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Q.I will be installing a whirlpool tub for a customer who wants me to surround the tub with a horizontal shelf of natural wood. The customer has rejected my suggestion to install tile. Is there any species of wood that would hold up in this environment? Or should I refuse to install a wood shelf?

A.Michael Poster, publisher of a website for woodworkers at, responds: In such an application, no species of wood will hold up over time without changes in appearance. If you perform the installation, the customer should understand that the appearance of the wood will change, perhaps dramatically. Even if the customer accepts this, you must still decide whether you want to be associated with the work.

That said, people build boats out of wood all the time. Wood species that are most likely to hold up in a humid environment include teak, mahogany, redwood, and red cedar. Maintaining a finish on the wood will require frequent maintenance. Even with vigilant refinishing, the wood may discolor or develop dark stains, particularly if water is wicked up from the end grain.