The Avid Group needed to find a material that would be both cost effective and stand up to the abuse of an outdoor application when it got a request from the Agua Caliente band of the Cahuilla Indians building the new Agua Cliente Hotel and Casino. The answer came walking in the door in the form of salesman Dennis Johnson and Starboard polymer material.

"The architect who did the work was not a local architect and specified laminate for the area around the pool," says Avid's owner, Daniel McCall. "In this environment laminate is not a viable option because of the heat. It just doesn't hold up."

The Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians were thrilled with the material and Avid got the job.

The Avid Group, located in Thousand Palms, Calif., does custom cabinetry, millwork and wood and upholstered products and audio/video systems. A large percentage of the shop's work is wood and wood veneers, but the shop also works with laminates.

"Our product is one-of-a-kind, custom designed, custom built," says McCall.

A new market

Outdoor living is one of the hottest trends sweeping the country and McCall wanted to take advantage of this trend. By adding outdoor cabinetry to the shop's already diverse product offerings he could now do the whole house, all the cabinetry and millwork inside and out.

Although on the East Coast outdoor cabinetry is not new, on the West Coast it hasn't been about cabinetry, it's been about stucco structures. Generally, outdoor structures for barbecuing have been built using stucco, brick or stone.

"When they get done there's no cabinetry, no drawers, no storage space nothing, and it's a big advantage to have a cabinetmaker make it because he can supply all those things for customers," says Johnson.

"We're actually giving them functional, useful cabinetry outside, as opposed to a stucco box you can stick your barbecue in," says McCall. "There seems to be a big increase in outdoor functionality in the custom home market now and in a lot of them they're retrofitting to fit it in the homes. This is a great product for outdoors because it'll last forever. You really can't hurt it."

Polymer is forever

King StarBoard is a high-density polyethylene solid core material available in 4 by 8 sheets from 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches. The resin is USDA, FDA and National Sanitation approved. The product can be used for either indoor or outdoor applications. It's now available in eight standard colors or custom colors for large orders in the right poundage.

A version of the product has been in use for the marine industry for yachts and boats for 30 years. When King StarBoard made the product for outdoor cabinetry, the company made it more rigid and a structural product by changing the resin formula. "And then we changed the pattern so you couldn't scratch it easily," says Johnson.

Johnson has called on at least 200 cabinet shops introducing them to this new product. Many shops told them that they had been turning jobs down because they didn't want the liability for outdoor cabinetry, because there is nothing else that really works well for outdoors.

The good and the bad

In the past, cabinetry for outside applications, says McCall, was made of solid teak or redwood, but there are still issues of maintenance with these woods, depending on the look the customer wants. This polymer product is maintenance free, impermeable to water and cannot be damaged by harsh cleaning chemicals that are often used in cleaning pools or outdoor furniture.

Because of the makeup of King Starboard polymer, it will not chip, and if it's gouged, the texture and the color that run through the product hide the damage. This product has been used in all outdoor conditions, temperatures and humidity levels.

"As far as strength and retention," says Johnson, "it's very similar to hardwood plywood. You have better screw strength on this than MDF."

The shop relies on standard woodworking equipment to get all its jobs done. It has two sliding table saws, an Altendorf WA8 and a Lartigiana KS, a Powermatic table saw, a Brandt edgebander and a number of Porter-Cable portable routers.

"It routs and mills beautifully," says McCall. "Any standard woodworking equipment will work."

Except for countertops, the company does all its own veneer work, custom mouldings and millwork. It builds some of its doors when a special design is requested, but otherwise outsources them.

Starboard polymer requires only minor sanding, if at all, and no finishing. "It cannot be painted, so the color you initially choose will be that color forever and will look as good as it does the day it's installed," says Johnson.

This polymer does not accept glue, so has to be either screwed together or heat welded. Stainless steel hardware is recommended for outdoor applications. Any hardware that is used in other wood products can be used for this one, including Confirmat screws.

Only extreme heat can hurt this product. The polymer is very dense, twice as heavy as a sheet of MDF, is not brittle and produces curly remnants and no dust or smell.

Fitting it in

The polymer can be used for indoor applications as well. "What we're starting to do is use it in boxes for sinks and anywhere there's the potential for water damage," says McCall. "For your standard cabinets you might use MDF and particleboard or melamine and when that gets wet, it will swell and crack. This is impervious to water."

"The Starboard is about 10 percent of our business right now, but it's growing," says McCall.

Avid does all custom designed and built cabinetry and is now in the position to furnish the both interior and the exterior parts of any home.

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