How to Build a Simple Picnic Table
Build this picnic table and you'll be able to enjoy barbecues, dinners, cocktail parties, and tons of other outdoor fun and recreation in your own yard.
This guide will teach you how to build the classic A-frame leg picnic table with two attached benches that you've probably been using your entire life at parks and campgrounds. This table is sturdy, simple, and weather-resistant, so it can be left outside year-round. The two opposing benches seat up to four adults or two adults and four children.
This picnic table is a quick, low-cost build—if you have a spare Friday afternoon you'll have it done in time for the weekend. Because the wood is pressure-treated, you don't even need to paint or stain it—leave it as-is and you're good to go.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Electric miter saw
- Speed Square
- Paint brush
- Set of drill bits
- Tape measure
- Wrench set
- 2 6-foot-long two-by-fours, pressure-treated
- 9 6-foot-long two-by-sixes, pressure-treated
- 4 5- or 6-foot-long two-by-eights, pressure-treated
- Copper-based wood preservative
- 3 1/2-inch carriage bolts with washers and nuts
- 2 1/4-inch exterior grade screws
Cut Wood Pieces
With the electric miter saw, cut the wood as follows:
- Table Top: 5 two-by-sixes to 72 inches
- Seats: 4 two-by-sixes to 72 inches
- Legs: 4 two-by-eights to 30 inches
- Lower Leg Cross Braces: 2 two-by-eights to 60 inches
- Upper Leg Cross Braces: 2 two-by-fours to 30 inches
- Seat Stabilizing Braces: 2 two-by-fours to 10 inches
- Table Stabilizing Braces: 3 two-by-fours to 30 inches
Notch and Angle Wood Pieces
Some of the wood pieces need additional angle cuts to help them rest evenly on the ground. Other pieces require notches to soften sharp corners.
- Legs: Cut the top and bottom of each of the two-by-eights to 22 degrees, each. The angles should be parallel to each other.
- Lower Leg Cross Braces: Cut opposing 45-degree angles off of the two-by-eights at opposite ends.
- Seats: Of the four two-by-sixes, miter-cut only two of them. These two boards should have small 45-degree angles cut off of the corners at opposite ends.
Treat Cut Ends
Pressure-treated wood that is cut must be treated on its cut ends to prevent decay. Use the paintbrush to generously apply copper wood preservative to each of the cut, notched, and angled ends of the wood.
Mark Lower Leg Cross Braces
On one of the lower leg cross braces, measure 10 inches inward from each of the ends (on the longer side of the angled-cut board) and mark with the pencil. Repeat for the other lower leg cross brace. These marks represent the section where the seat boards will rest.
Build Leg A-Frames
Each leg A-frame is made from two legs angled to each other, an upper leg cross brace as the top of the "A", and a lower leg cross brace as the middle of the "A."
- Bolt the upper leg cross brace across the top. Use just one carriage bolt per end for now. Pre-drill holes for the bolts, then slide the bolts into place. Finish with washers and nuts.
- Slide the lower leg brace downward until the pencil marks you made earlier intersect with the legs.
- Adjust the legs as needed until the two cross braces are parallel (verify this with the tape measure).
- Again adjust the legs so that they are at equal angles to the upper cross brace. Verify this with the Speed Square.
- When you are satisfied, bolt all pieces together: two carriage bolts per attachment point, for a total of eight carriage bolts per leg A-frame.
Repeat the above steps to build the second leg A-frame.
Set the two leg A-frames upright and spaced 67 inches away from each other. Use the cordless drill and the 2 1/4-inch exterior grade screws to attach two seat boards per side. Rest the seat boards on top of the lower leg cross brace. Make sure that the notched corners are facing outward.
Attach Picnic Table Top
Use the cordless drill and the 2 1/4-inch exterior grade screws to attach the five 72-inch two-by-sixes to the top. Use a total of 20 screws for the top.
Add Lateral Bracing
On the bottom of the tabletop, add one of the table stabilizing braces to the center of the table (running perpendicular to the two-by-sixes). Set this brace on its edge. Run screws from the top of the table down into the stabilizing brace.
Add Diagonal Cross Braces
To stabilize the table in a lengthwise direction, add two diagonal cross braces below the tabletop. Each brace should run from the side of the lateral tabletop bracing in the previous step to the lower cross brace of the A-frame legs.
Determine the length of each brace with the tape measure. Use the Speed Square to calculate the angle of each cut end. Cut two two-by-fours to length and attach with screws.
Add Seat Stabilizing Braces
Under one of the seats, add one of the 10-inch seat stabilizing braces. Run the brace perpendicular to the seat boards. Screw into place. This brace prevents the two boards from separating.
Repeat for the seat on the other side of the picnic table.
Add Table Stabilizing Braces
Similar to the seat braces, the table top needs braces under it to keep the boards steady and to prevent separation. Add the two boards about 36 inches away from each other underneath the table top. Screw into place.
With the picnic table upright and mostly complete, go around to every carriage bolt and tighten it with the wrench.