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.
Picnic Table Parts: An Overview
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.
How to Build a Picnic Table
1. Cut the Frame Parts
- Cut four legs from 2x8s, mitering the top and bottom of each leg 22 degrees.
- Cut two 2×4 horizontal crosspieces to support the top and two 2×8 crosspieces for the benches. Cut one corner off each end of the bench crosspieces.
- Make two 2×4 braces with 45-degree mitered ends to run from the sides to the underside of the tabletop.
- Cut 2×4 middle braces for the benches and the top.
2. Build the Frame
- 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.
3. Finish the Benches and Top
- Cut two pieces of 2×6 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 2×4 braces to the bench crosspiece at one end and the underside of the tabletop at the other.
- Paint the table with deck stain (optional).