Friday, June 20, 2014

Build your own outdoor table

Great summer project! This table cost us around $180. We bought all the materials on sale. If you shop around for ten person tables you'll realize that they're expensive - usually above $1,000 so we saved a few hundred bucks going the DIY route.

The following write-up is from my husband who built the table. It includes directions so that you can build your own!

Here’s a cut list:

4 – 1”x6” 45 3/8”

3 – 1”x6” 60”

2 - 1”x6” 12”

2 - 1”x6” 23 ¼”

2 - 1”x6” 34 ½”

2 - 1”x6” 46 ¼”

2 - 1”x6” 57 ¼”

2 - 1”x6”67”

2 - 1”x6” 64 ¼”

2 - 1”x6” 52 ¼”

2 - 1”x6” 41 ½”

2 - 1”x6” 30 1/8”

2 - 1”x6” 19”

2 - 1”x6” 7 ½”

4 - 4"x4" 29 1/4"


5 - 1”x6”x10’ Western Red Cedar Boards

8 - 1”x6”x8’ Western Red Cedar Boards

4 - 1”x6”x6’ Western Red Cedar Boards

3 - 1”x3”x10’ Western Red Cedar Boards

2 - 4"x4"x8' Western Red Cedar Posts

200 – 1 ¼” Washer head coarse thread pocket screws

Titebond II Wood glue (also used from Gorilla Glue wood glue)

1 Qt Minwax Sanding Sealer

1 Qt Minwax Helmsman Clear Sating Spar Urethane

8 – 5 inch ¼” carriage bolts

8 – ¼” washer, lock washer and wing nut


Mitre Saw

Cordless drill

Cordless Impact driver

Kreg Pocket Hole Jig

Crosscut handsaw

The Build:

Here are the basics of how this table came together.  I used Western Red Cedar since this was going to be an outdoor table and cedar resists rot well.  I picked up what I needed at Menard’s (several trips were made because of a wrong cut or two that I made).  I’m by no means a technical writer so please ask questions if you don’t understand something.

The table needed to be large enough to fit 10 outdoor chairs that Jenna had purchased on clearance (75% off) from Lowe’s during their Labor Day sales. That’s a pretty big table and buying one that size would cost a small fortune so Jenna tasked me with figuring it out.  I decided that it would be more cost effective for me to build one.

I started out with a plan that I came up with in my head.  I would not recommend that.  I’d find some definitive plans on the internet or a book.  It’s easier that way, but since this was going to be just a basic table I took a gamble and didn’t do too bad.  We decided the table would need to be 9’x5’ to accommodate the chairs we had.  This was going to be a big table.

It was important to cut the side pieces to the correct length so that the table would end up being exactly nine feet long.  I used 1”x6” boards and I cut four pieces to start out with and this is what I ended up with:

Four boards that were even in length and when joined with the other three boards (that were all exactly 5’ in length) that make up the out framing of the table would come out to be a 9’x5’ rectangle which I could build within.

I decided to join the boards with a butt joint reinforced with wood glue and pocket screws.  Using glue and pocket screws would create a very strong joint and I got to buy a new tool because of it.  A Kreg Pocket HoleJig Master Systems was purchased at Menards for about $140 or so.  Pricey, yes, but also well worth it.  It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite things in my tool collection.  I figured three screws per joint would be strong enough for me to not have to worry about anything in the future.  Here’s a small look at what I did with the tool.

After the joints were made the outer frame came together.

Sorry for the glare!

Once the outer framing was together it was time to build the actual tabletop.  This got tricky at times and a few bad cuts were made either too short (you can always cut more off but you can’t cut moron!) or with the mitre in the wrong direction.  I learned quickly to cut a little bit longer than was I needed and then I could fine tune from there.  Since this was going to be an outdoor table and the possibility of water pooling on the top of it is pretty good in Nebraska I needed a way for water to drain off of the top.  I ended up spacing the board apart so there is a 3/16” gap between each one to allow for drainage.  Here’s the start of that process:

Again, pocket screws were used in each board.  I started out using two screws in each but ended up using three in each board shortly after this picture was taken.  The smallest cuts were used in the corners and they gradually got larger toward the center and then smaller again as I closed out each half of the table.

 Continuing on:

It’s coming together!  You can see those small green pieces on top of the wood.  Those are what I used for spacers.  They are Pergo floor spacers that I used when we put the flooring in our home last year.  They came in handy again!  This helped me get evenly spaced board each time.  Getting an accurate measurement for the cuts here was tricky.  I’m sure there’s an accurate way to do it but like I said earlier I just cut a bit long and then shaved off a little at a time until I had a tight fit.  You can see what I’m doing here and this went on for a while.  Not as easy as it looks but definitely not difficult.

Tabletop is finished!  Some of these boards needed some love with a hand planer. 
Hand planer

A bunch of sanding was needed after planning to remove planer marks.  I started out with 80 grit to really get after these marks.  I finished with 220 grit to get a smooth surface ready for a sealer and a marine urethane.  An electric sander makes this job much more enjoyable.  It’s a must have!  Once sanding was done I used the shop vac to get as much of the dust as I could off the table and followed that up by using a damp cloth to remove the finer stuff the vac didn’t get.  I did this twice.

Next comes the finish work.  Since this is bare wood and it’s going to be outdoors I elected to start off with a wood sealer first.  This seals the grain of the wood to hamper any water that would try to soak into it and expand the wood causing it to warp.

Minwax Sanding Sealer

Let this dry for about an hour before you do anything else.  After it dried I took 220 grit sandpaper to it and went over it with the hand sander again quickly.  When sanding was done I wiped it down with a damp cloth to remove dust.  Next comes the urethane!

Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane

I chose this one because it was readily available and had some decent reviews.  I would have preferred an actual Marine varnish that they use on boats, but it’s hard to find around here.  Minwax made a fine product in Helmsman though.  This stuff helps protect the wood from UV light and moisture.  I wanted to give the wood a fighting chance in the brutal Nebraska weather (however the table will be stored indoors during the winter).  Here’s what it looked like after the first coat.

It’s shaping up!  I applied two more coats after this one, lightly sanding and wiping between each coat.

Now the legs.  Easy job!  I attached the legs to the apron of the table with carriage bolts after I drill holes for said bolts.  Each leg was 29 1/4" to make the height of the table top right at 30".  Here’s how that went.

Once the holes were drilled I put the carriage bolts through and secured them with a lock washer and a wing nut for ease of removal.  A carriage bolt was run through the leg on each of their exposed side.

Once the legs were on I was done.  We moved it to the deck and Jenna took this nice picture of a job well done.

When this was all said and done the retail price on the materials I used was about $290.  That may sound expensive, but I implore you to price a table as large as this in the stores.  Now, we didn't pay $290 for the materials.  We were in luck and when this project started cedar boards were actually on sale at Menards (some of them close to 50% off) and I bought most of the cedar then (I did have to pay full price for some of the wood).  We also used Menards rebate coupons for a portion of the materials.  This project was probably $180 out of pocket for us considering all of that and materials I had on hand at home already.

I probably left some things out so if you have any questions or would like some guidance please don’t hesitate to ask.  I’m always willing to help! Below are a few more pictures. - Curtis

Thankfully our deck is long so a ten person table fits. If your area is smaller, simply adjust the size of the table to your liking. That's what is great about DIY.

"Hmm... new toy."

"Don't mind if I do!"

"Just give me a second to scratch the front of the chair as well."

"Alright, feed me."

Removable legs so that it can be stored inside for winter.

"That's it. Put me down."

Remember this bench redo?

The End

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