Picnic Table Plans

Submitted by Ana White on Tue, 05/21/2019 - 14:00
Difficulty
Beginner
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The classic picnic table made easy to build!

We love picnic tables - they are inexpensive and sturdy and SO versatile.  In this free project plan, we simplify the building process.  You'll just need some standard off the shelf lumber and screws to build!

We also have created a kids picnic table plan, toddler picnic table plan and an octagon picnic table plan.

picnic table painted red

Picnic Table Modifications

It's easy to modify this picnic table to different dimensions.  I do recommend working with your materials to minimize waste - for example, if you want a 5 foot long picnic table, simply purchase 10 foot long 2x6s (for the seat and top) and cut in half.

You will need some center support if your 2x6 seat and tabletop boards span more than about 4 feet with no support underneath - so maybe keep that in mind before building a 12 foot long table.

 

Picnic Table Building Materials

I recommend building this table out of cedar or other outdoor appropriate materials that are popular in your local area for building decks. If you do use common lumber, I recommend painting or staining.

I do not recommend using treated lumber for the tabletop or seats (as these areas come in contact with food).  A good compromise is to use treated lumber for the legs and supports, and untreated for the tabletop and seats.  

 

Finishing Your Picnic Table

The picnic table should be painted or stained how you would paint or stain your deck - with consideration for food contact.  If you are building with cedar, no finish is required, but the table will turn grey from the sun.

If you are using paint or a "film forming" finish like polyurethane that sits on top of the wood, make sure you seal every side of each board.  If water penetrates the wood, it will cause the wood to swell, make the wood bigger, and causing the paint or polyurethane to crack and peel.  The best way to seal every edge of every board is to prefinish before assembly.

My favorite option is to use an exterior penetrating stain to finish, as it soaks into the wood (instead of sitting on top of the wood like paint).  This is more forgiving, but will need to be re applied every 3-5 years, depending on the brand and your local elements.

If you'd like more information on finishing outdoor furniture, I share all my secrets here.

 

Dimensions
diagram showing the dimensions of picnic table
Overall Dimensions are shown above

Preparation

Shopping List

9 – 2×6 Stud Length OR 4 – 2×6 12′ Long and 1 – 2×6 Stud Length (8′ Length works if it is cheaper)

5 – 2×4 Boards, 8′ or Stud Length

2 1/2″ self tapping deck screws

OPTIONAL: You can bolt the leg sets together with 3-1/2" bolts with nuts and washers.  Make sure all fasteners are exterior appropriate.

Common Materials
2 1/2 inch screws
3 inch screws
120 grit sandpaper
primer
wood conditioner
paint
paint brush
Cut List

9 – 2×6 @ 60″ (Tabletop boards and Seat Boards)

3 – 2×4 @ 29 1/2″ (Tabletop Supports)

4 – 2×4 @ 33″ (Ends mitered at 30 degrees parallel)

2 – 2×4 @ 52 1/2″ (Seat Supports)

2 – 2×4 @ 28 1/2″ (Cross Supports, ends mitered at 25 degrees parallel)

Tools
Tape Measure
Speed Square
Pencil
Hammer
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Kreg Jig
Drill
Circular Saw
Power Sander
General Instructions

Work on a clean level surface. Check for square after each step. Get some help on this project, it will be difficult to work alone. Recommended to paint and stain your boards before building to ensure all edges are sealed, then touch up paint after finishing. Use necessary safety precautions and equipment. Predrill and countersink you screws or drill holes for bolts and tighten with a washer and nut. Remember, you can click photos for a larger view.

Instructions

Step 1

Tabletop

Measure 2″ and 29 1/4″ from the outsides of all the tabletop boards and make a mark.

Cut your supports board ends at a 45 degree angle on the ends as shown above.

Then attach the tabletop boards to the supports through the tops using 2 1/2″ screws and glue.

Start on the outsides and work inward, keeping an even 1/2″ gap between the boards.

Use the marks you made to guide you in placing the support boards in line with the tabletop boards.

 

NOTE: Pocket hole users can attach from underneath with pocket holes to hide all screw holes.

Step 2

Legs

Start by cutting your legs at 30 degree angles on both ends, so the ends are parallel.

Then, line up the legs with the inner edge of the boards between the middle and outside boards. Use 2 1/2″ screws and glue to fasten to the inside of the table support as shown above.

Step 3

Seat Supports

Take your square and measure at a 90 degree angle from the underside of the table up 12″ and make a mark on the legs.

Cut your seat supports at 45 degree angles on the ends.

Then from the long point, measure 11 1/2″ in from the outer point and make a mark. Line this mark up with the edge of the legs, keeping the top of the seat support (shown as the bottom because the table is upside down) level with the marks made on the legs. Fasten with 2 1/2″ screws and glue.

Step 4

Cross Supports

First, take a square of the table by measuring from the outer points of the legs to the diagonal opposite leg. Do this for both diagonals. Push the opposite legs together on the longer diagonal until your diagonals match up in distance.

Then cut your cross supports at 25 degrees off square on both ends, ends are parallel. Fasten in place using 2 1/2″ screws and glue, centered on the supports as shown above. For one of the cross supports, you will need to screw at an angle from the side of the cross support in the tabletop support.

Step 5

Attach the seat boards to the picnic table with screws to complete.

Comments

adventurentogether (not verified)

Mon, 11/26/2012 - 15:40

I am making this table for our dining area. It will be a 10 ft table, so I plan to basically double the table, only using 10' long boards on the top and seats. For the middle supports, I plan to join the two supports together. I am also going to use all 2x6s instead of 2x4 for the support. I may use 2x12 for the top and seats, depending on the price. If I extend the overhang to be a foot from the end supports so there is plenty of leg room for sitting at the ends, will the table still be stable?

Spider9000

Sun, 03/01/2020 - 12:17

4. I made it 8 ft long because why waste the 8 ft boards. Also, I recommend moving seats out about another 5.5 inches. It felt too close to the table top and was difficult for even a thin person to get in and out

Al Lulu

Wed, 10/30/2013 - 11:07

I'm so confused. I started this project and, like all my work, I have to shim something because I measure like a fool.
I totally get the 11.5" on either side of the seat supports, but if I am also trying to measure them down 12" that math doesn't work out. Which is more important? Help!

BuildMeAnArk

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 12:39

I'd like to include an umbrella hole in the middle of this picnic table. Any thoughts on how to best do this? If I include 4 board supports and thus separate the center supports by 2-3 inches, what angle will I have to cut the leg cross braces? Thoughts?

memphistr

Mon, 12/07/2015 - 14:34

Great Plans but 1 sugggestion.  I helped my son build three of these tables for an Eagle Scout project.  We followed the plans (using stud length 2x6s) and noticed that we could have had 12 inches of overhang on the seat and the top.  We did this on the other 2 tables and it worked perfectly.  Just a suggestion if you want a little more room on the outside.

Spider9000

Sun, 03/01/2020 - 12:08

Love this plan. Took one day and the materials are cheap. I did redo part of it though. After following the plan the seats felt too close to the table top. I’m not a huge guy - 5’11, 160 - but even I had to sit first then swing my legs over. I recommend moving the seats out about another 6 inches.You will have to adjust the miter angles on the diagonal supports though.