How to Build a Picnic Table

Inexpensive Patio Furniture

If you're handy and have a few essential tools, learning how to build a picnic table can save you money. You can typically build one for about half the cost of buying one new.

What You'll Need

Tools

Learning how to build a picnic table starts with a plan and the proper tools. Make sure you have the following tools on hand and know how to use them:

  • Power saw
  • Carpenter's square
  • Screwdriver
  • Drill
  • Sander
  • Wrench
  • C clamps
  • Hammer
  • Safety glasses
  • Respirator

A quick scan of the operating instructions for your power tools will be a big help, both for the accuracy of your project and your personal safety.

Wood and Materials

Construct all of your outdoor furniture from materials that can stand up to the elements. Choose a good outdoor wood for your project, like redwood, cypress or cedar. You can also use the new pressure treated pine that doesn't contain CCA and is safe for home construction projects.

Always go with galvanized fasteners. These screws, nails, and other fasteners are treated with a thin coating of zinc to make them corrosion resistant.

How to Build a Picnic Table: Steps

The following steps will help you put together a basic picnic table. This is an afternoon project that even a novice can complete without too much trouble. The finished table will measure: 72"L x 32"H x 32"W. If you can use a saw and feel comfortable making angled cuts, you're good to go.

Cutting

Use the following guide for buying and cutting wood. Select 12-foot boards if you can. The length of the table, 72 inches, is a single cut on a 12-foot board. This is a convenient size that will help make your job easier and reduce waste.

Cutting Measurements
Desc. Material Dimensions Length Qty Note
Top/Seats Lumber 2x6 72" 12
Rails Lumber 2x4 30" 3 45 Degree end cuts
Legs Lumber 2x6 35" 4 25 Degree end cuts
Nails or screws 12D 3 1/2" 3 lbs Galvanized or deck

You will need 2 x 4 bracing pieces for the underside of the table too.

Directions: How to Build a Picnic Table

  1. Arrange six top (72") boards with the best side facing down. If you have a large open area and sawhorses to work with it will make it easier to maneuver the wood pieces into place.
  2. Screw or nail rails to the arranged boards crosswise. For placement, measure 4 inches in from both sides and at the center.
  3. Position and mark leg pieces so that they align with the installed rails.
  4. Nail or screw the legs to the rails.
  5. Make a mark 17 inches from the underside of the table down each leg. Install 72" seat rails at the marks.
  6. Position and install seats consisting of two each (72") boards on seat rails.
  7. Trim protruding rail ends.
  8. Measure 2 2x4 supports for diagonal placement between the center rail on the underside of the table and the leg rails. Cut and nail in place.
  9. Sand and weatherproof the table.

Tips and Tricks

  • Building a picnic table is a straightforward project, but it can get unwieldy because you're working with long boards. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time and a large enough area to work in.
  • Using sawhorses can help make the job easier.
  • Wear all standard safety paraphernalia whenever you work with power tools. This includes: goggles, respirator, and earplugs. Never use power tools when you are alone. Read all manufacturers' directions carefully before you begin. Keep loose clothing, jewelry, and long hair up and out of the way of spinning blades and shafts.
  • For a stronger table, consider spending a little more and using deck screws instead of standard 3-1/2 inch galvanized nails.
  • Your cuts will be cleaner and require less sanding if you use a sharp saw blade for the project.
  • When assembling legs, always double check placement before drilling pilot holes>.
How to Build a Picnic Table