Best wood for holding water?

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Forum topic by Steven H posted 12-23-2010 04:33 AM 9854 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Steven H

1117 posts in 3085 days

12-23-2010 04:33 AM

My client wants me build a box (up to 2 FT high)
for soaking her legs up to her knees.

What wood is best for holding the water?
Is Oak most used in this situation?
(finishing and Joints are another story)


11 replies so far

View firecaster's profile


573 posts in 3444 days

#1 posted 12-23-2010 04:55 AM

Oak barrels hold whiskey so it would have to hold water. Since it probably won’t stay wet all the time, keeping the joints swelled tight, I would look at something like cypress.

Or if she would accept a plastic liner you could build it out of most anything.

-- Father of two sons. Both Eagle Scouts.

View DrDirt's profile


4424 posts in 3768 days

#2 posted 12-23-2010 04:56 AM

EDIT Firecaster hit reply first :-)
Oak works great for Barrels for wine…

I suspect many woods are going to be fine, it will be the joinery since equilibrium moisture content kind of goes out the window when you are going to fill it with water.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View Sailor's profile


543 posts in 3290 days

#3 posted 12-23-2010 05:01 AM

If you seal the wood good enough, any wood should hold water I would suspect.

Epoxy is used to seal wooden boats, but you could probably use poly or some sort of varnish I would suspect.

When I think of barrels that hold wine and wiskey, I think I saw on the Discovery channel that they are made very tight. That metal band around them isn’t just for looks, it’s for holding the joints tight. This may be hard to do without some sort of device to hold them tight.

I know wooden boats that aren’t completely sealed (mostly older boats), are not water tight when they are first launched. What happens is the wood actually absorbs water and swells, becoming watertight. If her soaking box were to every dry out from not being used frequently it may begin to leak.

Just some thoughts to consider…..

-- Dothan, Alabama Check out my woodworking blog! Also my Youtube Channel's Facebook page

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18288 posts in 3701 days

#4 posted 12-23-2010 05:51 AM

I saw Roy compress the grain on a wood box for hold water. The compressed the grain beating it down with a narrow object, planed it somoth. When it was assembled, the compressed grain swelled up and it was water tight ;-)) Might give a little extra insurance it that technique is used in the joints.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View KayBee's profile


1083 posts in 3272 days

#5 posted 12-23-2010 08:15 AM

These guys make wooden bathtubs, try their link through custom made.

-- Karen - a little bit of stupid goes a long way

View Pathpounder's profile


98 posts in 3919 days

#6 posted 12-23-2010 02:45 PM

Along Sailor’s thoughts, when building a strip built kayak you wrap the hull inside and out with fiberglass and epoxy. Something like a tub would be a breeze and allow use of almost any wood and add in some design work if desired.

View Charles Maxwell's profile

Charles Maxwell

1099 posts in 3833 days

#7 posted 12-23-2010 04:09 PM

I would consider a fiberglass covering on the inside similar to the sheathing wooden canoe builders use. That way you can use any wood you want regardless of the water tight capabilities.

-- Max the "night janitor" at

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3812 days

#8 posted 12-24-2010 03:52 AM

Some species of oak work, others don’t. Southern red oak, for instance, has open tubercules that feed the sap. Water will run out of it like it is filled with pin holes. Most (all but about 5 species) of white oak have closed tubercules, so hold liquids well. This is what is used for water and wine casks. Redwood (sequoia) is also fine for water containers. There are places out west that still are fed by redwood water mains. Neither the white oak or redwood will require a finish, but both will be subject to mold growth, especially the white oak, if unfinished and exposed to daylight.

As for glues, I would suggest resorcinol or titebond III. If the water is to be heated much above 100 degrees, resorcinol or epoxy would be better. Construction adhesives like liquid nails work if the parts are clamped quickly, but have very short set times.

If fiberglass overlay is an option, go with exterior grade plywood for the base structure.


-- Go

View Lochlainn1066's profile


138 posts in 2803 days

#9 posted 12-24-2010 05:24 AM

Make sure you use White Oak and not Red. Red oak will leak like a sieve. Any species will serve if finished right, but species with diffuse pores (walnut, beech, cherry, etc.) or tyloses (blocked pores, like white oak) are more naturally watertight.

-- Nate,

View JasonWagner's profile


527 posts in 3205 days

#10 posted 12-24-2010 06:04 AM

Charlie – getting deck planks to be water tight would be tough. You’d have at least caulk the whole thing. The biggest problem is that Trex is a composite of wood (wood chips mixed with plastic). Products like Azek are all plastic and therefor water resistant/proof. My deck is made from Timbertech…a wood composite material.

I would think any wood you like with some fiberglass (like a boat) would be the best choice.

-- some day I hope to have enough clamps to need a clamp cart!

View Colin 's profile


93 posts in 2836 days

#11 posted 12-28-2010 09:17 AM

Here’s a good explanation of what makes an ideal wood for holding liquid from a USDA publication:

In some species, such as the ashes, hickories, and certain
oaks, the pores (vessels) become plugged to a greater or
lesser extent with ingrowths known as tyloses. Heartwood in
which the pores are tightly plugged by tyloses, as in white
oak, is suitable for tight cooperage, because the tyloses
prevent the passage of liquid through the pores. Tyloses also
make impregnation of the wood with liquid preservatives


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