Guest Column - April 2002
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Long Live the Lockers

Good Purchasing Decisions Can Be the Key to Locker Longevity

By Phil Krugler, Penco Products, Inc.


Extending the life of your lockers is one way to keep expenses down and improve your bottom line. Equipping a locker room with aesthetically pleasing and useful lockers is a major long-term investment, though constant use can cause costly locker maintenance problems. Anything you can do to keep replacement costs in line and extend locker life helps improve return on your investment.

Sometimes, that's not an easy task. Once your lockers are installed, there is only so much you can do. You can put up signs and increase supervision, but for the most part, the lockers are at the mercy of your clientele. The best time to start working on the problem of wear and tear on your lockers is when you make the initial purchase. Knowing a little about the construction and options available can help you make the right selection for your facility and provide savings over the life of the locker.

The three primary materials used in the construction of lockers are wood, plastic and steel. Each material has its advantages. Wooden lockers tend to fall into the category of cabinetry. They can provide a highly aesthetic atmosphere in facilities that cater to an upscale clientele. Plastic lockers are rust proof by nature and lend themselves to environments where high humidity is a problem. By far, the most commonly used material is steel. Steel lockers are the least expensive and can last a long time with proper care. This article will focus on some of the things to take into consideration when making purchasing decisions on steel lockers.


Selecting the right size locker for your facility is important. The most popular lockers offer maximum space for full hanging clothing. The 60-inch and 72-inch high single tier lockers can include a shelf for storing small articles. Lockers 18 inches deep or more can be equipped with a coat rod in addition to coat hooks. Double tier lockers will accommodate twice as many people as single tier lockers and still provide enough room for light outerwear. Knowing the needs of your users can help you make the right choices.

When it comes to steel lockers, paying attention to the gauge of steel used in your lockers can pay dividends over the long haul. The sides, tops, bottoms and backs are commonly made of 24-gauge steel. When lockers are installed against walls and exposure is minimal, this should be fine. However, if the lockers are installed in individual banks throughout the locker room and sides and backs can be easily bumped or banged, you may want to consider a more durable 16-gauge for the sides, tops and bottoms and 18-gauge for the backs. If you expect heavy usage, as in an athletic team room, you may decide to use the heavier gauge steel no matter where the lockers are installed.

The locker door is perhaps the part that gets the most abuse over the lifetime of the locker. With doors constantly being opened, closed and slammed, you would be wise to give some thought to the construction of your locker doors. For many years, 16-gauge steel has been the standard of the industry for locker doors. Recently, however, 14-gauge doors, which are 25 percent thicker steel than 16-gauge, have become very popular.

Many different types of locker handles and latching systems are available. Some handles are die-cast steel mounted to the door. Recessed pockets are also popular because they eliminate protrusions on the door surface. Both types can support automatic multipoint latching in which spring loaded clips secure the door and allow it to be closed while in the locked position, keeping the user's interaction with the door to a minimum. For those who desire a door offering improved security with low maintenance, a single point latching system may be the correct choice. This locking option has no moving parts and allows the door to be locked at a single point. Extra channel formations on the door make it more tamper-proof.

Another important area to consider is the paint used on the steel lockers. Most manufacturers have numerous standard colors available in baked enamel finishes. Some manufacturers have added a powder-coat paint line. With properties that differ from liquid finishes, powder coat has the ability to be applied at a greater thickness while maintaining a uniformly attractive finish. In situations where graffiti is a problem, choosing a graffiti-resistant paint may be a prudent investment. These paints are available in standard colors and can be cleaned repeatedly with special cleaners.

Managing a recreational facility requires attention to every detail if you are going to make your investment pay off. Choosing your lockers wisely is one detail that makes good business sense.

Locker Notes
Additional options can solve specific problems
  • Plastic bottoms add life to lockers used in wet areas. Constructed of durable polypropylene, plastic locker bottoms will not dent or bend and are impervious to chlorine, saltwater and cleaners.
  • Coin-operated locks that work on most lockers can be used to help control locker access. The locks can be designed to use either tokens or coins. Some models return coins and others retain the coins, making the locks an added source of revenue.

Phil Krugler is manager of marketing services at Penco Products, Inc. He can be reached at