One of the best ways to enjoy your backyard space is having a picnic table installed there for outdoor seating. This is an excellent way to spend memorable family time outdoors. Picnic tables are durable if maintained properly and are inexpensive. A wooden picnic table can cost as little as $60 compared to cushioned chairs that can cost as much as $2,000.
Choosing the right material for your picnic table is crucial. You should consider the durability and portability of the table. Aluminum and wood are standard options. Paint your picnic tables with materials having superior UV resistance. Also, use table cloths on your picnic table to make them last longer.
You must know how to maintain your picnic tables to keep them durable and yet beautiful. Choosing the wrong paint and sealant will destroy your picnic table quickly. It will also be a good idea to waterproof your picnic table if wooden. Let us learn more about all these as well if you can use materials like polyurethane and treated lumber for your picnic table.
Picking the Right Material for Your Table
Your choice of materials for your picnic table can be determined by how often you would be sitting on it, the time you can spare for its regular maintenance, the weight of the picnic table, how you want it to look as it ages, and the price as well.
You should go for affordable materials that are yet easy to clean and move around the yard. Also, the material should have befitting surfaces that can tolerate drink and food for long, without losing its glow/hue too quickly.
Wood and metal are two materials that are prevalently used for constructing backyard picnic tables.
Wooden picnic table
These are the commonest picnic tables you would see around backyards. They cost about $70-$150 depending on the design. There are a variety of wood options to go with. Cedar, fir, redwood, and even human-made composites are great options here. While softwood has more captivating aesthetically and more flexible, they don’t boast the durability and resilience of hardwood picnic tables.
If your picnic table is made from softwood, you will notice its propensity to dent and scratches. Over time, such accumulated stains and scratches will kill the appearance of the picnic table. It is better to go with hardwood, which is more repellant to stain and dents.
Hardwood picnic table wouldn’t be easily damaged or displaced in the face of strong winds. The downside is that hardwood picnic tables don’t look as pretty as their softwood variants. Also, the weight and sturdiness of hardwood tables make them challenging to move about.
A metallic picnic table
Aluminum is commonly used for constructing metallic picnic tables. You don’t need much maintenance for aluminum picnic tables. These tables are famed for their durability and tolerance to extreme weather conditions – especially extreme sunlight. There are no worries about leaving your aluminum table outdoors all through the year.
These tables are tolerant of dust and water. The surfaces also wouldn’t be easily tarnished by stains from drinks and foods. Nonetheless, the weight matters too. Lightweight aluminum construction makes it prone to damage by strong winds.
Average Size of a Picnic Table
While any dimension is beautiful for your picnic table, a standard picnic table size should be about 30 inches from the ground. Rectangular tables can be as wide as 29 inches with 7 feet for length. It majorly depends on the number of people who would be sitting at the table at once. Best make provision for a perimeter of 27 inches for each person.
You also have to bother about the size of the seat. Your picnic table will need a bench that is elevated at least 17 inches from the ground. That means from the table top to the bench, there should be a height difference of about 12 inches. The bench can be as wide as 1.3 feet.
How Portable Will the Picnic Table be?
This is determined by how regularly you will be doing your outdoor dining. If you wouldn’t always be using the picnic table, you could just go for a foldable picnic table. This way, you can store your table when winter sets in. Such portability will increase its durability as you can readily fold it up and store it when you are not using it.
How Do You Paint a Picnic Table?
The durability of your picnic table is significantly determined by the paint you choose. It is not uncommon to notice your paint already peeling off in flakes (just days after painting) if you picked the wrong one or paint of inferior quality. Eventually, such sustained flaking would distort the look of the table, making it unsightly.
When painting your table, choose paints with an excellent UV rating. They may not be the cheapest, but they will surely last longer. Before painting the picnic table, clean it first.
This will improve the absorption of the paint, avoiding bubbling later on. Bubbling is common when you paint a table with grime and dust on it. After cleaning the table, chip off any other residual debris by sanding the table with grit sandpaper.
When you have scrapped the debris off the surface reasonably with your sandpaper, you can now apply a base coat over the picnic table. This is best practice to enhance the smoothness of the picnic table while boosting its resistance to atmospheric weather like sun and rain. You can then apply a prime with a paint brush over the table.
A coat of paint is fine, but you can improve the quality by going for two coats of paint. This way, the paint can be well absorbed and last longer with a smoother finish. Take note that the two layers of paint shouldn’t be applied in rapid succession.
After the application of the first coat, take time to sand the table one more time before applying the second coat. Now your picnic table is good to go for those beautiful outdoor dinners.
How Do You Seal a Picnic Table?
