood. Allow it to completely dry between coats—it may take 2-4 rounds to get the color you want. After your final layer, wait 24 hours and wipe down everything with tack cloth or a lint-free rag to get rid of any excess oil or stain. If you stain the cabinet, wipe it on with a rag, let sit for a minute or so, then wipe off with a CLEAN rag.

11) If you’ve stained the wood, put on 1-2 coats of exterior polyurethane before finishing. Paint it on with a good paint brush, let it dry completely, and sand lightly with extra fine sandpaper. Remove dust with a tack cloth and then apply a second coat. Let dry completely and make sure it’s cured entirely before using your tub.

12)To protect your cabinet in the future, the first step is to keep your water properly balanced, especially by keeping a close eye on calcium hardness. One of the most detrimental elements to cedar are calcium deposits from the water. Make sure you take care of these deposits if they occur and keep water balanced in the process.

13) Clean up any chemical or product spills that may occur during use.

14) Reseal with poly every 3-6 months.
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