How to Make an Outdoor Table (4-Person)

DIY Outdoor Table PlansWe needed a new table for our small patio. I designed this DIY outdoor table to be simple, easy to build, rock solid, and to last a lifetime. It’s made of construction grade cedar and finished with a clear exterior sealer. Cedar is great for outdoor projects since it’s rot and bug resistant. I bought rough sawn 2″ thick cedar boards from my local home center, and planed them down to 1-1/2″ thick. I prefer to plane the material, rather than buy dimensioned lumber, because doing so gives me better results with my finished pieces. But dimensioned lumber would be fine if you want to save some time. The base is essentially a pedestal so there are no outside table legs to interfere with “people” legs. I accessorized our table up with a 9′ dia. umbrella and a set of chairs, which I also purchased at the home center.

Tools required:

-Table saw.
-Planer (optional).
-Jointer (optional).
-Band saw or jigsaw.
-Orbital sander.
-Trammel points.
-Framing square.
-Stationary belt or disc sander (optional, but helpful).
-Bar clamps, 6″, 12″, and 24″ opening.


Construction notes:

Cedar is easy to machine but very soft, so be careful not to mar it while you build your DIY outdoor table, and be careful when driving your screws so you don’t set the screw heads too deep, which is pretty easy to do. Cedar can vary greatly in color ranging from a light cream color (sapwood) to a rich dark brown (heartwood). Even though I tried to buy consistently colored boards, I still got one that was much lighter than the others. I thought about it a bit and decided I can make myself crazy worrying about the color differences, or just embrace the fact and use the color differences in my design. I did the latter and placed a light colored board smack dab in the middle of the top. It looks great!

Outdoor projects require weatherproof hardware and screws, and waterproof glue. I used stainless steel “T” brackets to join the tabletop to the base, and deck screws to assemble the parts. The nice thing about the “T” bracket assembly design is that the table can be quickly separated into two parts for easy moving and winter storage. Your local home center and hardware store should have the “T” brackets, screws and glue you need, but if not then you can buy them online (see Sources).

I use clear sealer on my cedar projects because it gives them a “furniture” look, which I prefer. You could skip the finish all together, or use an opaque colored deck stain to make the wood look completely different.

Step 1 A - DIY Outdoor Table Plansstep_1b_table_under_view

Step 1

Review the two perspective illustrations to get a feel for the table design and construction.


DIY Outdoor Table - Step 2b Cutting Diagram

Step 2

Cut all the parts to size using the cutting list and cutting diagram. Cut the braces (H) a bit long. They will be cut to fit later during the base assembly.

DIY Outdoor Table Plans - Step 3 batten holes

Step 3

Layout and drill the screw holes in the battens (A). There’s no need to drill countersink holes because the wood is so soft.

DIY Outdoor Table Plans - Step 4a Top Layout


Step 4

Assemble the top as shown in the Top Layout illustration. Start by screwing one batten (A) perpendicular to the center slat (B). Use a framing square to confirm the parts are 90 degrees to each other. Add the other batten making sure it’s parallel to the first batten, and then add the rest of the top slats (C, D and E).

DIY Outdoor Table - Step 5 Top Shapes

Step 5

Use trammel points on a long stick to draw the large 25″ radius circle defining the top, and then the 24″ radius circle to mark the end shapes of the battens. Disassemble the top and use a hole saw to drill the hole for the umbrella post making it 1/8″ wider than the post diameter. Cut the shapes using a jigsaw or band saw, sand the sawn edges smooth, finish sand the parts, and then use sandpaper to aggressively ease the exposed edges.

DIY Outdoor Table - Step 6 Leg Assembly

Step 6

Cut No. 20 biscuit grooves to join the leg parts G and H. Assemble the legs with No. 20 biscuits and waterproof glue.

DIY Outdoor Table - Step 7 Brace Holes

Step 7

Cut the finished lengths of the braces (H) so the total width of the base will be 20″ in both directions. Miter the ends of the braces, and then layout and drill the screw holes on their inside faces. Finish sand the parts and then use sandpaper to ease the exposed edges.

DIY Outdoor Table - Step 8 Base Sides

Step 8

Screw and glue pairs of braces to pairs of legs to create two base sections. Use a framing square to make sure the feet of the legs are in the same plane.

DIY Outdoor Table - Step 9 Base Assembly

Step 9

Complete the base assembly by screwing the remaining four braces (H) to one assembled base section. To avoid smearing glue all over the parts, apply glue only to the miter joint ends, and a small amount on the insides of the legs where the braces attach. Then glue and screw the other base section in place. This final assembly step is the most difficult aspect of the table construction. Having another person there to help is a great benefit. Using a bit extension makes driving the screws in the tight corners easier.

DIY Outdoor Table - Step 10 Apply Finish

Step 10

Wipe on the outdoor oil finish. Let the finish penetrate into the wood for 15 to 30 minutes, then use paper towels to wipe off any excess finish. Be mindful of how you discard of the finish-soaked rags to avoid a fire caused by spontaneous combustion.

DIY Outdoor Table - Step 11 Assemble Table

Step 11

Reassemble the top and join it to the base using the “T” brackets. Aligning the parts is much easier done with the table upside down.


Trammel points, item #39394
Exterior screw No. 9 X 2-1/2″, item #49664
Exterior screw No. 8 X 1-1/4″, item #25703
Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue, 4 oz., item #29332
Outdoor oil finish, quart, item #64980
(800) 279-4441

3″ x 3″ “T” Brackets/Mending Straps, item #B7420

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    I can see where this could be done a bit more elegantly and a little quicker using Kreg screws.

    • Bruce Kieffer

      I’ll bite, where would you put the pocket screws?

      • SOSTOT

        I would use them instead of metal brackets to attach the table top.

        • Bruce Kieffer

          That would be fine if this were a “standard” leg and apron style table and not a pedestal style table. The top needs to be securely held to the base without the risk of separating if someone leans or sits on the edge of the top. Pocket screws driven into cedar (one of the softest woods in the universe!) just won’t hold under stress. It’s a matter of screw shear strength verses screw tensile strength. The “T” brackets are not visible when the table is set upright, but if they give you cause, then I suggest you replace them with pieces of 2×4 cedar to bridge the top batten sides over the base, and then drive screws in horizontally (using the screw’s shear strength) Also, although I feel pocket screws have their place, they are not elegant (that’s my opinion).

          • SOSTOT

            Conceding the idea that Kreg screws may not work as well as the metal brackets, it might be good advice to replace standard exterior screws with stainless steel. Cedar tend to react to exterior screws and eventually dissolve them. Stainless steel is weather resistant and will not react to cedar.

  • Bruce Kieffer

    Wow! Look at how quickly the cedar has aged in just a few weeks. The top’s dark pieces are lighter, and the light center piece is darker. I knew it would age like this, but I did’t think it would be that fast! Compare this photo to the one in Step 5 above.