The reality is that if you don’t seal your picnic table, sustained exposure to sunlight or liquid splashes (from water and drinks) will rot the table over time. There quite a handful of stains to choose to protect your table from the direct UV impact of the sun while retaining its original hue for longer.
A nice option here would be lightly pigmented exterior wood stain. This will not distort the original hue of the table. This stain has good UV rating too. Resorting to semi-transparent stains will help you sustain the natural texture of the wood. If you have got the right stain, you wouldn’t have to bother about recoating in the next two and a half years.
You can also go with solid-color stains. If you are not keen on retaining the original hue of the table, solid-color stains are great options. Should you have a new table and are possibly just recoating it for the first few times, you can use semi-transparent stains. Nonetheless, if your table is already aging and has spent a couple of years under the glare of the sun, you would want to go with solid-color stains.
For the best of durability, you can go for acrylic latex paint. Other conventional oil paints will chip and flake in no time. However, acrylic latex paint can last as long as 15 years. They are very resistant to weather elements like snow, rain, winds, and intense sunlight.
How Do You Clean an Old Picnic Table?
Cleaning your table is an essential maintenance procedure that will enhance the sustainability of your picnic table. If your picnic table is already old and you want to recover it, the dirt and stains will be harder to remove if you start cleaning it at once.
This is why it is a good idea to powerwash the table first. This will loosen all that gunk, grime, and dirt, weakening their attachment to the table’s surface. Now that all the dirt and cobwebs are loose, you can start the cleaning properly.
Next is the cleaning mixture you will use. Just water and soap will not do since it is an old picnic table. Best mix with water and a bit of bleach. A gallon of water is fine. This will clean the thick stains off when applied with a strong bristled brush. You can also keep a bath of fresh water aside to be rinsing it as you brush it with the bleach mixture.
This may not completely restore it when you have tougher stains. Hence you may need another wood cleaner that will not destroy the wood material nonetheless.
How Do I Protect My Picnic Table?
Protecting your picnic table means you wouldn’t frequently be spending on recoating and other extensive maintenance exercises. The best way to protect your picnic table in the long term is by applying a sealant to the surface.
Before you do this, ensure to first brush the surface of your picnic table with oxygen bleach. Don’t do this without your hand gloves.
This step is essential because if you don’t scrubbrush the table surface first, you could end up applying the sealant on mildew or dirt on the table. If this happens, the table material will not satisfactorily absorb the sealant. With the sealant failing to penetrate the wood, it will not last.
After brushing the table with the oxygen bleach and allowing it to dry sufficiently, you can then apply a nice coat of water-based wood sealant. Go for a brand that is water repellant. This will improve its resistance to termite invasion, UV damage, and mildew.
One downside of oil-based paints is their propensity to trap moisture inside the wooden material of the picnic table. If this happens, the table will decay in no time. Also, if your sealant doesn’t dry well, it will not last long.
While applying a sealant to your picnic table is the core protective measure to take, there are yet some little practices that would still contribute to the longevity of your table. It will help if you cover your table with a tight-fitting tablecloth.
This way, your table surface is protected from direct food and drink stains and scratches. You agree this will delay the natural deterioration rate making it harder for your picnic table to wear and tear.
If you can spare some time, you can wash your table often. A three-week interval is excellent as you can just quickly rinse it with a hose of water. This will make it rarer for dirt accumulation, sustaining the quality and appearance of your table longer.
How Long Does a Picnic Table Last?
There is no definite timeframe which your picnic table should mandatorily last. Some tables last decades while barely last months. The major determining factors are the design of the table, frequency of usage, sealant and finishing, and most importantly, your maintenance.
A well-treated table that is built for heavy usage can survive nothing less than ten years. Sealing the surface annually will even make it last longer.
How Do You Waterproof a Wood Table?
If you don’t waterproof your wooden picnic table, the chances are high that it will warp, decay, or crack quickly. Oil is the commonest and most affordable waterproofing material. Your choice of which oil product to use is critical – determining how long it will last. The best oils include linseed, tung oil, and walnut.
The costliest of these three is raw tung oil. This is why it could be financially demanding waterproofing large wooden picnic tables with tung oil. Walnut oil is a cheaper option, although it can be allergic.
Preparation is a core procedure when waterproofing. If you don’t properly prepare the surface of the wood (preferably by sanding it with grit sandpaper), the imperfections will show after the waterproofing exercise.
You can also use sealants to waterproof. Similar sanding preparation is required beforehand. This, as we have earlier said, will enhance the penetration of the wood by the sealant, ensuring it is adequately absorbed. Sealants are always better than oil-based waterproofing because of its superior durability and sticking power.
