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When you add a picnic table to your outdoor living space, you have extra seating and a place to enjoy a meal. What could make a great picnic table even better? A place for cold drinks right in the center. The built-in cooler could also be used keep side dishes and condiments cold.
This guide will cover how to build a picnic table with a built-in cooler. For this project, a planter serves as the cooler.
Tools and Materials
Building a picnic table is an intermediate woodworking project. This 6-foot table is a modified version of the DIY picnic table from “How to Build a Picnic Table”.
To build this picnic table, you will need these materials:
- Four 2" x 8" x 8'
- Six 2" x 6" x 8'
- Five 2" x 4" x 8'
- 1/2-inch-thick scrap wood to use as spacers
- 1 pound each of 2 1/2-inch, 3-inch, and 4-inch self-tapping and self-countersinking exterior screws with the appropriate driver bits
- Sixteen 1/2-inch x 3 1/2-inch galvanized or stainless-steel carriage bolts with washers and nuts
- Black plastic planter that measures 9.3- x 26.8- x 11.9-inches
You will also need these tools:
- Drill with 1/2-inch drill bit and 1/8-inch bit
- Circular saw
- Carpenter square
- 3/4-inch wrench
- Impact driver (optional)
- Hacksaw or angle grinder with cutoff wheel (optional)
To make the picnic table, you will need to cut the wood as follows:
- 4 tabletop slats: 2x8x72”
- 4 bench slats: 2x6x68”
- 4 table legs: 2x6x40-1/2”
- 2 Inner tabletop supports: 2x4x28-3/4”
- 2 End table supports: 2x4x28 3/4”
- 2 Connectors for removable piece of tabletop 2x4x6”
- 4 Supports for removable piece of tabletop 1x3x8”
- 2 Bench supports: 2x4x61”
- 2 Braces: 2x4x8-1/4” with opposite 45-degree angles on each end
- 6 Bench cleats: 2x4x10”
Build the Picnic Table
Once you have the wood cut, it’s time to start putting the picnic table together. Refer to “How to Build a Picnic Table” for detailed instructions. In step 3 of those instructions, you will skip attaching the center table supports to the slats with 2 1/2-inch screws.
Otherwise, you will make the tabletop, cut off the leg corners and make the bench supports as directed in steps 3-6 “How to Build a Picnic Table.”
Add Table Support Braces
The table support braces will be altered for this project to allow space for the cooler.
Table braces can help stop your picnic table from tipping over or collapsing. To make your picnic table as strong as possible, you need to add table braces.
- Mark parallel 45-degree angles on each end of the 2 x 4 x 8-1/4-inch braces.
- Cut the 45-degree angles using a circular saw.
- Put the table support brace with one end on the leg support. The other end should be on the underside of the tabletop. The brace should be placed in the center of the leg support, pointing toward the middle of the table.
- Put one inner tabletop support so that it is parallel with the leg support. The end of the inner support should be against the end of the angled brace. The end of the inner tabletop support should be an equal distance from the edges of the tabletop.
- Drill pilot holes. Use 2-1/2-inch and 3-inch screws to attach these two pieces to the table assembly.
- Repeat this process on the other side of the table.
After putting in the table support braces, refer to “How to Build a Picnic Table.” Follow steps 8 and 9 to make the benches and curve the table and bench ends (an optional step). When you finish building the table, you will sand and stain it as directed in step 10.
Create a Place for the Cooler
Once your table has been sanded and stained, it’s time to add the cooler. You will be cutting a hole in the center of the picnic table to make a space for the cooler. Keep the piece you cut out. It can be added back to the table when the cooler in not in use.
The planter you use as the cooler should have a lip around its edges so it doesn’t fall through the hole in the table.
- Measure 10-3/8 inches from each edge of the table towards the center. Make a mark.
- Measure 24 inches from each end of the table toward the center. and Make a mark.
- Use a carpenter’s square and a pencil to connect these marks. You will be drawing a rectangle in the center of the table.
- The rectangular hole can be cut with a jigsaw or a circular saw.
- If you’re comfortable with your circular saw and know how to make a plunge cut, , you can cut along the lines with the circular saw. Then you can finish the corners with a jigsaw or hand saw.
- If the cutout piece doesn’t fall through the table after the last cut, lift it straight out by pushing straight up from the underside.
- Attach the four 1x3 pieces around the interior of the opening, allowing them to protrude into the opening by ¼ inch. Use three 2-inch screws per piece. This will hold up the removable section of tabletop when the cooler isn’t in use.
- Place the planter in the opening to ensure a good fit.
- Drill three drain holes in the bottom of the planter. Some planters come with drainage holes that can be punched out.
- When you use the cooler, you can let the melting ice water drain out the holes. To direct the flow water, attach drainage tube to the planter. You can place the tube in a nearby bucket. The tube could also be run along a table leg to drain at the base of the table.
A picnic table in your yard provides the perfect spot for outdoor entertaining. A picnic table with a built-in cooler can take your cookouts to the next level. You can keep cold drinks, side dishes or the ketchup and mustard within easy reach.
Ready to get everything to build a picnic table with a built-in cooler? The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them.