Where you use this item will be a major factor in your selection process. Will it be outside year round or just seasonally? Will it face the elements head on or be outside under a covered area? Mother Nature can dish out some harsh weather and it can break down outdoor furniture in a hurry so knowing where and how you wish to use it is important. Once you have determined its use and placement then you can narrow down the type of materials you can, or should use to face your environment. Three typical uses are:
- Outside in the yard all year round
- Outside in the yard seasonally
- Under a covered, dry, area outdoors. (i.e.: Under a porch, in an outdoor shed)
- In an enclosed area like a garage or a shop
Any furniture that goes outside in an environment that is not heated or kept dry has the potential to fail. It is only a matter of time. Most materials unless treated with a waterproof or water resistant process will a difficult time lasting outdoors.
Plastic units are fantastic because the material can take the punishment however; if the interior hardware of the unit is metal screws and hinges then there is the possibility rusting in the future. Solid wood and treated woods are also excellent but again if the hardware is metal then it will rust. Metal with a protective finish or coating also performs well but still may have trouble with metal connecting hardware and rust. Melamine and MDF, (medium density fibreboard), do not perform particularly well in the outdoors. Especially rain. No matter how you try to seal your product, rain has a way of slowing getting into the MDF which makes it expand, lose it shape and strength, and then it fails.
Most materials can perform a little better when outdoors but covered up all the time. Plastic, wood, metal, or MDF board can last far better when kept dry however, wood based products do a tendency to suck up as much moisture as they can, which can lead to the MDF expanding and the metal hardware getting rusty and failing. When the area is covered and dry you do have a few more options.
When kept inside a dry or waterproof area all these materials perform well. Plastic, wood, metal, and even MDF can last for eons in indoor applications whether it’s bookshelves or cabinets. There should little chance of moisture getting into the material and expanding or warping it.
If you have the opportunity to connect these units to a solid wall you need to do so. Never run the risk of having a bookcase with 200 lbs of stuff come crashing down on anybody. The best way is to attach to a wall with metal brackets and connect to the cabinet. Some bookcase and cabinets backboards are so thin and flimsy that if you have screwed through the back of the unit into studs the entire back board of the unit can dislodge and still the unit will fall over.
If you live near the ocean you already know that sea air can wreak havoc on any product except plastic. Even if your bookcases or cabinets are under cover or inside the garage the salt content in the air can slowly diminish the life of wood, metal, and composite materials like MDF.