You can use a paintbrush to apply the coat of paint. Weather conditions are consequential when waterproofing as well. The coat of paint can quickly evaporate. This is why you want to ensure the humidity is perfect, and the temperature is ideal as well. Best carry out the waterproofing in an environment of controlled humidity. A garage is a great option here.
Also, you must allow the paint to dry sufficiently as you apply successive coats of paint. Depending on the product or the manufacturer’s directions, you can allow each layer to dry for about 8 hours (or 5 hours if you are short of time) before applying the next coat. Three or four coats will do.
How to Add an Umbrella to a Picnic Table
If you want to avoid the rigors of having to move your table about as the sun, wind and rains rage, you can add an umbrella to the picnic table. This will even make the picnic tables suitable for outdoor family cooking.
The umbrella’s pole you get must perfectly fit into the pipe flange. A couple of screws can help you install the pole into the pipe flange. The computer grommet you get must also be the ideal size for the pipe flange.
Next, you have to identify the perfect center of your picnic table, so you cut a sizable circle. This can be achieved by measuring the middle board across and length ways. Now get your hole saw to incise the opening through the board. If you have identified the right thumb screws, fit them into the hole on the short pipe’s side. This will firmly hold the pole of the umbrella.
Fit the flange through the hole you have cut in the table. You may need to turn the picnic table on its side to make it more convenient reaching the table’s base to pass the flange through. Following that, you have to screw the short pipe into your flange.
After passing the flange through, you can get the table on to insert the computer desk grommet through the hole. You can make do without the grommet actually – it doesn’t contribute much to the firmness of the umbrella aside from its aesthetic effect. To enhance the resilience of the umbrella against strong winds, you can fix thumbscrews to the pipe.
Can I Use Polyurethane on a Picnic Table?
Yes, you can use polyurethane for your picnic table so long it doesn’t have dangerous ingredients. The polyurethane product should have impressive UV ratings. Polyurethane will enhance the allure of your picnic table with its subtle and clearer finish.
The UV rating of polyurethane will also protect the picnic table from the direct impact of sustained exposure to sunlight. The polyurethane resin ingredient will absorb the sunlight while reducing the gloss as a reliable flatting agent.
Oil based polyurethane works best for picnic tables. Note that you must only use exterior polyurethane grade. If you use interior polyurethane grade, the product will not take long before it peels off.
Can You Use Treated Lumber for Picnic Tables?
Treated lumber isn’t entirely bad for picnic tables; so long you are not using older boards that contain Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA). This is very toxic. The latest treated lumber products are no longer treated with CCA. The majority of them now are treated with Alkaline Copper Quatemary (ACQ). This is far less toxic and complies with EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) prescriptions.
Such boards treated with ACQ are safe to be used for outdoor constructions like your picnic table and benches. However, it is not advisable to use treated lumber for cutting boards or other indoor purposes like kitchen counters.
What Kind of Wood Do You Use for a Picnic Table?
The significant parameters to consider choosing the befitting wood type for your picnic table include its appearance, its longevity, and how much you can afford. For functionality, cedar is your best option. If you are aiming to minimize your budget, you can go for fir wood. However, if you are willing to pay a premium for the best, you can go for redwood.
Low on budget? Go for Fir wood
Fir is commonly used for picnic tables because of its affordability. They cost around $100 or even much less. While not the best in resilience to decay and weather, fir is manageable and can last a substantial time. The reliability of fir can be attributed to its length and thickness. So long you did your homework well in sealing the fir, your picnic table will not rot quickly.
Going for functionality? Go for cedar
If you are not keen on the beauty of your picnic table and wouldn’t mind any that will excellently get the job done, then go for cedar. Cedar is famed for its functionality. Yes, cedar is by standard softwood, but it can compare with most hardwood for its sturdiness. It is superior in resilience and weather tolerance to fir.
Cedar boasts impressive dimensional stability. Therefore, the chances are meager that it will crack or warp easily. With cedar, you wouldn’t have to worry about your picnic table readily twisting or checking. Nonetheless, your cedar picnic table yet needs to be finished with sealer to make it last longer.
Have money to spend? Go for queen redwood
Queen redwood is elite among your wooden options. Most high-end picnic tables are made from queen redwood. Compared to other traditional wooden options, picnic tables made from queen redwood don’t swell or swell readily.
Even without finish, queen redwood has a natural resistance to insects (like termites) attack. Extreme weather conditions will not easily decay it. Queen redwood is far more dimensionally stable than cedar. Despite its strength, queen redwood is intriguingly light and easily workable with tools like saws and screws.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare