How to Build a Picnic Table with Attached Benches

Squeeze the whole family in at the summer barbecue by creating a classic American picnic table with integrated benches or picking up a ready-made one

picnic bench with food on it
Photo by Michael Grimm

If you wanted to set up a folding table and chairs for your barbecue guests, party planners say you'd need to allot 10 square feet per person to create enough access. Do that on the average deck or patio and your Fourth of July celebration will get so chaotic that it may end with the wrong kind of fireworks. A classic picnic table with attached benches is the perfect solution. This staple of backyards and parks—with its elbow-to-elbow dining and climb-over seating—works in all terrains, so you can move off the deck and onto the grass.


Steps // How to Build a Picnic Table with Attached Benches
1 ×

Build It

 
Step One // How to Build a Picnic Table with Attached Benches

Build It

overview image of picnic bench with labels and measurements
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

You could buy one of the ready-made options offered in a range of outdoor-friendly materials. But if you're like most This Old House readers, you'll probably want to assemble stock lumber and sturdy bolts into one big enough to seat the entire clan. Either way, you'll end up with family-style seating that leaves enough room for the dog to run laps while waiting for the first hot dog to drop.

 
2 ×

Cut the Frame Parts

 
Step Two // How to Build a Picnic Table with Attached Benches

Cut the Frame Parts

picnic bench illustration with just the legs highlighted
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Cut four legs from 2x8s, mitering the top and bottom of each leg 22 degrees. Cut two 2x4 horizontal crosspieces to support the top and two 2x8 crosspieces for the benches. Cut one corner off each end of the bench crosspieces. Make two 2x4 braces with 45-degree mitered ends to run from the sides to the underside of the tabletop. Cut 2x4 middle braces for the benches and the top.

 
3 ×

Build the Frame

 
Step Three // How to Build a Picnic Table with Attached Benches

Build the Frame

picnic bench illustration with just the braces and crosspieces highlighted
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

For each end of the frame, attach the top crosspiece to legs using 2½-inch deck screws. Attach the bench crosspiece to the legs with 3½-inch-long carriage bolts 15 inches from the bottom edge.

 
4 ×

Finish the Benches and Top

 
Step Four // How to Build a Picnic Table with Attached Benches

Finish the Benches and Top

picnic bench illustration with just the table top and benches highlighted
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Cut two pieces of 2x6 for each bench and five pieces for the top, allowing for a 2-inch overhang on either side. Clip the corners on the bench pieces. Stand the A-frame sides up and attach the bench planks to the bench crosspieces with 2½-inch deck screws. Secure the top planks to the top crosspieces using the same screws. Space the bench and top planks 1⁄4 inch apart. Screw the 2x4 braces to the bench crosspiece at one end and the underside of the tabletop at the other. Paint the table with deck stain (optional).

 
 
 

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