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What materials are used for locker cabinets?

Introduction

The choice of material for lockers is crucial, as it directly determines the rest of its properties, both appearance and layout, as well as cost and durability. It is important to choose a resistant material to reduce maintenance costs and avoid replacements, but at the same time, adapt to the physical needs of the facility (humidity, hygiene, number of customers, services rendered). Ultimately, the external appearance of the lockers affects the customer’s perception, not only in terms of cleanliness and the condition of the material but also because the design helps to give character to your premises.

Here is the list of the main materials for locker cabinets available on the market:

  • Wood
  • Metal
  • Plastic/HDPE
  • Laminates (Plastic, Wood, MDF, Melamine and Phenolic resin).

There is no ideal locker material, but we must base our choice on our specific needs and goals. Below we´ll get into their advantages and disadvantages to make it easier to decide on the right choice.


Wooden lockers

Natural wood lockers offer various options, from cheaper lacquered veneers to raised solid wood panel doors. Multiple types of wood are available: ash, birch, cedar, cherry, elm, mahogany, maple, red oak or white oak. You can also opt for a cabinet with a flush wood veneer surface over a chipboard or chipboard core. As for the appearance, we can use those wood or choose different dyes and high-quality chipboard.

Among its advantages, the most important is that wood is a very durable and robust material, quite resistant to abuse.

Cost varies depending on the type of wood, but in any case, it doesn’t have to be the most expensive choice and has the added advantage of being a material to suit existing installations. Not only does wood have the same functionality as metal, but it also offers a more luxurious, classic and sophisticated look that never goes out of style. Therefore, it is widely used in lockers of golf clubs, luxury clubs and gyms, and country clubs, but it is also commonly used in stadiums, fitness centres, spas, or ski lodges.

As a natural material, wood is susceptible to bacteria and fungi, which can count as a significant disadvantage. It requires a lot of care, leading to high maintenance costs. Its durability naturally increases according to the quality of the material, but it is not recommended for humid environments; therefore, avoid exposure to moisture.



Metal lockers

This is undoubtedly the cheapest option and the most uncomplicated due to the ease of installation.

On the other hand, it is the alternative that offers customers more security in storing their personal belongings and is therefore often used in busy or cheap gyms. These characteristics have meant that they are the best-selling type of locker to date but have tended to be less in demand in recent years due to the disadvantages that come with them.

Metal lockers are mass-produced to given standard dimensions so that they may conflict with the layout of our facility. They are delivered disassembled, which involves certain transport, assembly and installation costs. Despite their apparent durability, their long-term maintenance is challenging and expensive. For that reason, they are starting to get less frequent.

They dent and bend easily, apart from the paint peeling off in a few years, exposing the metal and making it susceptible to deterioration and rust. Metal is also affected by water and chemical damage and will need to be repainted and replaced in a short time.

Regarding the image they give to our gym, metal lockers are noisy when opening and closing and create an uncomfortable environment in our locker rooms. They are also not the most aesthetic option, and the range of colours is not as wide as with plastic or wood.


Plastic / HDPE lockers

Within plastic lockers, there is a wide range of materials with different properties, which we will analyse separately. The most common are HDPE and laminates (plastic, wood, melamine and phenolic). HDPE ( stands for hard polyethene, English high-density polyethene) is one of the most used; it is a rough and robust panel, resistant to both heat and extreme cold, which is why it is used at an industrial level. HDPE cabinets are manufactured from 100% recyclable materials, can be made to measure for any installation and are available in a wide range of colours, thicknesses and sizes.

Generally, plastic lockers are constructed from industrial-grade chipboard with a fire-retardant laminate surface and are highly resistant to the passage of time and use. Because of this, it is considered the ideal solution for longevity as it is a material that does not easily corrode or get scratches and dents. The best plastic lockers can come with a 20-year guarantee and don’t need to be painted, stained, or have their doors changed, or other maintenance costs like metal lockers.

Plastic is also an excellent option from a hygienic point of view since it is easy to clean and wears out less in everyday life, as well as collecting odours or bacteria, which promotes a clean indoor climate. Though the design of plastic cabinets may not look as refined and elegant as that of wood, it offers endless possibilities for customisation in terms of shapes and colours. You can choose between primary colours, patterns or grained wood in the arrangements and shapes.

Finally, its resistance and sturdiness contribute to the safety of objects and make plastic the best option for damp environments. It is equally ideal for busy gyms with diverse clientele and fitness facilities, and as mentioned above, HDPE plastic is typically 100% sustainable. However, the initial installation costs are high, and it is possibly the most expensive option.


Lockers made of laminates

Laminate is a volumetric deformation process that allows reducing the thickness of a given material and making it more uniform. In the case of gym lockers, the main materials available are wood, plastic, melamine and phenolic resin. The main benefit of laminates is that they offer similar design characteristics and durability to wood and plastic but with lower installation and maintenance costs. Another option is to combine laminates with other materials and use them for specific parts of our lockers, such as doors, specific compartments or as a decorative panel.

Wood laminate lockers

Wood laminates are a new standard. They are widely placed in modern gyms and spas. They offer the external elegance of wood but are more resistant to moisture, heat, and impact. It’s also a sustainable material made from renewable products, and its laminated nature makes it fully customisable to fit any type of installation.

Plastic laminate lockers

Plastic laminates offer a wide range of materials, which in many cases, are combined with a core of chipboard, medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or heat-bonded melamine. Offering the same durability and resistance to water and rust as plastic with the affordability of metal, it is a highly versatile material that adapts to all environments. We can choose between a horizontal or vertical orientation and an infinite range of colours. If you prefer, there is the possibility of textured finishes, glossy, matte or wood effects.

Melamine lockers

Melamine is a panel with a wood core covered with a decorative panel with melamine resins, a material often used in home furniture to imitate wood. It is notable for its hardness and resistance to heat and chemicals but less so to moisture and vapours, which can seriously damage it. This makes melamine an excellent choice for achieving the refined look of wood at a lower cost, but not so much for busy gyms, although through a clever combination of melamine with other materials, such as melamine. B. phenolic resin can achieve very resistant lockers.

Phenolic lockers

Phenolic resin is composed of high-density cellulose fibres, is one of the most innovative and sought-after for all types of installations. In particular, the density of its components determines its enormous impact, water and corrosion resistance, making it more than suitable for leisure and sports facilities. Phenolic lockers combine the versatility of wood with the strength and durability of metal, making them pass the test of time. Depending on the density of the material, we can find on the market variants of HPL (High-Pressure Decorative Laminate), which is less thick, and SGL (Solid Grade Laminate), which is much thicker and more resistant.

Solid phenol is formed into flat sheets of cellulosic fibres impregnated with thermoset resins and manufactured under high pressure and temperature. They are superior to plastic laminate, HDPE and solid wood in fire resistance and are also very resistant to scratches, impacts, abrasion, and chemicals and, being non-porous, prevent the accumulation of bacteria and fungi. It is a highly sustainable and easy-to-clean material, so it is highly recommended for spaces where better hygiene is required, such as swimming pools or humid environments.

The design is very flexible in terms of colours, sizes and shapes. The physical properties of its outer parts allow it to be coloured with melamine resins to customise it with graphics, letters, logos or any other visual complement that contributes to the brand image. In addition, it can take on the appearance of any material, such as granite, wood or stone. Its malleability allows numerous design possibilities in terms of doors, locks, ceilings, legs and so on.


Materials for lockers vs goals

As we can see, the range of materials available to us is very wide, but we shouldn’t let it overwhelm us. On the contrary, if our goals are very clear, we will find that each material has very specific needs and has very marked advantages and disadvantages. Now that we know and summarise these characteristics, we will put them in a very general relation to the main points to consider for our installation.

In terms of budget, wood and plastic locker cabinets are the most expensive materials compared to laminates and metal, the latter being the most economical. However, in the long term, metal lockers have high maintenance costs. In terms of durability, we have seen that the most resistant materials are plastics and metal, compared to wood which has restrictions for use in humid conditions. Finally, let’s look at the overall appearance, which is essential for the customer’s experience and our brand image. Wood offers the most remarkable sophistication, while plastic and laminates provide the possibilities of creativity through the personalisation of the design, taking metal as a priori optically less attractive material remains. We can always combine different types of materials if we think that’s what we need.

The table below describes lockers materials and their characteristics:

PROPERTIES OF LOCKERS MATERIALS
  MATERIALS    Affordability  ResistanceDurability  Aesthetics
  WOOD YESYESYES
  METALYESYES  
  PLASTIC/HDPE YESYES 
  LAMINATE PLASTICYESYESYES 
  LAMINATE WOOD YES YES
  LAMINATE MELAMINEYES  YES
  LAMINATE PHENOLIC RESIN YESYESYES

Conclusion

The type of material largely determines the strength and longevity of our lockers, so it’s important to strike a balance between the cost of installation and the long-term costs that maintenance work can entail if we don’t choose the right material. It also helps visually to give personality to our gym and is closely linked to its hygiene, which is why it will determine the image you offer to your customers. It is necessary to be aware of the characteristics of each material and choose it accordingly for your purposes, bearing in mind that, given its importance, you´ll need to make a higher initial investment.

At GYM Constructor, we solve these and other doubts related to your business. As an emerging fitness brokerage company, we have relationships and agreements with equipment and service providers to provide you with multiple options and the best deals. Contact us, and we will endeavour to meet your needs and help you find what you are looking for.

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Disclaimer: The opinions and positions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and collaborators and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the professional fitness community.

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